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Often times stretching is seen as an option before a workout, something we are supposed to do but is not necessarily essential. A quick little routine of touching your toes for a few seconds or pulling your arm across your chest, and you are good to go right? Unfortunately not, your stretching routine can actually make or break your workout.
Dangers of static stretching
Stretching is essential before a workout, but holding static stretching poses is not going to help you achieve your fitness goals. Research suggests static stretching hurts athletic performance. Strength, power, and explosive muscular performance all are affected negatively with a static stretching session before a workout or training session. Even if your muscles feel loose after static stretching, they will actually be less elastic and powerful.
Static stretching puts you at a higher risk of injury. Holding a stretch for several seconds will not raise your heart rate or body temperature, keeping your muscles cold and possibly leading to injury.
Why dynamic stretching is the better pre-workout option
Some people shy away from dynamic stretching because it seems like a mini-workout session before the actual workout, but it truly is the best way to prevent injury and boost performance. Dynamic stretching means your body is continually moving while stretching. It prepares your joints and muscles through continual repetitive motion, with each repetition stretching the muscle further. Because you are constantly moving, your body temperature will rise, warming up your muscles and lowering the risk of injury.
Another benefit to dynamic stretching is that it can be individualized for specific sports. Unlike static stretches that have no relevance to the actual activity about to be performed, dynamic stretching prepares you for the specific movements that will be performed. For example, dynamic stretches for a long run versus a basketball game will be very different due to the different movements needed for each activity.
The bottom line is take the extra 5-10 minutes before your workout for a dynamic stretching session, your muscles will thank you.
Self-myofascial release (SMR) sounds complex, but it is actually just a fancy term for a self-massage that helps release muscle tightness by using a tool such as a foam roller, lacrosse ball or your hands. SMR has grown from a technique only used by elite athletes and physical therapists, to something widely used among all individuals.
How does SMR work?
SMR works by rolling a foam roller, lacrosse ball or other tools to apply pressure to a trigger point. A trigger point or “knot” is a group of tight shortened bands of muscle tissue which often cause pain in various parts of the body. These trigger points can be caused by a variety of reasons, such as bad posture, repetitive stress and injury. When deactivating a trigger point or releasing the tension of a shortened muscle by applying deep compression, it helps restore the muscle to normal function. SMR allows for healthy blood flow, restores healthy tissue, increases mobility and improves muscle imbalances.
Should it hurt?
It is uncomfortable, yes. If you have ever had a deep tissue massage it is easier to understand the pain associated with it. The muscles are tight and knotted up so some pain is inevitable when trying to break up the tension. If it becomes too painful, try applying pressure to the surrounding areas.
When should SMR be done, before or after a workout?
Ideally SMR should be done before and after a workout. Using SMR in a dynamic-warmup is a great way to get the muscles ready for a workout by increasing blood flow and reducing muscle tightness. Using SMR in a cool down helps begin the healing process and reduce soreness.
How to SMR using a foam roller.
It is important to roll slowly. Find those trigger points and slowly roll back and forth for 30 to 60 seconds on the trigger point. You will slowly begin to feel the muscles release some of the tension.
As many runners know running downhill can take a toll on your knees because of the immense amount of stress it puts on them. To better understand why they hurt, it is important to know the difference in body position when running downhill versus running uphill or on flat terrain. When running uphill or on flat terrain you land with a flexed knee and on the middle of your foot, which takes some of the pressure off the knee. However, when running downhill your knee is fairly straight and most of your weight lands on your heel, putting tremendous strain on your knees (fig. 1).
So how do you reduce knee pain running downhill? Your instinct is to lean backward, which is ok in cases of steep hills because it is necessary to slow you down. However, when running on a hilly course the lean backward body position puts more strain on your knees (fig. 1). Next time you are running downhill try leaning forward slightly, using your hips not your shoulders, this will help distribute the weight of your body more equally and put less stress on your knee (fig. 2). It is also important to continually engage your core to keep your body in control when running downhill and ensure proper body alignment.
How to Acclimatize to the Heat
Getting used to the heat is a process and should be gradual. Every athlete is different, but it usually takes about two weeks of consistent training in hot conditions in order to acclimatize fully. Start with lower intensity and shorter duration workouts, as you become more adjusted to the heat, begin to increase the intensity and length. The first benefit you will notice will be a decreased heart rate, which typically happens in the first week while more regulated sweating can take several weeks. Remember, heat acclimatization does not last forever. Without consistent training in the heat, acclimatization is usually lost in about 2 weeks.
What Happens to Your Body When Acclimated
Your Heart Will Thank You
With acclimatization, your heart rate will decrease and blood flow will improve. You will also produce more plasma, which means there is more blood to help your hard working muscles and help cool down the skin’s surface. These adaptations put less stress on your heart, allowing you to more easily pump blood through the body.
