What to DO after sustaining a Concussion

The DO’s and DON’T’s for early stage recovery after a concussion

Having a concussion is a serious injury. The brain must have the necessary means to heal. Placing stress on the body or brain will prolong healing and ultimately not allow the body to recover. During the initial stage of healing it is important to avoid activity to stimulates the brain or body and through the entire course of healing it is imperative to not evoke any symptoms by doing activity that will aggravate symptoms. The following is a list of DO’S and DON’T’s to help athletes as they recover. Read More

It’s as simple as ‘irradiation’

Irradiation sounds like a word found on the SATs. However, it is a term from Pavel Tsatsouline. It refers to the positive effect of one tensed muscle on another for absolute force production. Simply stated, the more tense one muscle or a group of muscles become the more force an person can produce.

Sounds great, right? For lifting and participating in a set motion or where there’s little need to react to any changes I would agree. For athletes who need to cut, react to their opponents or be more fluid I say it’s not.

One summer, I did nothing but lift heavy weights in an attempt to bulk up. My weights that I was able to  lift why not. However, when I try to run or play a sport, I felt really slow.  This was an example of your irradiation for me. My legs were so used to lifting and squatting heavy weights that they cannot quickly adapt and allow me to cut or move.  While it was easier to move out of my apartment, I was discouraged with how much agility I lose.

Take a look at this picture.

squatting with knees in valgus position

The athlete is working hard to successfully complete the lift, but unfortunately, using bad form. While poor mechanics are not  an example of irradiation. Tensing up as many muscles as possible to complete the heavy lift is an example of irradiation. Often athletes become so competitive that they will do anything to complete a lift, including altering technique or form. As the weight gets heavier and approaches an athlete’s 1 RM (rep max), the chance for poor form increases. This is why novice weight lifters and young athletes need to be careful with heavy training/ lifting. If athletes continue to use bad form, poor movement patterns may reinforced.

 

In my opinion, this is a pitfall too many injuries. Athletes who are not fluid and cannot perform multi directional movements are susceptible to injuries.  Research is showing the importance of multi directional squats and training and how there’s a direct correlation to less ACL tears  with athletes who work multi directional squats.

I challenge the novice and weightlifters and young athletes to not be as concerned with how much weight he or she is lifting. Instead proper mechanics and fluid motions are more important.

 

Most underrated joint- The Big Toe Joint

Many people instantly recognize the importance of the hip, knee,and ankle when walking, running, and jumping. Few however, recognize the importance of the big toe, unless they have injured it. With every step, the big toe is vital in pushing off and propelling the body forward. As we run and perform sports related movements there is even more motion required of the big toe. If the big toe is not able to achieve full range of motion then an athlete has limited his or her sports performance. Here are a couple of ways to maximize big toe mobility, stability, and overall efficiency.

1. Avoid wearing narrow shoes and/ or shoes with a narrow toe box.

Narrow shoes will compress the big toe and limit its range of motion. In fact, narrow shoe boxes can lead to increase likelihood of a bunion forming . The most wide aspect of the shoe should be at the toes to allow for unrestricted  full toe extension.

2. Increase Ankle dorsiflexion

Dorsiflexion is the motion that occurs when the foot and ankle move up towards the head. During dorsiflexion the calf and muscles within proximity are stretched. This helps the toe mobility as the muscles that flex the toes are deep under the calf. The more the ankle can dorsiflex the more mobility the big toe can achieve as the muscles that control toe motion are able to stretch.

3. Occasionally Train/ Exercise  without shoes

A lot of the small muscles in the foot (known as foot intrinsics) are not worked as well while in shoes. The intrinsic muscles are what provide dynamic stability of the foot. If you are not sure if you have been working your foot intrinsic muscles here’s a simple test. Try balancing on one foot with your shoes on and then off. If there’s a marked difference between the two positions, then it’s evident that the intrinsic muscle are not being trained and should be worked more.

Muscle Cramps 101

Ever been waken up in the middle of the night with the leg stuck in a position where it felt like the muscle wouldn’t relax? Or, have you ever been in the middle of an exercise and the muscle goes into a “Charlie horse”? This involuntary muscle contraction is a cramp. For those who have unfortunately had a muscle cramp know how painful of an experience it can be. Many people have heard some of the advice to help alleviate cramping such as drink water or eat a banana. There is some validity to some of these wives tales. Here is the science behind these wives tales.

