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CrossFit Beginner’s WOD #2

March 8th, 2012 by Phil Brown

OK chaps – here is another basic WOD for you to try at home or at your gym. Again, it requires no equipment except your body.

3 rounds of:

20 tuck jumps

30 sit ups

Tuck jump: Jump up from a standing position, bringing your knees as high as possible towards your chest each time.  When you land, you must straighten up to full hip and knee extension, then repeat the jump.

Sit ups: Anchor your feet under a static object and extend fully to touch the floor with your hands behind your head. Bring your arms back over and lift your chest up towards your knees until you can easily touch your shins. Keep your abdominal muscles tight throughout to stabilise your lower back.

 

NOTE: this WOD will take you by surprise as it works the abdominals and the hip flexors intensely. SCALING options include lowering the number of repetitions by five or even half, if you are very unfamiliar with sit ups or not confident with tuck jumps.

 

 

A window of opportunity

October 19th, 2011 by Phil Brown

Treating people at Muscle and Movement Health Anglesey involves two things: The first is soft tissue therapy to release tight muscles and stretch connective tissue. This treatment brings new freedom to clients as they find movements that were restricted by pain restored. The effect can be immediate and the feeling of relief wonderful.

The second thing is movement retraining. Everyone who comes for treatment will be given their own exercises to do. These are usually two or three movements or stretches that are given to help “reprogramme” your body into more efficient movement patterns. Without establishing these longer term changes, the older, non – optimal movement patterns will simply reassert themselves. It is these movement patterns that, in many cases, have led to the ultimate expression of pain and limited movement.

Old habits…..

In this way, soft tissue therapy is the window of opportunity for a client. Treatment opens up movement again, where it was restricted. Once that movement is regained however, the body needs to be taught to use that freedom in new ways. Old habits die hard and formal retraining is required to lay down new “pathways” of movement that the body will eventually keep to in a more intuitive way. These new patterns, if movement retraining is successful, become new habits.

Willpower is not enough

It is not enough to tell someone to “sit up straight” or to keep their shoulders back or their chin higher. Postural habits that have become established over years cannot be overridden by willpower alone, just as lifting a barbell from the floor in perfect form cannot be done without consistent practice.

Imbalances in posture and movement involve inhibitions in the neuromuscular system – the system made up of the relationship between the brain and the muscles of the body. A common example is tightness and pain in the upper shoulder muscles. Very often, this is due to the mid and lower muscles of the upper back and shoulder girdle being inhibited. Simply put, it is as if they have forgotten how to work effectively. The result is that the muscles in the upper shoulders and neck end up doing the extra work to compensate.

Sleeping Beauties….

Inhibitions like this establish themselves all the time and can only be re-established by a kind of  ”rote learning” achieved through repetitive movements and muscle contractions that will “wake up” the “sleeping” muscles and bring them back to life.

Use it or lose it

Once these muscles become more responsive again, training must be maintained, otherwise regression occurs: the muscles will return to being lazy. Here, the old saying really is true….if you don’t use it….

Onward and upward

The second stage of movement retraining is actually the ground for a long term, life changing choice for many people. The choice is whether to make progress from here by building on a more balanced foundation of movement. Once range of movement and postural balance has begun to be restored, regular and appropriately scaled exercise can gradually increase and improve these elements as well as increasing strength, cardiovascular fitness, agility, co-ordination, balance and muscular reaction time. These qualities make re-injury and pain less likely, make physical work easier and improving performance in sport.  There are also far reaching, beneficial effects on the heart, lungs and blood pressure.

Duracell Bunnies

The one single basic reason for many, many of the injuries and pain syndromes I work with at Muscle and Movement Health is this: a lack of regular physical exertion that stresses the body enough for it to adapt by becoming more durable and maintaining that durability.  As we get older, if we do not have some form of regular physical activity to encourage upright posture, balance, co-ordination and strength, we will become bent, ungainly and weak.  As we do, risks of falls become greater and our confidence begins to drop.  Aging is unavoidable, but maintaining the fitness of our muscles and our movements can help see us into old age with far more vitality.

