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The 5 Most Common Errors Athletes Make With Yoga

Written on May 2, 2014 at 12:42 am, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post comes from yoga expert, Dana Santas. Dana has built up an impressive client roster of professional athletes and teams, and it's no surprise, given how educated she is in applying yoga the right way. Enjoy! -EC

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Yoga is a popular topic in the sports world these days. Undeniably, yoga can offer some amazing benefits for athletes. However, those benefits can only be realized when it’s taught correctly and adapted specifically with the goal of increasing sports performance. Otherwise, at best, yoga can be marginally helpful in sports, and, at worst, can actually be dangerous.

These are the five biggest mistakes I see athletes, coaches and trainers making with yoga:

1. Viewing Yoga as a Harmless “Stretch Class”

The most prevalent misconception about yoga that I encounter is that it’s best used for “stretching.” In my opinion, yoga applied for sheer flexibility has no place in sports. Flexibility without stability is nothing more than a recipe for injury. If you only use yoga to “stretch out” athletes without understanding and addressing the cause of the tension, you’re only applying yoga for temporary relief and can actually do more damage than good. A perfect example is the typical complaint: “I need to stretch my hamstrings because I can’t touch my toes.” When the hamstring tension is caused by an anterior pelvic tilt pulling the hamstrings into a lengthened yet inhibited position, attempting to stretch the hamstrings without correcting the pelvic tilt will only lead to tearing the hamstrings.

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Most tension in athletes is caused by dysfunction or compensatory movement patterns. Fix the pattern and you release the tension--without unnecessary static stretching (like in the hamstrings example above).That’s why I never call what I do “increasing flexibility.” Is it a byproduct? Certainly. But I focus on using yoga for mobility, which--to me--means increasing stable, functional range of motion.

2. Not Understanding the Differences (and Dangers) of Yoga Styles

Saying “I do yoga” is like saying “I drive a car.” Really, what kind? There’s a big difference between a Hyundai and a Ferrari. When it comes to yoga, the variety of styles goes on and on...Hatha vs. Ashtanga vs. Bikram vs. Yin vs. Power vs. Blah Blah (everyone is making up their own version); I even have my own style! Athletes, coaches and trainers have to take the time to educate themselves about the techniques and rationales of the different styles before jumping into a class.

Personally, I believe some styles should be entirely contraindicated for athletes. I realize I’m going to piss off all the hot-yoga disciples by saying this, but one such style is Bikram, where the heat is turned up to an obnoxious 105 degrees. Yes, I know this is popular with athletes because they love to sweat. Great--push yourself properly in 75 degrees to sweat (or go to the sauna), but steer clear of a yoga style that teaches its instructors to shout commands like “lock your knees” while you slip and slide in sweat over the course of 90 minutes. Of the 26 poses used in Bikram, there are two I don’t think most athletes should attempt because of stress on the knees (Reclined Hero) and cervical spine (Rabbit). Another style that I’m not crazy about – Yin yoga – is widely marketed to athletes. The deep, static stretches of Yin are intended to stretch out the connective tissue--including ligaments. I don’t agree with encouraging athletes to stretch out areas that provide joint stability.

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3. Not Vetting The Yoga Instructor

Most people don’t realize that yoga instruction is almost entirely unregulated. As such, there's no law requiring any specific certification to teach yoga. So, anyone can buy a certification online. Consequently, there isn’t a requirement for any anatomy training at all. In fact, even the current gold standard of certification through Yoga Alliance only includes a limited number of anatomy hours, which can be entirely comprised of energy anatomy (chakras, nadis, etc.) rather than muscle and joint function.

Despite this, yoga teachers are encouraged to manually adjust their students in postures. If you’re asking yourself how anyone without anatomy and biomechanics training can properly adjust someone into alignment in complicated yoga poses, you’re contemplating a very valid question. What happens when ill-advised instructors adjust students in classes? Well, injuries aren’t uncommon. One of my MLB clients suffered a cervical spine injury when an instructor in a gym placed a strap around his neck and did “traction” to help him “rest comfortably” while supine at the end of class. Yikes!