Eating a Banana

To understand have bananas are able to help alleviate muscle cramps, it is important to mention how muscles contract. Many people are aware that bananas are a good source of potassium. This is important because the muscles work on a sodium and potassium balance, through a process called the sodium potassium pump. Simply stated, sodium ions are found outside of the muscle cell and potassium ions are inside a muscle cell. During a muscle contraction, sodium ions move inside a muscle cell and potassium ions move out of a cell. When this balance is thrown off, a muscle can not actively contract and relax. This is why eating a banana can restore the balance between sodium and potassium. Eating a banana can act as a good source of potassium and restore potassium ions back into the cell.

Drinking Water

Dehydration can also lead to cramping.  Sodium and water are closely bound.   In layman’s terms, where ever sodium goes water will follow. Through long periods of exercise or  strenuous levels of physical exertion, the likelihood of dehydration or even sodium depletion becomes more prevalent.  By drinking water, the muscle cell stays hydrated and the sodium potassium pump, that was aforementioned, is maintained.  This is also why sports drinks or even pickle juice is helpful with preventing cramping during exercise. The additional sodium assist  the muscle.

Stretching the affected muscle 

A muscle cramp is involuntary muscle contraction. The muscles will  tighten up during cramping.  To decrease the tightness in the muscle, stretching can be a useful tool.  Stretching will allow the muscle to lengthen and not stay in the contracted position.

If I had to pick one Biceps exercise

I was asked the other day, “If I could only do one exercise to build up my biceps, what exercise would I pick?” Normally I’m not an advocate of isolation exercises. Isolation exercises only work one joint and are often not a functional movement. For example, the leg curl is an isolation exercise. First, this exercise will only work the hamstrings. Second, throughout the day rarely do we ever just sit down and kick our legs. The same is similar with biceps curls. However, the more I thought about it there is an exercise that will maximize the biceps output.

The one exercise that I think gets the most out of just the biceps is called the Zottman curl.  During the Zottman curl, you curl a dumbbell up with the palms up and lower it with the palms down. This exercise is my favorite because it covers all the entire action of the biceps. The elbow flexes/ bends as we do with all curls. But the biceps also control wrist supination. This action is when your turn your palm up. (Bend your elbow and rotate your palm up and down. Watch how the biceps muscle contracts). Lastly, the biceps play a role in flexing/ raising the shoulder. The Zottman curl involves all of these motions. The elbow bends, wrist supinates, and shoulder flexes thus making the muscle work harder than other biceps isolation exercises. So to answer the question… “If I could only do one exercise to build up my biceps, what exercise would I pick?” The Zottman curl would be the best single exercise for purely the biceps.

Pic from https://faithandfitnessembrace.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/image006.jpg (via Pinterest)

Pic from https://faithandfitnessembrace.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/image006.jpg (via Pinterest)

3 Worst bench press mistakes

The bench press is a great exercise to help strengthen the pecs and triceps. However, when not performed properly, the bench press can become a dangerous exercise that leads to injury. There are many reasons as to why we see athletes as patients from bench pressing. The one thing that athletes have the most control over is their form. Proper technique will minimize the risk of an injury occurring. Here are the 3 most common bench press mistakes that I see athletes make, that ultimately leads to an injury.

 

  1. Poor elbow positioning – Poor elbow is probably the most common bench press mistake as well as the most likely to lead to an injury. When performing the bench press the elbows should stay close to the body. As the bar descends its important to never let it flare out to be even with the shoulder. When this occurs it places tremendous strain on the shoulder capsule as well as other soft tissue structures in the shoulder. The elbows should not go deeper than the body as well. If you as you bring the bar down to the chest and the elbows are lower than the shoulder there is an increased likelihood for injury.

