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Sleep, Knees And Spine

The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis. Over time the protective cartilage on the ends of the bones begins to wear. All joints in the body are susceptible and in athletics osteoarthritis is often seen earlier than normalespecially in the knees and spine. A population based study in the journal Spine found heavily active people getting less than 7 hours of sleep per day, have a remarkably higher prevalence of arthritis in the lower back than those who sleep longer.


When there is too much or abnormal loading risk factors for lumbar muscle strain and lumbar disc degeneration are elevated. If an athlete has a shorter sleep time the lumbar muscles and discs are under tension for a longer period. Therefore, this status may lead to further lumbar degeneration and be related to low back osteoarthritis.

Dr. Brian Hainline, Chief Medical Officer of the National Collegiate Athletic Association recently addressed the Collegiate Strength Coaches at their National Convention. He discussed the extensive issue of sleep deprivation in collegiate athletics. He explained how lack of sleep increases sports injury risk and pointed to a study whose findings indicated, "if an athlete is progressively sleep deprived over a period of 12 weeks, their neuromuscular performance will continue to diminish, even when the athlete believes that, after three days, they are back to normal."

Not only does sleep deprivation increases the risk of overuse and fatigue injuries but is often associated with signs of depression, anger, feelings of tension, anxiety and all the symptoms associated with attention deficit disorder. 

College students are among the most sleep-deprived people in the country. According to a 2014 study in the Journal of Nature Science and Sleep, 50% of college students report daytime sleepiness and 70% attain insufficient quality.  A comprehensive study at an independent college preparatory school showed increased sleep duration after a delay in school start time. When school was started at 8.30 am, 30 minutes later than usual, sleep duration was increased by 45 minutes on school days. 

Serious training requires adequate sleep. Early morning workouts must be well thought out and scheduled to ensure that athletes are getting adequate sleep and peak performance. Coaches need to consider sleep if they want to Get and keep their athletes healthy and Strong.

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Barbell Squat Form

Gabe Harrington has a Masters degree from Michigan State University. Gabe has coached at MSU, the United States Military Academy and most recently was the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Colgate University Patriot League Football Champions. Gabe explains, even if you are an avid barbell squatter, the Pendulum Squat Pro is still a great tool to have in your weight room.

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Teaching squatting form with a barbell requires coaching as well as skill progression. Teaching form on the Pendulum Power Squat Pro, because the yoke resting on the athletes shoulders is accommodating, only requires the lifter to grasp the work arms and squat and their form is excellent. 

I purchased a Pendulum Squat Pro for my facility and when the machine arrived my athletes began trying it. I quickly saw, without almost any instruction, athletes who usually struggled with squatting had excellent form on the Squat Pro. The floating yoke was changing the resistance in relationship to the lever system during the movement.  I was delighted with what was occurring and decided that the Power Squat Pro should become part of my squatting progression routine.

The following are my '10 Progressive Steps' that I used to teach the proper form of barbell squatting.

 PROGRESSION #1: FEEL THE CORRECT FORM

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 PROGRESSION #2: STANCE BASICS

•    Begin with feet slightly wider than shoulder width – toes pointed slightly out

•    “Spread the Floor” with your feet: if you were on ice, you would do the splits – this helps to keep your knees from buckling in during the movement

•    Push through the heels, falling forward can put unnecessary strain on your spine – keeping your weight back keeps your center of gravity from falling forward and helps keep your knees behind your toes (more on this later)… try lifting your big toes slightly just before performing the movement 

PROGRESSION #3: BREATHING

•    Always breath into your belly, not your chest – this helps promote internal stability around the spine

•    Breath in at the top – now hold your breath on the way down and in the bottom position for a split second (unless you have high blood pressure)

•    Once upward movement is initiated breath out as you stand up

PROGRESSION #4: WALL SQUAT (BOX)
•    This series will help you learn to sit back rather than down when you squat as well as to keep your knees behind your toes

•    Begin by setting an adjustable platform or low box near a wall – make sure it is sturdy enough to support your bodyweight!