You Will Become a Sweating Champion
As you get used to hot conditions, your body will be able to regulate heat better. This means you will be sweating sooner in your workout as well as sweating more and at a quicker rate. Your sweat will also be less salty. Less sodium in your sweat allows you to stay more hydrated while training. Because sweating helps keep your internal temperature cool, you are able to train longer without fatiguing. It is essential to keep your body hydrated while training in the heat to keep these functions working properly.
Gluteal Amnesia, though sounds silly, affects a large percent of the American population. If you suffer from back, hip, knee or shoulder pain you could be one of the many who lack proper gluteal activation.
Why does gluteal amnesia occur
Gluteal Amnesia is when your body forgets how to activate the gluteal muscles properly. The average adult is sedentary for 64% of the time they are awake due to the overwhelming majority of adults working a desk job that require almost no physical activity. Because of this sedentary lifestyle, our muscles are not working as much as they should be, in particular our gluteal muscles. This is detrimental to the whole body because the glutes are the strongest and largest muscle in the body. Excessive sitting lengthens the gluteal muscles and tightens the hip flexors which leads to decreased stabilizing function and overall gluteal weakness. Beyond excessive sitting, gluteal amnesia can also occur because of the overworking of your quadriceps, a previous injury, poor core strength, improper body mechanics and poor posture such as an anterior pelvic tilt.
How gluteal amnesia contributes to injury
There are a number of injuries that are caused by weak gluteal muscles, here are the three most common:
Hamstring strains: The over activation of the hamstring occurs because the glute is not firing properly during hip extension. This puts too much pressure on the hamstring causing a strain.
Low back pain: The gluteus maximus plays a crucial role in the stabilization of the pelvis and spine. Weak glutes cause your lower back muscles to pick up the slack. Because your glutes are not doing some of the work, your back will suffer.
Knee pain: Glute weakness creates excessive rotation of the femur which puts too much pressure on the knee. Knee injury examples due to weak glutes: Iliotibial band syndrome and ACL injuries.
Symptoms of gluteal amnesia
Correcting gluteal amnesia
In order to correct gluteal amnesia, you need to retrain your gluteal muscles to activate properly. One way to reverse gluteal amnesia is to warm up your glutes prior to your workout. Before your workout do 5-10 minutes of glute specific exercise such as gluteal bridges, clamshell exercise and donkey kicks. This will activate and wake up your glutes so they are ready to be used during your workout. Self-myofasical release can also help with gluteal activation. Use a lacrosse ball or foam roller to help loosen your over activated muscles i.e. hamstrings, hip flexors and lower back muscles. This will allow for your glutes to activate more easily.
Rest is an essential part of training, but can sometimes be the hardest part in your running journey. Many athletes do not realize that rest and recovery actually improves performance, which is why tapering is an important part of training for a marathon or any type of competition.
Tapering can be a challenge for many athletes. After weeks of hard training, slowing down before a race is a mental game. Reducing the miles and adding more rest time builds glycogen stores which helps the muscles heal. Tapering also reduces damage to the muscles, increases strength and even improves the nervous system which leads to more efficient running.
Some athletes make the mistake of thinking since they are reducing the miles, they need to increase the intensity of those shorter runs. This is harmful because your muscles are not used to short high intensity workouts and it will fatigue your muscles. It is also important to remember that you may not feel great during the beginning of your taper. Many athletes feel sluggish and winded on workouts they thought should be easy, some also feel phantom pains. This is a common part of tapering and resisting the temptation to resume regular workouts can be a challenge. This feeling does not last forever though, most athletes begin to feel back to normal one or two days before the race.
It is important to find a balance that works for you because everyone’s tapering length is different. Some runners taper only a week before a race and others taper 3 weeks before. Experiment to find what works for you, and your body will thank you.
There are hundreds of different types of equipment to analyze your golf swing, along with pricey clubs that guarantee an improved swing and less injuries. However these devices can only solve part of the problem. Think about it, you could have the nicest looking car there is, but without the correct internal parts it is useless, this goes for golf or any sport.
Whether your goal is to improve your golf game or prevent injury, it is essential to understand how important proper body mechanics, mobility and flexibility are in golf. No matter how much proper swinging form can be taught, reaching your optimal performance will be an upward battle without mobility, flexibility and strength in the right areas. It is fairly easy to see what is outwardly wrong with a swing, but the real question is why? For example, maybe you have a hard time achieving a full backswing or often lose distance off the tee. Part of your problem could be poor technique, but it is more likely to do with tight hip flexors. Tight hip flexors limit trunk rotation, which then leads to other parts of the body compensating, such as the shoulders, elbows, wrists, hamstrings and lower back–often resulting in injury.