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4. Trying to Become a Yogi

Simply learning to do a particular style of yoga as a form of cross training is like a baseball player playing basketball in the off-season. He may benefit from the cardiovascular exercise and even improve his agility, but nothing he does playing basketball is specific to him becoming a better baseball player. And, it could even put him at a greater risk of injury as he feeds into existing dysfunctional patterns within the movements of the new sport. The same logic applies to athletes learning to be yogis.

Consider this: a MLB player came to me as a new client after practicing yoga the two previous off-seasons. His movement across the transverse plane was poor and his right SI joint was jammed due to pelvic rotation left to right. He knew how to do yoga sun salutations (albeit while employing myriad compensatory movement patterns), but he lacked the ability to shift appropriately into his left hip and tap into core power and hip mobility for powerful, fluid rotation. He was a left-handed DH, not a yogi, and should’ve approached his yoga practice as such. Consequently, I designed a custom yoga practice for him that focused on establishing the ability to properly shift into his left hip while increasing fluid movement of his pelvis and hips supported by integrated core strength. That’s the kind of yoga he needed!

Another point I have to make about athletes not striving to become yogis is regarding learning advanced inversions and arm balances. Yes, standing on your head looks really cool, but, can easily cause disc herniations when done incorrectly. And arm balances are awe-inspiring, but offer no benefit to athletes (especially throwing athletes) that outweigh the risks. When pressed by clients to teach these poses, I ask them: “Are you an athlete who wants to reach the top of your game or would you rather join Cirque du Soleil?”

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5. Wasting Hours in Yoga Classes

The standard format for a yoga class is a 60- to 90-minute class. With grueling training and game schedules, athletes have limited time to get the best possible training and have any semblance of a life outside of their sport, so every second counts. In my opinion, spending an hour-plus in a generic yoga class is not time well spent.

When taught athlete- and sport-specifically, yoga can be applied in a variety of ways that require little time commitment (i.e., a yoga mobility warm-up can be done before a workout or game, restorative yoga and/or deeper stretches can be done after games and/or on off days, yoga moves used as corrective exercise or functional training can be added into workouts in between sets of complementary moves). My clients’ in-season programs never include anything more than 20 minutes at a time and are also broken down into individual movements intended for integration into other parts of their strength and conditioning programs.

The bottom line is that all of these mistakes and potential dangers can be avoided by practicing due diligence. When athletes are smart about why and how they add yoga to their training, they can use it tap into another level of function, awareness and control that will help them move, breathe and focus in ways that directly translate to enhanced sports performance and decreased injury.

About the Author

Dana Santas is creator of Radius Yoga Conditioning, a yoga-based mobility and sports-training style designed specifically to help athletes move, breathe and focus in ways that enhance performance and decrease injury. Nicknamed the “Mobility Maker,” she's currently the team yoga trainer for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Philadelphia Phillies, as well as sports mobility consultant to more than half a dozen other teams and hundreds of MLB, NHL, NBA, NFL and MLS pros. You can learn more about her and get information about her upcoming workshop in Waltham, MA at www.RadiusYoga.com.

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The Best of 2012: Strength and Conditioning Videos

Written on December 29, 2012 at 8:20 pm, by Eric Cressey

In continuing with our “Best of 2012″ theme to wrap up the year, today, I’ve got the top EricCressey.com videos of the year.

1. Four Must-Try Mobility Drills – This video was part of an article I had published at Schwarzenegger.com.  You can check it out here.

2. Cleaning Up Your Chin-up Technique – It’s one of the most popular exercises on the planet, but its technique is commonly butchered.  Learn how to avoid the most common mistakes.

3. 8 Ways to Screw Up a Row – Rowing exercises are tremendously valuable for correcting bad posture and preventing injury, but only if they’re performed correctly.

4. My Mock/Impromptu Powerlifting Meet – After being away from competitions for a while, I decided to stage my own “mock” powerlifting meet just to see where my progress stood.  I wound up totaling elite (1435 at a body weight of 180.6) in about two hours.

5. Cressey Performance Facility Tour – We moved to a new space within our building back in August, and this was the tour I gave just prior to the doors opening.

Those were my top five videos of the year, but there were definitely plenty more you may have missed. Luckily, you can check them out on my YouTube Channel.

I’ll be back tomorrow with another “Best of 2011″ feature. 