•    Set the platform such that as you sit on it the tops of your thighs are parallel with the floor

•    From the seated position place your toes against the wall and assume your squat stance

•    Take a breath into the belly, Spread the floor, lift your big toes and stand

•    Try to sit back onto the platform without “plopping” down onto it and return to the standing position once again

•    Once you can repeat this 2-3 times in a row without “plopping” down you are ready to move onto the next progression

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PROGRESSION #5: WALL SQUAT (PARTNER)

•    This time begin standing with your toes against the wall in your squat stance

•    Breath into the belly, spread the floor, lift the big toes, push your hips back and maintain a good arch in your spine

•    You will notice that at ¾ of the way down you will have to use your hip flexor muscles to pull you down 

•    This is where it gets tough!  Your partner will have to spot you from behind and keep you from falling backwards – your partner’s job is to push you forward enough so that you can pull yourself down to parallel… you want to get used to your hip flexors working hard here!

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PROGRESSION #6: WALL SQUAT (SOLO)

•    Once you feel comfortable enough, try this without your partner

•    Note that this is the exact form you will use with the bar on your back – you must master this exercise before moving on!

•    You may pick this up right away, or you may have to practice 2 sets of 3 reps on this each day for as long as a couple of weeks to master it – either way, stay with it because it will pay you back down the road!

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PROGRESSION #7: MODIFIED FRONT SQUAT

•    Once you have mastered the wall squat place an empty barbell across your shoulders and extend your arms out straight with your thumbs up to the ceiling and at eye level
•    Now squat like you’ve been practicing against the wall: breath into the belly, spread the floor, lift the toes, push the hips back and maintain a great spinal arch
•    The purpose of the bar here is to give you some feedback as to whether you are falling forward or not – if the bar rolls off your shoulders you are falling forward – check your weight distribution and keep working on it!
•    Once you can do this for a set of 2-3 reps in a row you are ready to back squat!

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PROGRESSION #8: HOLDING THE BAR ON YOUR BACK

•    For the back squat, we want a “low bar position”

•    To achieve this, squeeze your shoulder blades together hard – this will create a natural “shelf” for the bar to sit on... The “shelf” is your trapezius and rear deltoid muscles contracting – the bar will sit here comfortably without feeling like you are rubbing your spine with the bar

•    Grip the bar firmly – experiment with the width of your hands for comfort – try to turn your wrists in… they won’t move very much, but by contracting your wrist muscles your wrists will hurt less from the awkwardness of the position

•    Keep your eyes up and push your head back into the bar (like when you try to make your neck look bigger in your team photo)

•    Note that this may feel uncomfortable at first… your wrists and upper back may not be strong enough initially to support much weight in this fashion, but STICK WITH IT, your upper back will grow thick with muscle from supporting weight in this manner – not to mention this is the most advantageous way to hold the bar (in time your spine will thank you)

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PROGRESSION #9: PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

•    At this point, having mastered the previous progressions, the back squat should be a breeze

•    Perform your practice sets with no more than 2 reps at a time with light weight until you get the hang of it (have a partner watch you!) and add weight slowly – in time you will have a healthy and impressive physique from all of your hard work!   

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Remember:
Breath into the belly
Spread the floor
Lift the toes
Head back
Great arch
Drive through the heels... and.... Get Strong

PROGRESSION #10: RECHECK YOUR FORM

Gabe Harrington Squat Pro

Reverse Glute/Ham And Hamstring Injuries

Having a wide variety of training tools allows a coach and athlete to regionally target specific areas of the anatomy.  Choosing the appropriate exercises that specifically develops the upper or the lower section of a biarticular muscle can lead to an adaptation that protects an athlete from injury. The Journal, Science Medicine and Sport recently published an article that examined the anatomic distribution of acute hamstring injuries in a large population of football players. They based their findings upon their utilization of 'Magnetic Resonance Imaging' which produced detailed pictures of the tissue post trauma.

The study looked at the MRIs and determined the location of where each athlete sustained tissue damage to their hamstring. The locations of the hamstring muscle injury was first divided into proximal (nearest to the center of the body) or distal. Injuries then were classified as a specific type such as myotendinous junction (where the tendon and muscle bisect) or a location such as the muscle belly or myofascial (fibrous tissue surrounding or invested in the muscle).

Researcher found when trauma occurred, the long head of the biceps femoris was the most often injured, which was damaged fifty seven percent of the time normally at the proximal myotendinous junction.

Long Head Hamstring 

Common exercises for the hamstrings in weight rooms are leg curls, glute-ham raises and the Romanian deadlift. These are wonderful exercises yet they target the distal end of the muscle.

