Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Lift You Should Be Doing - Front-Racked Step-Ups

This weeks "Lift you should be doing" is the Front-Racked Step-Up. Step-ups are a great way to target your legs in general. They call on your Quads and Glutes/Hamstrings to give you the normal squat motion of knee extension and hip extension. By only using one leg you can call the stabilizers into a bigger role to create a well-balanced and strong system.

The addition of the barbell in a front-racked position will call on your spinal stabilizers and erectors, the erector spinae group, to keep you from bending over forward. As you start to step up onto the box, your torso will naturally lean forward, but your erectors will have to contract isometrically (without movement) to keep you upright.

This "anti-flexion" movement is argued as the better, or at least the preferred way to strengthen the erectors, specifically in the lumbar region. We used isometric holds regularly in physical therapy to help strengthen any muscle that needed it- it was an important component to the strengthening process. Give it a try when it fits into your workout and let us know what you think!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Advanced Foam Rolling Techniques - Part 2

Our next advanced technique is called Active Lengthening. It combines the pressure of normal foam rolling with a muscle contraction. Because we have a muscle contraction involved we can achieve a much deeper release of the connective tissue.  "As the muscle fibers naturally broaden and lengthen during the contraction, pressure of the friction stroke intensifies these movements to release any restriction between fibers. ... The technique also causes a reflexive reduction of muscle tension, presumably by stimulating the muscle spindle and Golgi tendon organ(GTO) with intensified lengthening and tension output" (Archer, 2007)

The GTO causes a reaction called the inverse myotatic reflex- skeletal muscle contraction causes the antagonist(opposite) muscle to simultaneously lengthen and relax. So by contracting the hamstrings, we are using the nervous system to help us relax the quads. It's not a perfect system, but you get the idea. By combining a nervous system reflex, the stimulus from rolling, and the mechanical friction on the muscle we can get a better response to your foam rolling.

The video example is of foam rolling the quads, our knee extensors. We start by putting the muscle in a shortened position, in this case by extending the knee. Then as we apply pressure just above the kneecap we slowly flex our knee as we roll up the thigh. 

**As always, remember to roll toward your heart as you roll out your arms and legs. Visit the post Foam Rolling Techniques from a Massage Therapist and refer to Rule #2.

Work Cited
Archer, P. (2007). Therapeutic massage in athletics. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.