Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Hamstring Strains

Don't have anything organized to post right now. The off-season, for many of our teams here, is in full effect, so life is pretty busy to say the least. So I am pulling this from my notebook where I jot down notes and ideas. Sorry if it is scattered...

Some notes I've made on some of possibilities as to why the hamstrings can become strained. Something I've dealt with personally on numerous occasions. It amazes me the simplistic approach people still take with these nagging injuries... the hamstrings are not necessarily weak! And leg curls and "you need to stretch more" are not the answer!

-The quad-to-hamstring ratio is a bunch of bull.

-The hamstrings are almost always NOT weak, just overworked. They now not only the flex the knee, extend the hip (overworked here), eccentrically control the knee, but also are being looked to for stability at the hip.

-Need to check if the glutes work (synergistic muscle), however we need to take it steps further than this because it is always much deeper. Sometimes the glutes are active, just in an inefficient position to help.

-Question needs to be asked: Why don't the glutes fire; why are the hip flexors tight, short, and/or overactive or even tight, short, and underactive?

-Check motor patterns (what are the athlete's habitual patterns; this is the key).

-Could be and most often is, poor stability and motor control in the lumbar spine.

-Jammed joints, arthrokinetic reflex inhibition of muscles, capsular adhesions.

-Poor thoracic mobility/extension with over-activity of upper trapezius, levator scapulae, scalenes; this creates faulty head position which often times affects eye position. (this all helps to create an extensor reflex, throwing off the mechanics of proper sprint pattern.

-Ankle mobility/motor control. Foot strike position which can be caused and usually is, by lumbopelvic positioning and rhythm.

-Internal vs. external rotation balance in the hip. A good balance is need between the two, but lack of controlled internal rotation will not allow the glute to get a pre-stretch to allow it to concentrically produce force. This is how quality movement is made; muscles need a pre-stretch to work efficiently.

-Quality hip internal rotation consists of adequate hip abductor activation and again, lumbar stability.

-Lumbar instability is usually greater on the same side as the affected limb (Functional Movment Screen rotary stability test).

-Contralateral rotation of the torso from affected limb (arises from habitual patterns).

-Motor skill as it relates to stride mechanics: chasing or pulling center of gravity when at absolute speed.

-Athletes with chronic pulls need continual reinforcement of efficient motor patterns, "cueing" exercises, along with soft-tissue work to release some of the fascial restrictions that have been built up over time.

-Foot strike patterns; striking the ground with the midfoot as opposed to the forefoot and rearfoot. Midfoot striking creates efficiency in running/sprinting. Allows for elasticity, reducing the need for concentric work. Is it because of an ankle issue or is it because of bad lumbopelvic positioning?

And these are just of few of the possible reasons.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Upcoming Seminar (details)

Here are the details from Chuck Fountaine on Coach Robert dos Remedios' clinic:

Coach Dos is Coming!

Who is Coach Dos?
• Robert dos Remedios, MA, CSCS
• Director of Speed, Strength & Conditioning/Professor in Kinesiology-Physical Education at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, California.
• 2006 National Strength and Conditioning Association Collegiate Strength Coach of the Year.
• Author of the best selling book Men’s Health Power Training from Rodale Books.

When is he coming?
1:00pm Saturday, March 15
• 2 hour lecture/Q&A entitled "Real-World Fitness: A Conditioning Coach RANT..." Coach Dos will be speaking in the Prairie Rose Room located in Memorial Union on the campus of North Dakota State University. This lecture will be open to the entire student body and to any members of the community/area who wish to attend. Attendance is free, but we ask that at least one non-perishable food item be donated to stock local food shelves.

Coach Dos’ visit is made possible by the NDSU Exercise Science program and the NDSU Wellness Center. See you there!

For additional information, please contact Chuck Fountaine at 701-231-6385 or


Monday, January 21, 2008

Minnesota NSCA state clinic

This past Saturday I attended the Minnesota National Strength and Conditioning Association state clinic at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

The 1st presentation was by Jaynie Bjornaraa, an assistant professor at the College of St. Catherine Physical Therapy program. She covered ACL injury and the Female Athlete.

Some of the key points were:
- majority of ACL injuries are non-contact (mostly landing from a jump and neuromuscular control factors)
- menstrual cycle being the cause remains a theory, there are no conclusive results.
- greater hip internal rotation and adduction a major cause.
- The importance of vision and landing (Santello et al, 2001 shows that without vision; Ground reaction force increased, knee flexion decreased, and more variable timing.)

Jaynie then talked about some interesting research they are doing on non-ACL vs. Post-ACL surgery people and some of the things they are finding. The Post-ACL group takes more time to reach peak force, with lower average peak velocities when cutting. She also mentioned that there was no difference between the ACL reconstructed leg and their "good" leg in these areas, stating that the injured leg seems to bring the neuromuscular qualities of the "good" leg down.

The 2nd presentation was by my good friend Greg Lanners. Greg is a "been there, done that" guy. He has worked with athletes/clients of all levels (youth to professional and olympic athletes), as a strength and conditioning coach at both the high school and college levels, and a teacher, and now currently is doing some great things for youth fitness and strength and conditioning. He truly knows his stuff and also seems to know EVERYBODY. He is the owner and president of Innovative Strength Concepts.