An end of pain but only the beginning of the cure

When a client comes for their last treatment at the studio, it is more and more common for us to spend at least as much time on exercises and movement as it is on the treatment couch. My aim with all my clients is to see them walking out of the door, upright and balanced and ready for making exercise part of their lives.

If you want to discuss how Muscle and Movement Health can help you improve your fitness and vitality, for life and sport, visit us at the website and read more about what we do, or call to chat with Phil Brown on 01248422260.

 

Barefoot running for beginners: Using then avoiding calf pain

August 19th, 2011 by Phil Brown

Barefoot running for beginners: avoiding calf pain.

This week I made two short barefoot runs out on the road. The second run was harder than the first as I was feeling somewhat tight in the backs of my lower legs. That said, the hardest part of the run was not the calf pain, but my feet getting used to the areas of uneven, broken superficial tarmac on the country road I was running on.

The calf pain I was feeling was a stiff, tight soreness that came on about quarter way through the second run on road this week. However, rather than debilitating me, this soreness became my instructor and helped me work on actually resting my calves during my run…..

To do this I began concentrating on lifting my knees more. When you do this in a forefoot striking gait, your hip flexion will lift or “peel” your foot from the floor. At this point, your foot will, if relaxed, softly plantarflex in mid air (the front of the foot will drop a little as the foot comes off the floor). Then, as the hip brings the leg forward with a soft, bent knee ready for landing, the momentum will encourage your foot to dorsiflex (the front of the foot will rise a little).
This subtle dropping and then rising of the front of the foot is an extension then flexion of the ankle. This movement in a weight bearing situation, would be loading right through the workhorse calf muscles. Here however, it all occurs in mid air! The calves should remain relaxed the whole time. It is here that they get rest from exertion.
As the knee lifts the foot from the ground, try to let the ankle soften while at the same time keeping some stillness in it. You should feel your foot “want” to drop forward without letting it go completely. Then, as you bring it forward for foot strike, let the forward momentum encourage the front to rise a little and your toes to perk up SOFTLY, ready for the next forefoot strike. The more yu concentrate on the action of lifting your knees, the more the movement in your ankle becomes natural.
Initiating foot raise using the knee and hip rather than pushing off from the toes is KEY here too: the calves are not stressed at all and are already relaxed going into the mid-air phase.

The extension and then flexion for landing in this “air” phase should not be much. Let momentum teach you the movement. To begin with, it may feel like a relaxed “flapping” of the feet.

The only time in the running cycle where there is much stress on the calves should be immediately after the ball of the foot is planted: the plantar arch contracts and stabilises the foot and the calves switch on to control a soft dorsiflexion to heel rest (an eccentric control action of the calves). However, this phase is momentary and light. You should already be thinking about raising the knee again as the ball of your foot lands…..as soon as you do, the calves are unloaded and enjoying their wonderful flight again. Barefoot running really should feel light, free and effortless.

A word about calf pain
Tightness and resulting pain in the calves from overuse is common in runners who are in the midst of adapting to their new barefoot gait. In the same way as muscle soreness from doing a new weight training routine can affect us, our calves will respond to this new way of being used.
You have a choice when this occurs. You can simply take a break and wait till your calves are rested, or you can, if careful, use the increased sensitivity to teach you how to run with less impact and less stress on the tired muscles. However, there is a limit. Learn to listen to your body. Overtired muscles are far more susceptible to injury and you are far more likely to run with bad form when they are tight and tired. If you are just beginning in your barefoot running, a break is easily the wisest option. Overuse injuries to the Achilles tendon are notorious lingerers.

For those of you further down the road in their barefoot training, here is a recap of points that calf soreness or tightness should remind you to do:

LIFT YOUR KNEES!!!
This is the most important point. Focus on knee lifting as soon as your foot plants. Cntact with the ground should be soft and momentary. Lifting your knees quickly and often will avoid you using your toes for push-off, which is a central reason for sore calves.

Increase cadence and shorten strides
If your calves are sore, shorten your stride even more. Focus on making your training during this time form training. Ease back and run smaller and softer. Decreasing your impact on foot plant will take stress from your calves too.
You can increase cadence rather than stride length to maintain any speed, but speed is not your issue if you have sore calves. Form practice is.

