Category Archives: Corrective Exercise

Wall Angel Series

This video is on our wall angel series which might be the best scapular movement we do.  When done correctly, wall angels are one of the hardest exercises I’ve ever done.  Simply put they aren’t fun and they will make athletes sore in area’s they didn’t know exist.  We generally perform wall angels for 3-5 reps with controlled tempos as in a 5 count up and down w a pause at the top and bottom.  Or we might do a 2-3 count up and down with a 5 count pause at the top and bottom.  In either case we want control.

Quick points:
1. Make sure athletes keep their spine flat on the wall.  Don’t arch or let the rib cage flare up.
2. We want them actively driving their arms into the wall not just sliding up and down.  Even if they can’t get their arms to the wall we want them actively trying.  This alone helps to stretch out the anterior shoulder and chest into more external rotation.

Progressions:
1. Once we have worked for several weeks on the wall angel we can progress to include more dynamic stability using the bands.  Athletes partner up and can move the bands in any direction.  The more the better.  The athlete on the wall is forced to stabilize in any number of direction at a given moment.
2. The last progression that didn’t make it in the video is performing the dynamic stability version with the eyes closed.  Athletes now can’t react to what direction they see the band moving.  This really requires much more stabilization and kinesthetic awareness.

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Four Components of the Warm Up

One thing that often time gets overlooked is the warmup.  The warmup for my athletes is too important to brush over.  Time is a limiting factor in most of our day at the NCAA level so we use our warmup needs to achieve 4 things in each session:

1. Movement Skills – We utilize a variety of movements throughout the warmup as a means to increasing body temperature but even more importantly as a means of creating some kinesthetic awareness.  We want athletes to understand where their body is in space and recognize what is going on as they move.  This becomes even more important the younger the athlete.  Teaching a variety of skips, shuffles, bounds, jogs, all go towards improving movement skills.  We can then combine various arm swings, circles, etc. to add some complexity to the movement.  Coach Cal Dietz and his contributors over at http://www.XLAthlete.com have put together one of the best resources on general body movement and especially for young athletes.

XL Athlete Youth Dynamic Warm Up

2. Mobility – All warm ups should be geared towards increasing the movement around the joints.  The goal of any warmup should be to prepare the joints for loading and movement.  We can take time throughout our warmup to work on areas where more motion is necessary instead of perhaps using extra time throughout the training session.  Creating mobility throughout the hips and t-spine for example are the foundations of my warm ups.

3. Activation – Our lifestyles, genetics, imbalances all lead to inhibited muscle groups that need specific stimulation.  The most common of these tends to be the glutes in many athletes.  As I’ve written about before on this blog, in Upper and Lower Crossed Syndromes the glutes are just one of many muscles that can shut down.  Doing activation work in a warmup on a daily basis can go a long way in brining those areas around.  Varieties of hip raises, alternating hip raises, single leg stance work, can all be included in warm ups to turn on the glutes prior to training.  The same goes for other inhibited areas as in the lower trap, psoas, or maybe the rotator cuff.

Lower Crossed Syndrome I

Lower Crossed Syndrome II

4. Injury Prevention – Injuries come in plenty of shapes and sizes and we have to look multiple places when preventing injuries.  We may have to look at the sport, the position, male vs female, etc. to determine the best route in injury prevention.  Whatever the case many of these issues can be touched upon in the warmup as well.  A thorough warmup including the previous three pieces in itself serves as great prevention already.

Looking at the four components above may seem like a tall task to perform all in one warmup but we achieve all of this in less than 15 minutes in every one of our warm ups.  You may be asking how…. I like to pair our movement skills with #2 #3 and #4.  We may perform skips or backwards jogs for a desired distance then drop down and perform mobility work on the hips and t-spine.  As we progress through the warmup we move from mobility to more activation ie: hip raises, SL hip raises, etc. and then to injury prevention work which may include some form of rotator cuff, or maybe a strengthening movement for someone susceptible to an ACL injury.