Greg's presentation was titled, "Foundations of Strength for Youth". This was one of those presentations that everybody should have heard and needs to hear.

Greg discussed the importance of basic movement for youth in our country today. He talked about some of the issues regarding our current state in this country in the area of youth fitness. I think often times we get caught up in the next latest greatest thing when it comes to fitness and forget that the majority of us need to start somewhere. Greg's presentation covered just that. Even though it was directed towards working with youth, many of the exercises he covered she be used at any age.

Key points:
- machine should have no application when training youth, much less anybody.
- our job as professionals is coaching movement, youth or other.
- Start with Play! the initial "strength program" for youth.
- Foundations of training programs for youth: Posture, Stability, Strength, Mobility.

Then Greg finished with his seven basic exercises that he starts all youth and beginners on when training, giving everybody great tips on how to coach these movements.

The last presentation was by Carrie Peterson, a sports nutritionist, who consults and works with the Minnesota Lynx, Wild, Vikings, Timberwolves, and Twins. She covered the basics of sports nutrition and dispelled some of the myths regarding nutrition for athletes. She covered everything from macro/micro nutrients, water intake, meal timing, and supplements. A very good, basic presentation, which I so desperately needed for review.

At the end of the presentations, I had the pleasure to visit with Mike T Nelson and Brad Nelson on some of the different applications of Z-Health. These guys are extremely intelligent and both are certified in Z-Health. Extremely interesting stuff to say the least. Mike was even so kind to perform some of the techniques on me; pretty wild.

I also had the pleasure to ride down to the conference with Greg Lanners, and that always ends up being an entire 1 on 1 conference in and of itself. We discussed his presentation, the state of the industry, some of the exciting things he has in store for the health and fitness industry, some of the changes I have made in my programming with athletes, the full circle everything goes through, the keys to training anybody, and a whole lot more. It's always a good time.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Upcoming Seminar

I just got word from Chuck Fountaine, a lecturer in the Exercise Science department at North Dakota State University, that he has organized an awesome opportunity to hear and meet one of the top strength and conditioning coaches in the industry.

On Saturday, March 15, Robert dos Remedios, strength and conditioning coach at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, CA, will be presenting at North Dakota State University. This is a definite "can't miss" opportunity to hear one the best in the business when it comes to strength and conditioning. Remedios is the 2006 NSCA Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year and just recently released an excellent new book, Men's Health Power Training.

I will keep everyone posted as far as details and registration goes as soon as I hear more.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Great Advice

Here is some great advice from Alwyn Cosgrove, one of the top training experts in the industry.

"Be brilliant at what you do."

Pretty simple, yet says a lot.

You can read more about Alwyn Cosgrove here.


Tuesday, January 8, 2008


Nothing is factual until it is in mainstream media. (HEAVY, HEAVY, HEAVY internet sarcasm)

Finally some common sense gets printed:

10 Machines You Shouldn't Use


Friday, January 4, 2008

Random Friday 2

Here are five thoughts and ideas to round out the week. If it's confusing, I apologize, the two neurons in my brain don't always synapse real well.

1. Head position can slow you down and lead to greater risk of hamstring pulls in sprinting, especially during the acceleration phase. Imagine a sprinter if you will. At the start the athlete is driving out (acceleration phase), he/she should be pushing their center of gravity (good forward lean, driving out, positive shin angle). If the head comes up too quickly, it throws on the extensor reflex, activating the spinal erectors, forcing the pelvis into a greater anterior tilt, inhibiting the glutes, and overloading the hamstrings.

The chin needs to stay tucked into the back of the neck (think: try to make a double chin). Eyes will be looking at the ground, because the torso has a good forward lean. A solid chin tuck, will allow the glutes to work at a higher level. It's really just maintaining a neutral spine. Check out this video of Maurice Greene, and pay close attention to his head position. side note: The sprinter to his left must not have heard the starting gun.

2. Staying on the topic of head position, it's easy to tell if someone isn't finishing their deadlifts or RLD's with their hips. Watch the head at the lock-out position. If the chin tucks into the neck at lock-out chances are the glutes finished the move, the way it should be. If the head is looking up, then the person is more than likely just hyperextending their back, with no use of the glutes at all.

3. Another exercise that needs to be paid close attention to as far as head position goes is Glute-Ham Raises. If the athlete/person is neck is extended and the head is up, the spinal erectors and hamstrings will be doing most of the work. Again the chin needs to be tucked to get greater activity out of the glutes.

4. Ankle dorsiflexion plays a vital role in the ability to sprint powerfully and efficiently, and inability to properly dorsiflex can be a main culprit to hamstring pulls and low back tightness during athletic activities.

5. Why are people and athletes with patellofemoral pain prescribed to do squats with their back to a stability ball against a wall.