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Mobility Exercise of the Week: Alternating Lateral Lunge with Overhead Reach

Written on December 10, 2012 at 9:08 pm, by Eric Cressey

It’s been a while since I introduced a mobility exercise of the week, so I figured I’d introduce a new one that we use with a lot of our athletes nowadays.

The alternating lateral lunge with overhead reach gives you all the benefits – adductor length, hip hinge “education,” and frontal plane stability – that you get with a regular lateral lunge variation.  However, by adding in the overhead reach, you get a greater emphasis on optimal core stabilization and mobility and stability at the shoulder girdle.

In this position, we’ll coach different athletes with different cues.

If it’s an athlete who is stick in an exaggerated lordotic posture, we’ll cue him to engage the anterior core and keep the ribs down as the arms go overhead.

If it’s a “desk” jockey who is very kyphotic, we may have to actually cue him “chest up” because he’s so rounded over; we have to bring him back to neutral before we even worry much about the anterior core involvement.

If it’s a high school athlete who has really depressed shoulder blades, we will actually cue him to shrug as he raises the arms to complete scapular upward rotation in the top position.

Conversely, if it’s a client is already very upper trap dominant, we may have to cue a bit more posterior tilt of the scapula during the overhead reach.

In other words, this is a great example of how you can take a good exercise and make it even more effective, especially if you individualize coaching cues as much as possible.  Try it for a set of five reps per side as part of your warm-up and let me know how it goes!

Looking for more mobility drills like this?  Be sure to check out Assess and Correct: Breaking Barriers to Unlock Performance.

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 21

Written on October 10, 2012 at 10:58 am, by Eric Cressey

Here’s this week’s list of strategies to get your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs headed in the right direction.  This is a collaborative effort between Greg Robins and me.

1. Add amplitude to your conditioning.

Let’s face it: jogging on the treadmill and riding the elliptical or recumbent bike is about as fun as watching paint dry.  While an exercise causing boredom doesn’t mandate that it be thrown by the wayside immediately, it does become concerning with this exercise modality doesn’t broaden the amplitude – or range of motion – that you encounter in your daily life.  Moving better is about improving mobility, which is defined as one’s ability to reach a certain posture or position.  For some folks, this means actually lengthening short tissues or reducing tension in overly stiff tissues, while for others, it’s about establishing stability in the range of motion that one already possesses.  Unfortunately, while you’re burn some calories on these cardio machines, you aren’t going to do much to improve your mobility.

The solution is to implement variety in your conditioning, whether it means taking a bunch of mobility exercises and doing them right after another, or integrating several strength training exercises with lighter loads.  Step-ups, sled pushing/dragging, side shuffles, lateral lunges are all ways to get your hips moving in ways they normally don’t.

In the upper body, innovative rowing and push-up variations can keep things fun while improving your movement quality.

The next time you’re planning to do some interval training on the bike, try substituting some wider-amplitude movements and see how you like it.

2. Get your Vitamin D right.

I’ve seen studies that have shown great benefits from getting vitamin D levels up to normal, but to my knowledge, those effects were most observed with respect to body composition, hormonal levels, and tissue quality.  Interestingly, I just came across this study that showed a significant improvement in power production over four weeks in the vitamin D supplementation group, as compared to the controls. These results are tough to interpret, as the subjects were overweight/obese adults; ideally, we’d study trained athletes with smaller windows of adaptation ahead of them to see just how beneficial vitamin D supplementation is on performance. However, it certainly makes sense that if we’re improving body composition, endocrine status, and tissue quality, folks are going to get more out of their training and make faster progress.

Vitamin D is one of very few supplements that I view as “must-haves’ for the majority of the population.  I’d pair it up with a good fish oil and greens supplement to cover one’s nutritional foundation. This is one reason why I’m a big fan of the Athletic Greens Trinity Stack; you can a high quality version of all three in one place.

 

3. Plan out regressions and progressions.

People like to be good at things. This is especially the case when they are surrounded by a bunch of other people. In the case of group exercise, your attendees are going to have a much better time, get better results, and stay safer if they are performing movements correctly. Group settings aren’t ideal from a coaching standpoint, though, as you can’t spend as much individualized time coaching technique. Therefore, exercise selection becomes paramount to these classes’ success.  In other words, you need to have both progressions and regressions in your exercise library.