Low Back Myth’s with Stuart McGill

Here is a great video from Stuart McGill.  Those of you that have read the blog over the last two years will note that I’m a huge Stuart McGill advocate and believe in his spine principles wholeheartedly.  In this video he goes over some of the common myths associated with the back and training. 

Myth #2 may be my favorite.  This is one of the worst problems I see in sports.  When an athlete has a tight back, or possibly injures his back the first thing many physical therapist, or athletic trainers want to prescribe is “we need to stretch it.”  There’s always an underlying cause to why an injury occurs.  Generally in the low back its the hips that are giving us the real trouble.  The lumbar spine will always compensate for movement limitations, and/or activation issues  about the hips and thoracic spine.  I cringe when I hear people advocating stretches for the back and spine when their is an injury.

Training the Rotator Cuff to Failure

I found a couple of interesting studies done on the effect of fatigue on shoulder proprioception.  The rotator cuff has essentially two functions: to stabilize and depress the head of the humerus in the glenoid fossa.  The following studies show how fatigue can create dysfunction in the shoulder. 

Effects of Muscle Fatigue on and the Relationship of Arm Dominance to Shoulder Proprioception

The first study displays how the proprioceptive ability of the shoulder decreases with muscular fatigue.  This should really come as no surprise to most coaches out there.  The authors state that muscular endurance without overly fatigue should be the priority in training. 
 

In the second study the authors demonstrated that fatigue in the rotator cuff caused superior head migration.  In other words the ability of the rotator cuff to depress the humerus was compromised.  Allowing the humerus to move upwards decreases the sub-acromial space which isn’t a good thing.   This space was decreased by up to 40% which is hugely significant. 

The most interesting thing in this study is the authors had subjects perform one set of prone T’s with the thumbs up to failure.  Failure was noted after the subject couldn’t raise the weight past 45 deg. and at least 40% decrease in strength was noted.  Overall, the average degree of fatigue was indicated by a 54% reduction in prone horizontal abduction.  The average weight used for the protocol was 3.94 kg and the average time to fatigue was 84 seconds. 

The second study should open eyes as after one set of 90 seconds, the cuff can be fatigued enough to create sub-acromial impingement.  Now think of all the athletes with shoulder problems that get blasted with 40 sets of RTC exercises everyday in an effort to strengthen their shoulder. 

The problems are not only in a single workout but can carry over to outside of the weight room.  If the cuff is constantly fatigued stability fades and we don’t want to lose its strength and stability when a pitcher is throwing 94 mph off the mound in the 7th inning.

The problems with training the cuff to failure is that you create instability, which is something we’re trying to eliminate.  Allowing the head of the humerus to move in a joint that is already having dysfunction may eliminate all the positives that are created with actually training the RTC.

Movement Screening

I got a question this past weekend from an athletic trainer on my article he saw in the December 2010 Training and Conditioning Magazine. 

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I read the article that you wrote in December of 2010 about the screening process and conditioning routines that you put your pitchers through throughout the year. We utilize a similar process that I started this past year. I also utilize Gray Cook’s FM screening, but I read that you have modified it and changed the order to fit more specific needs of a pitcher. Is there anyway that you can send me a basic outline of your program so I can compare it to what I have come up with and share more information with our pitching coach to try to improve our performance and technique. Thanks for your time and help. Good luck for the rest of your season.

Thanks for your question.  I include tests for lat length, pec minor length, scapular stability, ankle mobilty, and the Thomas test for psoas and rectus length.  We measure internal and external rotation at the hips and shoulders.  On top of this I do breakout sessions which are dependent upon score.   Often times a perfect score on certain parts of the screen will negate the need to search for more issues.  If an athlete scores poor we will go deeper with a breakout seession, as Gray Cook calls them I believe, and look for a more specific issue.  All in all it depends on the athlete as to how much we look at and how deep we probe.  