To me it's putting the majority of the work on the rectus femoris, which is often times a major player in causing knee pain. Plus it's like doing something like a closed-chain knee extension... I don't know it just seems pretty stupid to me. Imagine if you could somehow make the ball disappear while someone was doing a set; they would fall right on their ass. How is this helping improve their knee problems and make improvements that the person can utilize in their selected activity? Yeah maybe it feels better on their knee at the time but... I just don't see any carryover.

Have a great weekend!


Thursday, January 3, 2008

Overhead Pressing

There has been lots of negative attention surrounding the idea of overhead pressing with certain athletes, primarily what are categorized as 'overhead athletes' such as baseball players, swimmers, etc. Many coaches feel that these types of athletes should not be doing any overhead work when in the weight room. Yet often times as coaches we are trying to iron out issues in these athletes with the muscles surrounding the scapula and the thoracic spine, that allow us to do an overhead pressing action.

So let me get this straight... we continuously find issues in all these areas which allow us to bring our arms overhead in a manner that is conducive to the health and safety of the shoulder. Then we try to strengthen all these muscles through prehab type exercises such as push-up plus's for the serratus, Y's, T's, W's, H's, L's, A's, B's, C's (okay maybe not A's, B's, and C's, but you get the point) for all the scapular retractors, wall slides for much the same plus the thoracic extension component, thoracic mobility using two tennis balls taped together, along with what I would consider the last line of defense prehab work: rotator cuff training. The list goes on and on, yet after the prehab work, we shy away from integrating it into the pattern were hoping to improve; brining our arms overhead.

To me it's like working on hip and ankle mobility, and all the activation exercises that go along with it, then never squatting or lunging... what's the purpose? Why do all the prehab and isolated work and then never integrate it into a functional human movement?

Now obviously if somebody has ankle and hip mobility issues, we definitely aren't going to load them heavy and expect max squats, but they still need to practice the movement of the squat. It's fundamental, and so reaching the arms overhead.

I don't think overhead pressing is such a bad idea, even for "overhead athletes". I actually think it is of high importance for these types of athletes. For example if one of the functions of the serratus is to help upwardly rotate the scapula and stabilize it against the rib cage when the arm is overhead, then I'm thinking we better train the athlete with an overhead movement so it knows how to do just that. Ahh... the beauty of the Principle of Specificity.

We definitely are still going to do some prehab or activation work prior or along with overhead pressing, but I am not going to avoid overhead pressing like I avoid admitting to the fact that I go with my wife to 'chick flicks' now and then. Did I just write that? Damn!

The great thing about overhead pressing is that when done properly you are required to activate the torso, extend the thoracic spine and stabilize through the scapular muscles and restore or reinforce a proper movement to the body.

One of the better ways to integrate or reintegrate the overhead pressing movement is to start with light dumbbells or kettlebells. DB's or KB's don't lock your arms into a fixed range like a barbell does, which obviously makes it better. The key is to start light and work on maintaining proper position and pause for a count or two at the top to reinforce all the muscles that stabilize the movement along the upper body kinetic chain.

Another great tip, which comes from the kettlebell community, is to be sure to keep your latissimus dorsi activated when overhead pressing. This is easier done with using kettlebells than dumbbells, but can be done with both. To use the lats, bring the weight overhead and then imagine pulling the weight down to your body when returning to the starting position. Or have a partner apply a little resistance on the underside of the elbow when attempting to bring the arm back down.

The reason this is so effective is because it gives the shoulder greater anterior stability. You see when you press the weight overhead the deltoid moves to the posterior aspect of the upper arm, exposing the under side of humerous, your arm pit. They only true anterior stabilizer in this position, outside the rotator cuff muscles, is the latissimus dorsi, which runs from the front of the humerous, around underneath and attaches to the torso and low back, tying into the hips through the thoracolumbar fascia. So not only is it giving the shoulder the anterior stability it needs but also locks it into a much more stable base in the torso and hip.

The bottom line is we need to maintain all movement patterns. If we load all other movements like vertical pulling, horizontal pulling and pressing yet don't vertical press, we are going to run into problems. The body likes balance and we need to maintain that. The case with athletes who are at risk or have shoulder issues is not a matter of which movements to use, but how much to load them.

All fundamental patterns have to be trained if athletes are going to train. Some maybe more than others, but we still have to train them all. And movements aren't regulated by muscles; they are controlled by the central nervous system. The CNS is what activates and deactivates muscles. If a pattern isn't trained properly, the muscles that power that movement won't be turned on by the CNS, leading to movement impairments and injury.


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Back on track

Time to get back at it now that the holidays are over. The holidays were great, but definately am ready to get back to work and consistant training again. I am taking this week to work out all the holiday kinks and restore some quality movement, and then hopefully start to lift some heavy stuff again.

I did get some reading done over the holiday break. More fun reading than anything. I read Good to Great by Jim Collins, a great business book. I am currently finishing up with The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. I have also been reading bits and pieces of The Neuroscience of Human Movement by Charles T. Leonard and The Science of Flexibility by Michael J. Alter, along with all the journals, magazines, and online stuff that I try to keep up with.

Reading seams to be my biggest struggle, not that I do not read enough, but I can't seem to keep up with all that I want to read and all that's out there. But it's all fun.