To best train the proximal end of the long head of the often injured bicep femoris an athlete should use the Pendulum Reverse Glute/Ham. Repetitions emphasizing the eccentric or lowering phase of the lift and training to failure will decrease the stiffness of the myotendinous junction, which will mean a healthy strong hamstring and therefore a healthy strong athlete.

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Hamstring Training on the Reverse Glute/Ham

Getting Strong

Sprint Running Form

Running at top speed is complex and requires teaching, education, coaching and practice. Showing a film, having a slide presentation, a demonstration, handouts and a quiz is part of the learning process.

The following is an example of a handout and quiz:

Handout

I. The Hands and Arms - The faster arms go the faster the legs go.

A. Relax your hands       

1. If the hands are relaxed the chances are good the arms and shoulders will be relaxed

2. The index finger and thumb should slightly touch or the hand should remain in a               natural position

3. Start with your lower arm at a right angle to the upper arm  

4. Powerfully drive your hand forward no higher than your shoulder

5. Keep the right angle while vigorously pumping your arms

B. The rear action of the arm is responsible for higher knee lift

1. The thumb should almost brush your thigh on the descent of your arm

2. The downward moving hand should clear the buttocks

3. Keep the arm at a right angle during the stroke allowing the elbow to open slightly at the end of the stroke

4. Your upper arm should become almost parallel to the ground

5. Always assure that there isn’t excessive swinging of the lower arm during running maintaining the right angle of the lower and upper arm

C. Proper movement of the arms insures unnecessary rotation of the lower torso

1. While pumping your arms keep your shoulders square

2. While pumping your arms do not rotate your hips


II. Head, Neck and Shoulders - position and relaxation allows for faster movement, a more powerful stroke and greater knee lift

A. Relax muscles of the face

1. Breath through your mouth and nose

2. Relax your mouth

3. Eyes should be focused at an object at eye level straight ahead - not at your feet or upward

4. The head should always remain in a normal postural position

5. Never allow the head to rock from side to side or move up or down

B. Relax your shoulders

1. Keep your shoulders down while pumping your arms

2. Do not shrug your shoulders towards your ears

3. Relaxed shoulders allow you to pump your arms faster

4. Keep your shoulders square


III. Legs, Foot and Torso - knee lift must be without improper body rotation and the avoidance of exaggerated movements

A. The torso should be upright

1. When running the trunk should be slightly forward of vertical

2. Do not allow torso rotation

3. Do not allow bending in the middle of the torso - crunching

4. Do not allow bending backwards

5. Run tall

B. High knee lift is desirable and completion of the drive stroke or drive leg is desirable

1. Lift your knee high with a powerful stroke

2. The drive must take place wholly behind the body’s vertical line with the drive leg

3. At no time should there be an attempt to reach out with the lifted foot

4. The lifted foot should be slightly cocked or dorsiflexed

5. The returning lifted foot will land slightly ahead of the body and then will be used to drive forward


Quiz

Fill in:

1. In running the faster the arms go the faster the ____________go.

2. The proper rear action of the arms is responsible for___________________________.

3. When pumping your arms your shoulders should remain________________________.

4. Proper movement of the arms insures unnecessary rotation of the_________________.

5. How should your head , in relation to your torso, remain when running with proper form?

   ______________________________________________________________________.

True or False:

6. You should run tall?___________.

7. You should not reach out with your lifted foot when running_____________.

8. You should not bend or crunch in the torso when running________________.

9. You should not shrug your shoulders when running_____________________.

10. You should relax your head, neck and shoulders when running____________.

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Cincinnati Bengals Weight Room

Cincinnati Bengals Weight Room Pendulum Equipment
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Pendulum Seated Squats
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Pendulum 5 Way Neck Machines
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Pendulum 3 Way Rows
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Pendulum Hip Presses

Ohio State Buckeyes Pendulum Neck Machines

Ohio State University the 2014 NCAA Football National Champions

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Pendulum Head and Neck Machines

The Pendulum Reverse Glute/Ham

Having a wide variety of training tools allows a coach and athlete to regionally target specific areas of the anatomy.  Choosing the appropriate exercise that specifically develops the upper and the lower sections of biarticular muscles leads to overall greater muscular adaptation. 

The Pendulum Reverse Glute/Ham was engineered to strengthen the hips, glutes and hamstrings. The machine also allows athletes with ankle sprains, casts, back loading issues and knees to continue to stay strong and get strong.