Stop for breaks and shake or walk
Again, listen to your body. The whole point of barefoot running is to enjoy it and develop a pain free way of running. There are no rules but the ones you make for yourself. Break up your run with walking and shaking off tension at various points. This will relax your muscles and stop you from tightening up and running with bad form.

Barefoot for beginners: The beauty of soft knees and “literate” feet.

August 15th, 2011 by Phil Brown

Today I took a barefoot road run. It was the furthest I have been on road barefoot and the difference since the previous session a week ago was marked. I felt like a different runner.  The springiness that more experienced barefooters talk about was something I actually began to experience rather than desire.

Running on tarmac and concrete has as much pleasure as running on grass. The firmness of the surface means that you can really “wind up” as your forefoot falls followed by the light touchdown of the heel. The feedback from the surface – particularly on a sunny day like today – is warm and smooth and allows your feet to spread evenly. I found this even easier than running on the field, since the ground was not unstable and I could concentrate on enjoying the run without the added challenge of uneven ground for my lower leg muscles and ankles (although that uneven ground is essential training not to be missed).

Road running barefoot would not have been anything like as fulfilling and certainly not as pain free if I had not been practicing what is a central technique in this lighter, less impact-heavy running style: running with bent knees.

With a heel to toe running gait, most runners land on their leading heel with the knee almost fully extended. The shock from that impact through the heel travels without much interruption straight through a relatively unstable, “open” knee and into the hips and lower back.

The running shoe – clad, heel-striking foot seems not to be able to “read” the impact of a strike as effectively as a soft, sometimes even gingerly-placed , bare footfall can (at least in my experience so far). In naked, the incredibly sensitive plantar surface of the feet feel everything on a road. The response from the body is to automatically look for ways to run in a lighter, pain free, easier way. Our natural response is to avoid pain: running barefoot seems to have a fantastic effect on the way we instinctively deal with movement and impact: we make it easy on ourselves: we bend our knees and when our feet plant, they do so at the end of soft, shock absorbing, bent knees. It. Feels. Good!!

Have you ever stood on something hard with sharp corners on it in bare feet? If you have children, you will know exactly what I mean: a midnight visit to the loo and suddenly the whole left side of your body is collapsing as if it has been shut down, as you stand on a die-cast car or the plug from some eletrical toy. It is amazing how the nerves in your feet can cause such a tidal wave of response all the way through the body. It may hurt like heck, but in actual fact, our feet are saving us from worse pain or damage. Telling our body to give way immediately lets us fall “around” the object rather than keep pressing down onto it without any give……barefoot running, once we adapt to it, is like that:  it is back to instinct, back to our interface with the ground we walk on, with nothing in between except our feet, which are learning how to read for us like they did when we ran barefoot as children.

How to learn to run with soft knees

Think about how you run up stairs. If you can, do it. What are your knees doing? Are they ever straight?

Now run up and down on the spot. Bring your knees up to your belt line as you do it. What are you doing? You are forefoot striking and landing with bent knees. You are doing this to make the process comfortable. Nobody has taught you this. You just do it.

Now, go outside and start running on the spot on hard ground. Do it gently and try to make every footfall as silent and as light as you can. Focus on LIFTING the knees AS SOON as your heel has touched the ground (the order should be ball of foot first, then toes and heel at the same time). Keep the cadence high and the footfalls light. (When you run or walk up stairs, the focus is on the lift of your knees).

Once you have tried this for a couple of minutes, break into a gentle run and keep the footfalls as soft as you were just doing. In order to do this you will have to keep your knees bent and keep lifting almost at the same time as each foot strike. Imagine being a ninja, moving so lightly that you aren’t leaving footprints! Keep the cadence light and moderately fast, but don’t try to run fast. Try to find a feeling of light,bouncy ease and just enjoy.

If things start to tighten up and you feel pain in the calf area or the knees, stop and try getting back your form by running on the spot as you started again: focusing on light bounces and lifting the knees and landing softly. I find the running on the spot technique great for getting back “in the groove” before carrying on again. Any pain apart from some direct contact sole soreness from the road means you are tightening up and that you need to adjust something. Watch your stride length too – keep it short and easy.

