|Strengthening Exercise Can Weaken and Injure|
|Written by Kathy Tooman|
The muscles of the body move in functional patterns. Groups of muscles work together to create movement. Typing this article does not just use my fingers. The muscles in my neck, back, shoulders, elbows, and hands are all working together (or not!) to efficiently accomplish the task. When there is a muscle imbalance, either in strength or flexibility, the task is not done effieciently. Strain patterns develop. Compensation patterns develop.
A common problem found in athletes, including gymnasts, is an imbalance in the core and hip muscles. The muscles in the front of the hip(rectus femoris / iliopsoas) become overactive and tight. The muscles in the back of the hip and trunk (gluteus maximus / gluteus medius) become weak and inactive secondary to the tension in the front of the hip. The athlete can perform multiple strengthening exercises and weakness will persist until this imbalance is addressed. This will lead to pain and injury.
Here are a couple tests you can do to see if you have this muscle imbalance pattern:
1. Lay on your back with knees bent, feet on floor. Flatten your back and tighten your lower abs. Keep your back flat and your abs tight as you press your hips off the floor until you
are in a bridge position. Now raise one leg and rest foot on bent knee. Can you do this? What muscles are working hard? If you can't do this your gluts are weak. If you feel
any muscles besides your buttocks doing most of the work, your gluts are weak.
2. Lay on your stomach. Flatten your back and tighten your lower abs. Keep your back flat and your abs tight. Bend one knee to about 90 degrees. Press that thigh up to ceiling without
raising your pelvis off the mat and without turning your knee out. Can you do this?
Could you do these? Great. Then strengthen as you have been.
Did you have difficulty? Could you not do at all? You are not alone. An amazing number of athletes are not able to activate or use their gluteus maximus and medius. Strengthening does not work. You need to address the imbalance in your muscles. You need to lengthen and turn off your rectus femoris and your iliopsoas. You need to wake up and re educate your gluts. Then you can strengthen!!
So.....get to work, but understand what you need to work on. Do NOT strengthen faulty patterns until you develop an injury. Correct faulty patterns. Strengthen. PREVENT injury.
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