    The elbows should not flare out (pic on left ), they should stay close to the body (pic on right) Pic from breakingmuscle.com

    The elbows should not flare out (pic on left ), they should stay close to the body (pic on right) Pic from breakingmuscle.com

  2. Not creating a secure base/ foundation – To get the most out of your body while bench pressing, it is important to create a good foundation. A good base/ foundation will help to maximize the body’s pushing potential. Just like it is impossible to jump far from a boat that is not anchored, it is very hard to do the bench press when the body does not have a stable base. To create a stable base/ foundation, keep the head on the bench, pinch the shoulder blades, keep the feet on the ground and squeeze/ engage the quads and glute muscles as well.

    Pic from www.powerdojo.com

    Pic from www.powerdojo.com

  3. Lifting hips off the bench – Lifting the hips off of the bench almost always leads to arching the lower back. This places to excessive strain through the lumbar spine. Keeping the hips on on the bench will also assist in creating a more secure foundation for the body.

    Pic from leanmuscleproject.com

    Pic from leanmuscleproject.com

Occlusion Training

Ever want to do less work, with less weight, and still get all the benefits of heavy resistance training? I’m sure we all have at least thought that, at least once. But what if I told you there may be a way to really see benefits while using less weight? Before you start laughing or becoming doubtful, I want to introduce you to a new form of training called occlusion training.

Occlusion, simply stated, is the closing of a blood vessel. Occlusion generally has a bad connotation because it occurs when there is plaque or clots in our vessels making it harder to circulate blood through our vascular system. However, this pretty new training method, occlusion training, is backed by research to show strength gains in athletes. Athletes, basically, take a band and lightly wrap it around their muscles to act as a low level tourniquet.

occlusion training pic

pic from exercisebiology.com

So how does occlusion training work? “Occlusion training is thought to work through the process of “metabolic accumulation.”  Instead of letting your body flush all the metabolic products of exertion through the system, the tourniquet keeps it all in the area. This stimulates a big release of anabolic growth factors, recruits more fast-twitch fibers, and induces more production of protein.”  

Simply stated, the pumped feeling that you get with working out stays longer. The tourniquet does not allow for normal blood flow and waste is built up because the normal circulation to pump it out does not occur. This ultimately stimulates the muscle to have to grow and adapt to meet the demands placed on the body and overcome the poor environment of restricted blood flow.

There are some warnings/ cautions to adhere.

  1. Occlusion training should be done with no more than 50% RM.
  2. Tightening the tourniquet too tight has been shown to break down muscle which is known as rhabdomyolysis. This means the muscle is completely choked and begins to die. This is why it is important to not tighten the area too much.
  3. Occlusion training hurts! Asking the body to work in a disadvantaged state will force it to work harder. The saying no pain- No gain can never be truer. Exercise with precaution because the muscle can reach an ischemic (no oxygen/ choked out) point
  4. Occlusion Training should NOT be your only means of training. It should be used as a training tool to add some variation to the workout.

 

If you’re looking for a new training method that has been backed by research to give you results-give occlusion training a try!

References:

How To Build Muscle With Vascular Occlusion Training

http://breakingmuscle.com/strength-conditioning/do-you-occlude-what-is-occlusion-training

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19885776

http://www.exercisebiology.com/index.php/site/articles/how_does_occlusion_training_works_in_increasing_muscle/

Jumping Posture Part 1-Starting Position

Jumping is a skill that is learned as a toddler. In fact, most of the time, jumping is a reflexive movement, not often thought about. When we need to jump, our bodies are similar to the Nike slogan-“Just Do it”. We jump, we land, and then go on to our next plan of action. However, there may be some factors that limit jumping ability. For example, as we age we may not to be able to jump as efficiently. Things such as decreased strength and declining balance are the obvious impairments that will not allow us to jump as well. However, there are some other not as obvious factors that will limit jumping ability. For athletes looking to improve their jumping ability this series of articles will address different aspects of jumping to ultimately allow athletes to maximize their jumping potential.

 

Part 1- Starting Position 

There are a lot of cliches that talk about the importance of a good start. “Start strong”, “a good beginning makes a good ending”, and even “look before you leap” are all cliches that are applicable to jumping. It is imperative to place the body in the best starting position before jumping. A proper starting position will lay the foundation to prepare the body to harness its power and potential energy.