A word about pain: your calves and knees should not hurt when you run. If they do, it is most likely because you are trying to run too fast when you have not yet found your specific form (it takes practice and patience), or you have been running for too long when your body is not yet ready for it.  Go for short, gentle runs to begin with.  Learn the easy and light first, then the duration and speed will come naturally with time.

The value of true barefoot training:a lesson from pain.

August 9th, 2011 by Phil Brown

A few days ago I read  a review and summary of the book Barefoot Running Step by Step by Barefoot Ken Bob Saxton and Roy M. Wallack. One of the things that they recommend, according to the summary I read, is not to use minimalist shoes at all at first. This is based on the reasoning that any barrier between your feet and the ground will encourage a lazy approach to form, that, however slight, will result in a non – optimal and possibly harmful running gait.

I bought the book. It arrived today and looks wonderful. Nicely designed and full of useful tips and anecdotes from 2 people who have years of experience in honing their form. I haven’t really opened it yet, but something happened this morning (see the post on the barefoot running drill posted yesterday) that seems to prove the point about minimalist shoes in an uncannily accurate manner!

This morning I got out of bed with a localised pain in the ball of my left foot. It felt like a bruise. As the day wore on it got worse, to the point of me caving in and putting on sandals. My Vibram Fivefingers felt really uncomfortable too. Ice helped a little and I was able to to find some relief from soft sandals. I began, typically, to worry if I was facing weeks of plantar fascia pain. So, during a break between clients, I thought I would get out there on the grass and try a gentle pat around to see what it felt like……… and actually, it felt ok. Barefoot running didn’t make the pain worse. If anything, after a couple of laps around the field, things felt a bit better!   Hmmmm… I began to think and eventually thought about that recommendation of not using minimalist shoes to begin with.

This is my theory as to why I developed ball of foot pain and why it felt better when I went back to barefooting in the grass:

1. Since starting to change my running style, I have done all my running in Vibram Fivefinger shoes. They have felt great and I have enjoyed wearing them at work and play all day.

2. Two days ago, I ran a gentle, hilly tarmac route with no problems at all.

3. One day ago, I ran for the FIRST TIME barefoot. ON GRASS. The day after I had my first real pain since becoming interested in the barefoot running culture.

4. On hard ground, I ran in shoes, which, however minimal, protected the balls of my feet as I planted them. As a result, I planted them harder than I would have in bare feet. Over 4 weeks, I developed a HABIT doing this.

5. On soft, fluffy grass, I ran for the first time in bare feet. I used the style I had developed on the road in shoes. The ground was uneven. This challenged my feet as all the muscles that control the fine movements and “grasping” in my feet were working much harder than on the flat, stable surface of the road. That extra challenge on my feet and ankles, plus the habit I had developed of planting my forefoot harder than necessary put enough strain and impact on the underside of my feet to cause strain and some bruising.

6. When I decided to try out running today on grass despite the pain, I instinctively started with smaller strides and a lighter forefoot plant. The result was hardly any, if any, pain. My body was instinctively using pain as a signal to change its interface with the ground.

7. Running in bare feet has taught me, through this experience, how our shoes give us a false sense of security and don’t allow us to learn how to use our bodies properly. I took my shoes off and tried to carry on as usual. Pain was the result. I tried again, with pain….I adjusted without really thinking about it.

From now on, I will include barefoot running periods every week – on grass, on sand and on hard road. It is fascinating to think how much I have yet to learn about stepping lightly and easily in contact with the earth. And how much my body has yet to teach me if I allow it!

 

Here’s a good barefoot running drill for beginners

August 8th, 2011 by Phil Brown

Chris Mcdougall is mentioned as talking to a crossfit group in this interesting snippet. What caught my eye was how he mentions wanting to do away with his intellectualising of the process of running; wishing he could simply go back and just learn to listen to the feedback from his body as he runs in barefeet; letting instinct take over.