A common flaw in group classes is that each week, there are 15 new exercise variations on the agenda. The week before, it was 15 other ones, and the following week, it will be 15 more. I know, I know; people want you to “keep it fresh.” In my mind, by changing the exercises so often you are taking the easy way out.

Instead, have people become incredible at the basics. Have them squat, swing, push up, row – all basic movements. From there, set up progressions and regressions. This is much easier to do when you keep the original exercises basic.

Here are a few examples:

TRX Supported Squat > Counter Balanced Squat To Box > Goblet Squat > Double KB Front Squat > Offset KB Front Squat

Hands-Elevated Push-up > TRX Chest Press > Push-up > Feet Elevated Push-up > Push-up vs. Band

This is mostly for teaching purposes, as an example. The goblet squat is accessible to most people, and it falls in the middle, with two levels of regression and progression built in.

I’m a big fan of more work up front and easy sailing there out. You might need to take some time to develop your class program, but it will make for a better product and better results thereafter.

4. Use leftover vegetables in your omelet.

I don’t know about you, but leftover vegetables never taste quite as good as they do when they’ve just been cooked.  They’re cold, and often soggy to the point that even heating them up in the microwave doesn’t really make them sound appetizing.  Rather than throw them out and skip on your veggies for a meal, try adding them to your omelet the following morning, as the other ingredients – eggs, spices, oils, cheese (if that’s your thing), salsa, and ketchup – can help to liven up their taste.  I’ve done this with previously cooked asparagus, broccoli, peppers, onions, spinach, kale, mushrooms, cauliflower, green beans, and tomatoes.  Some vegetables – squash and turnip, for instance – don’t have the right consistency to make for a good omelet ingredient, though, so experiment carefully!

5. Learn to stand correctly before you even try to train correctly.

Many people think moving well is all about picking the right corrective exercises to get the job done. While that’s certainly part of the equation, the truth is that before you even talk about exercising, you have to educate yourself about how to simply stand with good posture.  As an example, if you have an excessive anterior pelvic tilt and lordosis, you need to learn how to engage your anterior core, activate your glutes, and prevent your rib cage from flaring up up when you’re standing around. Conversely, if you do all your exercises in this aberrant posture, you just get good at sucking!

Have a great week!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 8/1/12

Written on August 1, 2012 at 7:52 am, by Eric Cressey

Here’s this week’s list of recommended strength and conditioning reading:

Four Must-Try Mobility Drills – In case you haven’t already seen this, it’s a article I had published at Arnold Schwartzenegger’s website yesterday, including a lengthy video.

“He’s a Big, Strong Kid” – With the $100 off sale of the IYCA High School Strength and Conditioning Coach Certification this week, it seemed like a good time to “reincarnate” this popular one from the archives at EricCressey.com.

Everything You Need to Know about the Hip Thrust – This is a thorough blog post from Bret Contreras on “everything hip thrust.”  Bret’s devoted his career to glutes and pioneered this exercise, so you could say that he’s an authority on the matter.

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Mobility Exercise of the Week: Table Adductor Dips

Written on July 17, 2012 at 6:56 am, by Eric Cressey

In this week’s mobility exercise of the week, I’ve got an excellent drill for reducing stiffness in the hip adductors.  I came up with this exercise when I realized that I wanted to be able to do more drills to improve hip abduction range-of-motion, but I didn’t always want them to be ground-based.  And, just doing lateral lunge variations all the time can get a little boring for athletes.  Enter table adductor dips.

I especially like to use this with our throwers because it actually parallels some of the hip angles we see with the pitching delivery, so it makes for a great warm-up and off-season maintenance/improvement exercise.  I also like it for them because they can do it out on the field without having to roll around in the grass (which would be the case with a lot of other adductor mobility drills).

In terms of coaching cues, it’s important to keep the weight on the support leg’s heel and sit back “into” the hip.  The majority of the weight should be on the down leg, with minimal pressure put on the leg that’s up on the table.

As you go through the exercise, brace the core to ensure that the movement comes through the hips (flexion and abduction) at the bottom position, rather than just allowing the lower back to round.  Having the arms out in front as I do in the video above can help as a counterbalance to prevent your butt from tucking under.  If you’re super stiff, you may want to consider holding a ten-pound plate out at arm’s length as an additional counterbalance.