Remember we’re always looking for dysfunction in movement patterns.  If there isn’t a gross dysfunction don’t go searching for problems.  I get asked often as to why I measured one athletes ankle mobility but didn’t measure another.  Its most likely due to the fact that the other athlete didn’t have a dysfunctional movement pattern that could be caused by an ankle restriction.  They may in fact have a restriction or limitation if we dug deep enough but since it doesn’t affect their movement, we really have no reason. 

A lot of the shoulder portion of the screening is determined by the athlete’s injury history, and / or pain.  We do a fairly thorough evaluation for internal and primary impingement is there is has been or was a recent problem. 

If you do a lot with movement screening, Gray Cook has a new book out titled Movement: Functional Movement Systems: Screening, Assessment, and Corrective Strategies.   It deals a lot with his breakout sessions and where to go when a certain pattern produces a dysfuction.  I’m still working on it but I’ve heard great things about the material within.

Year in Review

It’s been over a year since I started this site.  Since then I’ve met a lot of people and had a lot of good things come from it.  There’s been over 85,000 views, I’ve posted several articles, and even had an article published in Training and Conditioning magazine on the annual training of the TCU pitchers.  

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This site has also seen a lot of big things happen for TCU athletics and the teams I work with.  The baseball program made it to their 1st ever College World Series, the football team made it to their 1st ever BCS game with the Fiesta Bowl, then won the Rose Bowl this past January.

I’ve posted over 150 times and in the last year and one thing I’ve been wanting to do was to review some of the most popular posts in the past year.  These posts have been in the top few as far as traffic goes. 

Feel like a million bucks today!

Soccer and Energy Systems 

Internal Impingement of the Shoulder – Part IV

The Pushup, Interns, and Friday

Lower Crossed Syndrome II

Pull-ups, or Chin-ups

I read this article a while back in the NSCA Journal and forgot about it until I saw a post by Mike Reinold earlier this week. 

Surface Electromyographic Activation Patterns and Elbow Joint Motion During a Pull-Up, Chin-Up, or Perfect-Pullup™ Rotational Exercise


If you haven’t read the article its pretty evident that it compares muscle activation during the three variations of a pull-up.  The chart below details activation of external oblique, erector spinae, pec major, lower trap, infraspinatus, bicep, and lat.
The lats are all highly active in all three variations which is no surprise but  one of the most interesting points is that the pull-up actually has the highest activation within the lower trapezius, 56% for the pullup vs. 45% for the chin-up.  The lower trap was also the first muscle active within the exercises as the scapula is in an upwardly rotated position at the bottom position. 

I have talked at length about how important the lower trap is in athletes for proper shoulder function, especially overhead athletes.   The lower trap is an often overlooked muscle that will shut down during times of shoulder trouble much like its partner the serratus anterior.  Anything we can do to get more out of the lower trap is good.  Conversely, the chin-up has the highest activation within the biceps as well as pectoralis major, but the lowest in the lower trap. 

LOWER TRAP

Something I would like to see is the activation of the pec minor, and lower during the pull-up and chin-up with retraction and depression vs. rounding over at the top, as well as the differences with the neutral grip pull-up. 

All too often I see athletes that round over at the top of any pull-up / chin-up movement.  They end up doing the chin poke at the top with their back rounded over like the hunchback of N0tre Dame.  Essentially this is the upper crossed syndrome position and I am in full belief that you are eliminating the positive benefits of pull-ups for the scaps and reinforcing the negative ones that already persist in many athletes.   

Mike Reinold, trainer for the Boston Red Sox, mentions that the pull-up may be a better option for a baseball player due to the fact that the lower trap is more active and the bicep and chest is less active vs. the chin-up. 

I agree with Mike in that the pull-up may present be a better option because of activation.  At the same time my concern is that when we look at the externally rotated position of the pull-up, this is a position of vulnerability when it comes to SLAP tears.  High bicep activity in an externally rotated position can be a recipe for disaster.  This is how orthopaedic surgeons generally diagnose SLAP lesions. 

Just food for thought.