This morning I worked on a running drill that felt, for the first time, like running can indeed be effortless, fluid and joyful. To say the drill is “designed” would be complete tosh: I just went out on a field of grass and ran barefoot, but on reflection, there are perhaps some useful things to share here for beginners:

On a field or beach/soft surface

Start out in a slow run with small, light steps. Your body should be upright but relaxed, your elbows mid-trunk by your sides and gently moving back and forth with the cadence. Imagine that you are trying to run as noiselessly and lightly as possible. Pay NO ATTENTION AT ALL to the voice that tells you you are running to slow or that it is not a taxing enough workout. This drill is all about loosening up and enjoying the movement.

Run for 5 minutes at this light pace, focusing on the bounce from your feet and the feedback from the ground. Practice adjusting your body as you go; trying to feel your way through to a light, bouncy, effortless rhythm. Your head at this pace will be over your body.

After you have found a that nice, easy groove (it may take more than 5 minutes, but who’s counting really….), up your cadence and speed up a little. Not with longer strides but with more frequent, lighter forefoot strikes. You may find as you speed up that your body leans a little more forward and your head begins to lead a little more. Go with this and you will find that you are a little more up on your forefeet as they “pat” down on the ground. Ease off as soon as things seem to lose their smoothness and ease: any time that happens, the rule is to slow up and find the easy cadence you started with.

Keep on with this: changing speed for a while and then easing back when you lose the rhythm and ease. Push a little faster and you will find your head and body lean even more forward and your foot striking is even lighter and quicker and more “up” on the forefoot. If you are more up towards your toes, your foot strikes should be quicker and briefer. As you ease down, your body will ease back and become more upright again; your foot striking will ease back and more of the mid foot will perhaps become involved. Play around with it, but ALWAYS stick with the rule that as soon as you lose ease and rhythm, come back down to a slow pace and find it again. As you gradually improve, you’ll find you can stay in that easy groove for longer at faster speeds.

Just remember, whatever pace you find your groove, ease and fluidity at, that is the perfect pace for you right now. Slowly play with opening that up, but above all ENJOY WHERE YOU ARE RIGHT NOW! For me, this is the whole spirit of running – almost resting in the pace that is right for you and finding that smile crack on your face….

Keep the drill up as long as you want, but listen to your legs and don’t keep going if things start to tighten up.

Thoughts on barefoot running #1

August 7th, 2011 by Phil Brown

I have been experimenting with forefoot running over the last few weeks. Having read Chris Mcdougall’s inspiring book Born to Run, I became curious as to the possibilities he suggests regarding developing a running style that is innately suited to our human nature. The idea of treating running like a joyous game rather than a chore really appealed to me. Mcdougall’s message, among other things, is to suggest that we have lost an innate ability to use our bodies in a freer, easier way. He suggests that we have become accustomed to pounding the pavements in gel-filled running shoes, that, far from helping us to run, actually hinder us from developing the kind of strengths needed to run without injury.

Reading Born to Run and chatting with an associate chiropractor, who runs using minimalist shoes Vibram Fivefingers got me interested enough to begin trying it out for myself. Below are my thoughts, based on what I have tried out thus far:

Walk around barefoot alot!

Get used to feeling your feet and toes again!  Walk around the garden or on the beach. Let your feet out of the confines of your shoes and let them “spread”. Many of us have rigid feet that have forgotten how to mould and give in response the ground we are in contact with. Our toes are designed to spread out and dissipate weight and force as we “toe off” in walking and running.  our shoes have alot to answer for – many shoes simply don’t allow our toes to fulfil the role they were designed for.

Try this – in barefeet, raise yourself up as high as you can on your toes. Try to keep your balance and as you do feel all the fine movements and tensions that areactivated in your toes as they work to support and balance your whole body! That’s how influential and important they are to us.

 

Ease into it. If you think you are taking it easy on your first month or two, then think again and GO EVEN EASIER.

My opinion? Most runners injure themselves because they are too consumed with running for time. Our whole being is conditioned to timetables and deadlines at work and play: personal bests, sub-four hour marathons, fitting in a training session during our lunch break, making that deadline or meeting, fitting in time with the family, etc, etc. This nervous conditioning feeds into our running training. Try as we might, that little panicky voice in our heads is constantly reminding us that we need to beat our last training run time otherwise we aren’t progressing…………we need to focus on our FORM more, particularly when attempting a new running style that asks muscles that have been dormant to start working in ways they never have.