At the top position, be sure to extend the hips all the way to stand tall between each rep.  I usually cue folks to activate the glute on the support leg to finish each rep.  This will also help guarantee that you’re stretching the adductors in both flexion and a neutral position.

We’ll typically do sets of eight reps on each side during the warm-up period.  This can, however, be held for a longer duration as a static stretch at the end of a training session.

For more drills like this, be sure to check out Assess and Correct: Breaking Barriers to Unlock Performance.

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 8

Written on June 23, 2012 at 7:33 am, by Eric Cressey

In collaboration with Cressey Performance coach Greg Robins, here are some tips to get just a little more awesome this weekend.

1. Hard start, easy finish.

This phrase applies to almost everything in training and in life. In short, putting in the work up front is going to benefit you ten-fold throughout the rest of your…

Exercise Set: Put the time in to set up a lift correctly (bar placement, spotters, foot position, etc) and you will make the entire set go off smoothly.

Training Session: Don’t skimp on your warm-ups. Make sure you spend the 15 minutes to hit self massage, mobility, and activation work.

Training Block: Make the time to make a plan. If you do not have the time (really?!), or the knowledge (fair enough), then seek out someone to make a plan for you.

Training Career: If you’re new to the game, take the proper amount of time to learn correct movement patterns, build general work capacity, and understand technique. If you’re not, and these sound like foreign concepts, have you considered pressing rewind?

2. Meet the bar.

3. Address lagging body parts with frequency.

If you have a body part that isn’t making the grade, the answer could very well be to adjust the frequency in which you train it. Training variables such as volume and intensity are household names, even if their application is often butchered. Frequency is a less-considered variable in your training program. The frequency at which you train a muscle group can have a profound effect on its growth. Additionally, high frequency protocols can produce major surges in strength when programmed correctly. Using high frequencies to make gains in strength is definitely more complex. The more demanding the exercise selections (think deadlifts, squats, cleans, etc), the more tinkering you’ll need to do in the overall management of volume and intensities. Luckily for you, using higher frequencies to illicit gains in “size” isn’t as involved.

Here is a good place to start: choose an area (i.e. arms) and add a specialization day to your strength training program. Make this days short, but challenging. This is a good time to utilize drop sets, forced reps, pre-exhaustion etc. Stick with the same area for three weeks, back off a week, and either choose a new area for three weeks or continue with the previous selection. Maybe you’ll do calves like Tony does?

4. Appreciate that various characteristics relate to throwing velocity.

A study conducted in 2009 by The Open Sports Medicine Journal looked at the relationship between six anthropometric (body height, body mass, body mass index (BMI), arm span, hand spread and length) and four physical fitness (aerobic capacity, explosive power of the lower limbs, flexibility and running speed) characteristics and their relationship to throwing velocity in female handball players. The study found that “throwing performance is significantly correlated with all variables calculated in this study except of the body mass index. This suggests that high performance requires advanced motor abilities and anthropometric features.”

This isn’t revolutionary, and the study does not go into details (that have been found important to velocity) such as joint mobility, stiffness and laxity. However, it is interesting to note that the researchers ranked each characteristic in order of importance in terms of the effect on velocity:

1. Hand Spread
2. Playing Experience
3. Arm Span
4. Body Height
5. Standing Long Jump
6. 30m Sprint
7. Sit and Reach
8. Body Mass.
9. VO2max
10. Body Mass Index

As you’ll see, the recipe for success will always be a combination of genetic pre determents, mechanical skill (sport practice), and physical performance traits (explosiveness, strength, etc). Two out of three of those you have control over, and if you are willing to put the work in, you can make up for quite a bit that Mommy and Daddy didn’t pass on to you.

EC’s notes: three interesting asides to this…

First, it’s interesting that body mass index wasn’t more highly ranked, as body weight has been shown to have a significantly positive association with throwing velocity in baseball pitchers. The primary difference between these two populations, of course, is that the handball players aren’t throwing downhill on a mound, so perhaps having a greater body mass benefits pitchers because they’re more “gravity-aided?”

Second, this is friendly reminder that your silly long distance running won’t do anything for throwing velocity.