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When each repetition is performed from a bent knee position to a straight leg (the movement is as if the athlete was about to stand) the hips become targeted on the Pendulum Reverse Glute/Ham. 

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Keeping the knees bent from the beginning of the movement to the finish of the exercise emphasizes the gluteal muscles.

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Keeping the legs straight and locked from start to finish, stretches and strengthens the hamstrings.
Three great exercises on one great machine.

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The Seton Hall Pirates Weight Room

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Knee Extensions

The kneecap anatomically called the patella is the small bone embedded in a tendon in the front of the knee. The patellofemoral joint is where the kneecap and thigh bone meet. Below the kneecap there is a large tendon (patellar tendon), which attaches to the front of the tibia or shine bone. This mechanism allows the quadriceps, the large muscles of the front of the knee to extend the knee joint with a very slight rotation. 

From a flexed position of around 135 degrees the knee extends or straightens to 0 degrees. Fluid-filled sacs called bursae serve as gliding surfaces for the tendons to reduce the force of friction as tendons move. Each meniscus, that is, the cartilage serves to evenly load the surface during weight-bearing, which also adds to the reduction of friction by disbursing joint fluid for joint lubrication. Having strong thigh muscles is important in reducing patellofemoral stresses during activity.

Until recently there has been disagreement in the literature as to which exercises and ranges of motion best accomplish the goal of low patellofemoral stress.  It has been found that performing knee extension from 90° to 45° has significantly lower stress then isokinetic knee extensions and squatting movements.  This is confirmed in the May 2014, Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy.  Therefore when prescribing exercise, non-weight-bearing quadriceps exercises are extremely important in managing joint stress especially in persons with knee pain.

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Pendulum Leg Extension Starting from 90 degrees

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Pendulum Leg Extension to 45 degrees

Training between 90° and 45° causes the least amount of patellofemoral stress and often allows pain free training enabling an athlete to re-strengthen the quadricep. Once knee pain dissipates and knee strength is normalized or increased the athlete can resume full range exercise. 

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 Full range Pendulum Leg Extensions 

Kinesthetics And Shuttle Running

Kinesthetics is our ability to feel the sensations of our movements and the awareness of where our body is in space.  Having a kinesthetic sense of one's body parts relative to a previous position enables athletes to develop and nurture their athletic proficiency. 

This awareness that we have and call 'skill' allows us to perform each movement with earned excellence. Kinesthetics is manifested in the examples of when the 'center' on a football team shotgun snaps a ball accurately to the quarterback, while keeping his eyes rivited on his opponent or the kicker kicks an extra point and knows exactly where to place his plant foot while moving, even though he is concentrating on the football as he is about to punch it through the uprights. Executing a skill correctly over and over allows an athlete to use precise sensory feedback to adjust as they move, integrating information from the ears, eyes, muscles, ligaments, skin and more - kinesthetic awareness.

Agility shuttles are used by coaches and scouts to evaluate players. Strength and Conditioning coaches hence instruct athletes with the appropriate form and have them practice it diligently to minimize their time. The following is an example of some instructions on the 'Pro Agility Shuttle' and viewed as good advice:

"Put your right hand down to the ground and get ready to take off."  "Take three steps within five yards and pivot your right foot around so that it is in front of your left foot. Make sure your right hand is on the ground near your right foot."  "Burst out 10 yards and mimic the same pivot and position with your left foot."

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Yet, often instructors training athletes for a drill such as the 'Pro Agility Shuttle' may forget the most important coaching fundamental of running a great time, 'where the head goes the body will follow.'  Touching a line on the ground as you change direction is not a complicated task as the line is not going to move. The athlete need not stare at the line to make sure he touches it, he need only to know where it is and be in tune with his running form. IMG 0545edited

       The athlete need not watch the line

Getting as low as possible and using peripheral vision and body awareness for hand placement is what is necessary as the athlete must pivot the head and foot to burst in the opposite direction. Looking at the line and making sure it is touched prevents the athlete from quickly getting his head turned downfield. The craniums appropriate position brings the entire system into the actions needed to propel the body in the opposite direction.

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By being aware of the line not watching it allows the athlete to turn quicker

If an athlete steps correctly, gets low as he approaches the line, trust he knows where he is in space and concentrates on bringing 'the head around so the body will follow', he will run up to his capabilities. 

Teach athletes to rely on their kinesthetic awareness so they perform movements at the highest level. 

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