A tip – if you have a race coming up in the next six months and you are thinking of making a good time AND changing your style to barefoot or forefoot running……DON’T!  Either run the race and don’t change up, or skip the race and take time to discover a new way of running.

Another tip – a good indicator of whether you are going easy enough to begin with is this: you should be running at a pace that allows you to breathe at times through your nose with no problems. Focusing on form to begin with is all about not getting out of breath.

Yet another tip – Think about slowly increasing the duration of your run rather than the distance. As your muscles adapt, distance and speed will slowly come as your form improves.

Practice running barefoot on the spot

Barefoot or forefoot running is similar in movement to running on the spot. When you run on the spot, you naturally bounce lightly up and down on the balls of your feet. There is no real effort. Practice this as a drill without any shoes before and after your runs.

 

Run with shorter strides

Learn to run with shorter strides and increase your cadence as you get more skilled at forefoot running. Padded running shoes allow us to take huge strides as we slam down on our heels; a half inch of padding between us and the pavement. When you run barefoot or in minimalist shoes, running in this way will cause pain.  The idea with barefoot, forefoot striking is to develop a faster, lighter rythym, where your feet “skip” across the surface of the ground, rather than thump down in the traditional heel – to – toe manner. Shorter, lighter strides will feel easier and less impactful on your body.

Try this – run along for a few metres in a heel striking style. Stick your fingers in your ears as you do so and listen to the sound the vibrations make in your head as you land. Then switch to a light, forefoot style and do the same thing. The difference in the quality of the sound is profound and informative!

Try to vary the surface you run on.

If you live out in the country or near the sea, then try to go out barefoot and run on the beach or on grass. Road running will probably involve shoes of some sort to protect your feet from bits of glass and sharp stones. If you have no soft ground nearby, then running on the spot on carpet will help your feet get acclimatised to forefoot striking and get you used to reading feedback and making adjustments in your foot strike.

For road running, there are loads of minimalist shoes available now. I have been using the Vibram Fivefingers shoes for my daily work as well as road running and find them superb.

Stretch and massage your feet and ankles

If you are new to barefoot running, then getting to know your feet intimately is a must. Self massage is a great way to find and free up the restrictions in the soles of your feet and your lower leg.  Getting a sports therapist or soft tissue therapist to work into the connective tissue and muscles of your feet and lower leg can be a wonderfully educational experience: you will be stunned at how rigid your feet have become over years of wearing shoes and trainers. Treatment to the sole of the feet can have profound effects all the way up the body.

If you have no access to a therapist, use a tennis ball, stand on it and roll it around the sole of your foot as deeply and slowly as you can without too much pain: after five minutes, your foot will be softer and freer than it has been in a while!

Have fun!

Play with the whole thing: I have been out running in short trips over the last 4 weeks. I have no aim other than to learn to run in a way that is pleasurable and pain free. Any other aims such as racing would have to come out of that and that alone. I have only been out running twice a week and only for around 30 minutes until the last couple of runs, which were around 45 minutes. Today I went out with my little boy. He rode his bike and I was able to chat to him the whole way, which pleased me no end as it meant I wasn’t pushing myself too hard and also getting quality time with my son!

I am thinking of posting more as I continue practising forefoot (and barefoot where possible) running, so get in touch if you have any thoughts and tips of your own!  You can find us at www.muscleandmovementhealth.com

 

Workout of the Day

July 18th, 2011 by Phil Brown

Ok, so you may or may not have heard of Crossfit. I have been looking at some of their incredibly intense workouts and thought I would attempt “Barbara” to see how far I got!

Well, all I can say is that Barbara is an extremely intense workout that should NOT be attempted unless you have trained enough to develop the strength and stamina to cope with it.  I did NOT complete it and I am used to regular resistance training. To get strong enough to complete this workout in its “pure” form is an achievement that needs a serious history of scaled and progressive training. However, the exercises that make up the routine are all superb, all rounder movements that will challenge your body as a whole. Here is a scaled down version for you to try. You can add or subtract repetitions as you feel, to add more intensity or to lower it.