 

  1. Chest Up and Shoulder Blades Retracted- Often when someone is reminded to have good posture the first thing he or she does is retract or bring back the shoulder blades and either stand or sit up tall. This same rationale is required for good jumping posture. Before jumping the chest should be up and shoulder blades back. Often athletes that slump do not maximize their bodies jumping potential. Slouching posture moves the body’s center of mass forward, forcing the body to have to work harder. Imagine holding a weight on the back of the shoulders while standing upright. Then imagine how much heavier it is to hold a weight on the shoulders while slouching and leaning forward. This extra strain is also placed on the body when attempting to jump when an athlete is slouching.
  2. Knees even with the Toes- The knees need to start and finish in line with the body. When the knees go towards each other (in a knocked knee position) not only is some of the force that should propel the body in the desired direction lost, there is an increased risk of injury. See article Quickest Way to Knee Pain during Powerlifting This Article will further highlight improper knee position.
  3. Arms back and Ready- The position of the arms will help propel the body. When jumping the arms often guide and direct the body in the direction that it will go. To jump forward, the arms will, often, swing forward. To jump vertically the arms, often, swing up to propel the body up. When starting to jump, the arms should be back and ready to move the body in the desired direction. If the arms are forward or in another position, time will be lost because the arms will generally swing back before the jump begins to increase the body’s moment and force. So before the jump quickly throw the arms back to be ready to go.

 

Start jumping position

Start jumping position

Pic taken from www.t-nation.com

 

Always Gripping- Start Stretching

We, as a society, seem to always be using or fingers to hold or grasp something. If we are not holding or cell phone for a selfie or text message, we are typing on the computer, or gripping a steering wheel to commute to work. That constant strain on the hands can lead to wrist and elbow problems. Furthermore, for those adding additional stress such as always gripping and holding weights while weightlifting, construction work, or just always using your fingers while typing on the computer it is important to stretch the muscles that control the fingers as well.

Stretching fingers

Stretching fingers

When we type, hold items, or grasp, our fingers curl towards the palm. To stretch, and avoid his additional pressure/ strain, we should go in the opposite direction. Pull the fingers up to allow the fingers and muscles in the forearm to stretch and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat for 3 to 5 times.

Are you getting neck & pain from how you sleep

Sleep is a necessity. It is while we sleep that our bodies recover from the day. It is recommended that adults get at least 6 hours of sleep. While some may or may not meet these sleep recommendations, our sleeping position is just as important. If our neck and/ or back is not supported we can put more stress on our bodies.

Improper side sleeping position

Improper side sleeping position

The purpose of this article is not to endorse a specific brand or type of pillow. In fact,  individuals will have different preferences. For example, a contour pillow may feel great and provide the proper support for some individuals. However,  the same contour pillow may not feel comfortable for another person. The best way to find the pillow that works may be by trial and error.

Improper supine sleeping posture

Pillow for knees 

Probably one of the most overlooked places to place a pillow while sleeping is the knees. When an individual sleeps on his/ her side a pillow between the knees will help to keep hips and pelvis supported and aligned. For individuals who prefer to lay on their backs a folded pillow or a roll should be placed under the knees. The pillow should be thick enough to flex (place a bend) in both the hips and knees. A thirty degree bend in the knee is the position that places the least amount of pressure on the knee joint. A bend in the hips decreases the amount of pressure on the lumbar spine / lower back.

Proper Sidelying Sleeping Position

Proper Sidelying Sleeping Position

Pillow for head/ neck

The pillow under the head needs to fully support the head and neck. It should be tucked so that the entire neck is support all the way to the top of the shoulders. The head should also remain in a neutral position. If the pillow(s) are too high the head will be tilted placing a strain on the neck. However if the pillow(s) are too low there will not not be enough support which could lead to the muscles of the neck and shoulder tightening. These muscles will involuntarily try to still hold/ support the weight of the head because the head is not fully supported.

 

Proper Supine Sleeping PosItion

Proper Supine Sleeping PosItion

Protecting our body while we sleep is important. Correct sleeping position will eliminate unnecessary stress to the body. Furthermore, adequate support to our joints will allow for better rest and recovery.

Pics from: http://trucontour.com/back-pain-sleep-positions