Before jumping to correct your swing technique take a step back to find out if there is an underlying physical limitation keeping you from the golf game of your dreams. A physical therapist will be able to identify these areas of weakness and immobility, and offer a personalized solution to get your body working properly to greatly improve your game.
2 stretches for improved golf mobility:
A-Frame Stretch: Helps improve hip mobility
Place your feet shoulder width apart. Slightly bend your knees and hinge forward and place your arm across your knees. With your other arm, rotate your trunk and your arm until your arm is pointing to the sky. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds. Repeat several times with both arms.
Split Stance Windmill: Helps improve T-spine mobility and hip rotation
Stand in a lunge and lean slightly forward with most of your weight in your front foot. Put both of your arms out wide, parallel to the ground. If your right leg is in front, turn the trunk of your body to the right so your left arm is in front of your body and your right arm is pointing up and behind you, and your chest is facing to the right of you. Hold this position for 10 seconds and repeat 6 times on each side.
Don't be a Charles Barkley and let the experts at Viverant help improve your golf game.
Although physical activity can be hugely beneficial for kids and teens, the rise in sports injuries among young athletes is a significant concern. There are a number of reasons as to why hospital visits are trending upward, and one major factor is improper training technique.
Because young players have changing muscle mass and growing bones, they require not just sport-specific instruction, but also general training in an important skill like deceleration.
A great deal of practice time goes into teaching young athletes how to get faster and turn more quickly. These skills lend themselves to numerous sports, including baseball, football, basketball, tennis, and volleyball. Even gymnastics involves sprinting in many of its floor exercises.
But deceleration, which involves learning how to slow down and change direction safely before re-accelerating, is equally important. In many cases, it's actually more crucial for injury prevention than learning to increase speed.
Deceleration training is more than simply slowing down as quickly as possible. It involves a professional who looks at the body mechanics of a particular athlete, and factors in the type of sport he or she plays. For example, a teenage girl who plays basketball will have different deceleration techniques than a middle-school boy in football.
But there are some commonalities when it comes to benefits. Deceleration training prevents numerous injuries, particularly ACL tears that might result from improper turns at high speed.
The training can also improve sports performance. Although some people might think that teaching kids to slow down would hinder their ability to gain speed and endurance, the opposite is true. Because deceleration teaches body control at a higher level, young athletes are able to increase skill in a sport. For example, tennis players who only develop acceleration will excel at one movement for a swing, but will have difficulty changing direction, which will weaken subsequent shots.
If you have a young athlete — or more than one — who spends a great deal of time on practice drills, consider introducing the concept of deceleration into their training. Most likely, their knees will thank you in the long run.
One-size-fits all running guidelines can be helpful, but everyone’s body is built and moves differently. Even the slightest differences can have a huge impact. Poor posture, muscle imbalance and improper shoes can all be reasons for an irregular gait.
A running gait analysis can be a great tool to pinpoint weaknesses and help improve your running form when done holistically. A traditional running gait analysis only looks at the feet and ankles to identify abnormalities, and though this can be helpful, it may not be able to identify the underlying problem. On the other hand, a full body running gait analysis looks at how the whole body moves while running. During a full body running gait analysis, a physical therapist records the feet, ankles, knees, hips and trunk of the body from different angles, to help identify issues and determine the best ways to improve your running form. They analyze how the muscles throughout the whole body work together, to uncover abnormalities in your gait that go beyond foot and ankle placement. These abnormalities are the cause of the most common running injuries such as plantar fasciitis, knee pain and IT band syndrome.
Correct Poor Posture
Poor posture is one of the most common reasons for lower back pain in runners. Poor posture shifts the center of your body back and does not allow you to use the muscles that stabilize the spine and the lower leg. After a running gait analysis, a physical therapist can customize strengthening exercises and stretches to help correct your posture and activate the correct muscles while running.
Avoid Muscle Imbalance
Running relies on specific muscles, which can cause muscle imbalance. Many times these imbalances cause irregular gait patterns which increase the risk of injury. A physical therapist performing a running gait analysis can recognize these imbalances and show you corrective exercises to strengthen the lesser used muscles.
Make Proper Shoe Selection
All running shoes are not the same. Sometimes poor footwear is the reason for an altered and painful running gait. Using the correct footwear that offers the proper support can often show improvement in running form and help reduce pain with running. A running gait analysis can identify the striking pattern of your foot, so a professional shoe recommendation can be given.
A gait analysis is about looking at the interaction of the whole body while moving. Whether it is a more appropriate shoe or corrective exercises, a running gait analysis can greatly help improve your running game.
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