10 Pull ups

20 Push ups

20 Sit-ups (I prefer crunches here)

30 Squats

Make 5 cycles of this and rest for 3 minutes after each cycle.  Make a note of your time so that you can try to beat it next time!

Work hard but try to maintain a pace that allows you to complete the cycle. Use the first session doing this circuit workout as a “taster” to find what intensity level works for you.

 

 

 

Workout of the Day – Win a FREE deep tissue massage treatment if you’re strong enough!

July 15th, 2011 by Phil Brown

For those sadists among you who are used to a regular fitness programme, I am starting a new section on training ideas and suggested programmes for strength gains, fat loss, muscle toning and all over balance and stability.

Often in the clinic at Muscle and Movement Health I work with clients to develop small programmes of exercises that increase balance and confidence in movement: these are crucial elements to the process of proper rehabilitation. Once that process is complete, it is possible to develop more rigorous programmes of functional fitness for clients involved in sport or who simply want to increase and then maintain a higher level of strength, stamina and flexibility.

The workouts posted here are aimed at intermediate to advanced sports people or those used to a programme of regular resistance and cardiovascular exercise. With that in mind, here is a resistance and bodyweight circuit I used this morning. I found it very intense, but that was because I have a habit of not resting enough between sets!  You can manage the intensity by increasing the rest between stations anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 minutes. The general rule would be not to rest long enough to begin cooling down, but also making sure that you don’t run out of breath entirely!

The amount of weight you use should allow you to complete 10 reps of each exercise with good form  through 3 full circuits of this routine.

Circuit. 3 cycles of 10 reps each exercise: do 1 set then move on to the next exercise and work this 3 times round.

Power clean and press

Deadlifts

Wide grip pull ups

Barbell or dumbbell walking lunges (lunge walk holding 2 dumbbells or a loaded barbell across your shoulders)

Push ups (perfect form full range)

Hanging hip curls

Dips

TIP: you are working for time here, so if you cannot complete a set, rest and then continue to the 10 to finish the set – you don’t have to complete every set all at once. Be careful to pace yourself as that last circuit can really test you!

Let us know how you get on!  If you email the clinic with your times and you are the fastest over the next 5 days, you will win a free deep tissue massage session here at        Muscle and Movement Health!

Knee pain in my bottom: A guide to the Iliotibial Band.

May 4th, 2011 by Phil Brown

The iliotibial band. No, it’s not some turn of the century musical outfit. It is a part of the body whose name is often banded about by runners, cyclists and triathletes as the reason for their niggling aches and pains…..”Oh, yeah….got a bit of ITB tightness…….yeah, it was all ok until I got ITB Syndrome…”  However, I get the feeling that  that the iliotibial band remains something of an enigma to many, even those who claim it as the culprit in their pain….

It is common for me to treat runners at  Muscle and Movement Health who are suffering from pain involving the ITB, but who are completely unaware of the existence of this part of their anatomy and how influential it can be in the progress of their training…..

Where is it?

Down the outside of your thigh. It’s the slightly flatter bit on the outside of your thigh. It  runs from the side of your hip to the side of your knee, tapering as it descends.

What is it?

The iliotibial band is a strip of something called fascia. Fascia is a network of connective tissue that invests all the muscles and organs of your body and wraps them all up in the shape of a human being. Among many other things, the job of fascia is to transmit the movement and force created by muscles through the joints of the skeleton. This particular job is important to remember when we are discussing problems connected with the ITB.

What does it do?

The iliotibial band maintains what we can call a dynamic tension between the hip joint and the knee joint. It is constantly tight, but sometimes gets even tighter. The iliotibial band is actually part of a longer band of fascia that runs from the base of the feet through the outside of the leg, spiralling up into the oblique abdominals, upper trunk and back and into the back of the neck.

When we walk or run, movement at the hip joint is translated through the thigh and into the knee and then ankle and foot. And back again! This happens all the time very quickly when we are walking. When we are running it happens very VERY quickly. ALOT of shock and movement is transmitted through the ITB by the muscles that it merges with at either end…..

How does it go wrong?

The muscles that merge with the ITB at the hip can get very tight and tired from training or overuse, or sometimes simply by the way we walk or our choice of shoes.

When the iliotibial band is too tight, it stops moving so freely over the tissues and structures that lie underneath it. This can cause friction and inflammation at  the knee end or the hip end, or both. A tight ITB can also pull on the structures around the knee joint and cause pain.

How does it get too tight?

The  powerful gluteus maximus (buttock) muscles that take such a powerful role in running merge with the iliotibial band at the side of the hip.  A smaller muscle at the front of the hip called Tensor fasciae latae also merges with the band.  When these muscles become too tight, this tension is communicated to and through the band.

Below the knee, the front and outside of the shin can also become tight and sore from overuse. This tension can also translate into the ITB, which we must remember is part of a longer, continuous band of longitudinal fascia.

Strenuous exercise, such as training  can cause overtightness and overuse in these muscles, as can injury to the hip, knee or ankle in the form of strains or sprains.

What does it feel like?

Tension problems in the iliotibial band can cause different sensations. Most of these can make you feel like you have an injury or problem in the knee or hip and sometimes the ankle or foot.

A common symptom of an overtight iliotibial band is pain on the outside of the knee and just below the kneecap. It is not uncommon for a client to attend the clinic at Muscle and Movement Health complaining of knee pain and a little worried that they have a problem in the joint itself.  This is totally understandable. ITB pain at the knee can literally stop you in your tracks.  The distal (bottom) end of the band merges with the lateral part of the patellar retinaculum, which is an area of retaining and supportive connective tissue at the knee.  Tension from a tight gluteus maximus (or bum muscle) will translate through the ITB and cause pulling and pain here at the knee.

Resulting pain can feel sharp and local at the side of the knee, front of the hip or side of the hip and bottom. Sometimes this pain transfers as an ache or pulling at the side of the knee and into the outside of the shin.

 

How can I get rid of it??????

Stretching

Using  stretches for the gluteus maximus and the tensor fasciae latae muscles can be effective to release tension here as well as prevent recurrence in the longer term. General stretches to maintain healthy hip, knee and ankle mobility are obviously crucial for runners. Tightness and imbalance in these areas can result in movement patterns that encourage ITB tightness to develop.

The right footwear

Make sure you have made the right choice of running shoe for the shape of your feet and the way you run. ITB pain resulting from your gait (the way your body moves and your feet strike the ground as you run) is very common.  Go to a running shoe shop that offers gait analysis from experienced staff.  A change of shoes can sometimes completely cure an ITB related pain problem.

Don’t overtrain

A sensible training programme does not result in overtraining. Proper rest periods between training sessions and race events, plus some creative cross-training can ensure safety from injury and overuse.

Sports massage

Regular deep tissue massage can not only release you from the sometimes chronic cycle of  ITB problems, but also enhance your training progress and performance by speeding recovery between sessions and preventing build up of the tension in muscle fibres that leads to pain and injury.

Self – treatment

If you are suffering from tightness and pain in the areas discussed, there are some small and simple things you can do which may ease and sometimes clear up the problem. Try massaging deeply and slowly using a tennis ball or the heel of your hand into the outside of your buttock near your hip bone. You can also work in the same way into the “pocket muscle” tensor fasciae latae, which sits just below the crest of your hip at the top and outside of your thigh.

Foam rollers can also be effective if you use them slowly up and down the ITB from hip to knee.

Both these techniques can often clear up low level ITB gripes very quickly.

Strength and stability training

A very common factor in the development of ITB related pain is weakness in the gluteus maximus muscle. A weak bottom can ruin a good runner!

When these big buttock muscles are not firing in an optimum sequence, the stability of the hip is compromised. This results in a tightening of the muscles that stabilise the hip during dynamic movement. Also, weaker muscles tire and tighten quicker than trained and strong ones.

Many runners suffer from iliotibial band pain as a result of weak gluteus maximus muscles. Using isolation exercises to get them contributing more effectively to the movement of running can address a root cause of many running-related aches and pains.

For more information on how to address iliotibial band issues or if you have a chronic problem that is stopping you progressing in your training, contact us at Muscle and Movement Health to discuss how we can help!

 

 

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