Third, the researchers only tested straight-ahead (sagittal) plane measures of power development. If they’d tested power development in the frontal and transverse planes, I’d expect to see a greater value for these measures.

5. Don’t limit yourself.

Have you heard this before?

If I do everything you say, and work as hard as possible, do I have a shot at: making it, losing 10lbs, benching 315?

The answer is always YES; why would it be NO? We are all capable of impressing – and even surprising – ourselves with what we are capable of doing. Not everyone (even with an insane work ethic) is going to look like Captain American or play on ESPN. It doesn’t matter.

What matters is that you never shot for something less than that. You gave everything you had, and you ran that course until it was over. Wherever that point may be, you arrived there knowing that you didn’t leave anything in the tank. This is the absolute most you could do, given the tools you had, and you can be happy and fulfilled knowing that. If you attack everything with that mentality, you will be successful and happy with the result, even if that result isn’t exactly what you thought it was when you got started.

This is an important lesson to remind young athletes and adult clients alike. Teach them to respect the process, and find value in the journey. Remind them that many variables are not within their control, but their effort is.

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Strength Exercise of the Week: DB Goblet Lateral Lunge

Written on April 23, 2012 at 7:14 pm, by Eric Cressey

It goes without saying that poor adductor length is a huge problem in many of the athletes I encounter, particularly those participating in sports (e.g., hockey, soccer, baseball) involving a lot of extension and rotation.  As a result, we always spend a lot of time with self myofascial release, static stretching, and mobility exercises for the adductors.

As I’ve written in the past, though, after you transiently reduce stiffness in a tissue, you want to build some stability through that newfound range-of-motion.  Unfortunately, it isn’t exactly easy to load folks up in the frontal plane, and some folks still won’t be able to get in to a lateral lunge position without pitching forward.  Enter the Dumbbell Goblet Lateral Lunge, which borrows the “counterbalancing” benefits we see with a traditional goblet squat to allow us to get back “into” the hip and build some longer-term mobility in the frontal plane.

I don’t worry about folks really loading this up; in fact, form tends to break down a bit if you go heavier than 40 pounds with the dumbbell.  We’ll usually include it as the last exercise on a lower-body day, for 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps.

We spend a lot of time focusing on building strength and power, but a lot of times, movement quality gets overlooked.  Here’s an exercise that helps you to improve the latter without forgetting the former.  Give it a shot and let me know how it goes!

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Mobility Exercise of the Week: Bowler Squat

Written on April 2, 2012 at 7:48 am, by Eric Cressey

I was introduced to the bowler squat originally by Dr. Stuart McGill at one of his seminars back around 2005.  Beyond the endorsement from one of the world’s premier spine experts, the fact that it’s been a mainstay in our strength and conditioning programs for about seven years should prove just how valuable I think this combination mobility/activation exercise is.

Before describing it, though, I should mention that the name is a bit misleading.  While it does look like a bowler’s motion, the truth is that it’s more of a “rotational deadlift” than it is a squat.  There is some knee flexion involved, but the shin remains essentially vertical, and most of the motion occurs at the hips – and that’s what makes it such a fantastic exercise.  Have a look:

We talk all the time about how important glute activation is, but most folks simply think that a few sets of supine bridges will get the job done. The problem is that this exercise occurs purely in the sagittal plane, while the glutes – as demonstrated by their line of pull – are also extremely active in the frontal and transverse planes.  The gluteus maximums isn’t just a hip extensor; it is also a hip abductor and external rotator.

As such, the gluteus maximus is essential to properly eccentrically controlling hip flexion, adduction, and internal rotation that occurs with every step, landing, lunge, and change-of-direction.  You can even think of it as an “anti-pronator.”

A bowler squat effectively challenges the glutes to both lengthen and activate in a weight-bearing position in all three planes.  And, for the tennis and baseball players out there, check out how closely the bowler squat replicates the finish position from a serve and pitch (I noted this in a recent article, Increasing Pitching Velocity: What Stride Length is and How to Improve It).

To perform the exercise, push the hips back as if attempting a 1-leg RDL, but reach across the body with the arm on the side of the non-support leg.  The “hips back” cue will get the sagittal plane, while the reach across will get the frontal and transverse plane. Make sure to keep the spine in neutral to ensure that the range of motion comes from the hips and not the lower back.  Keep the knee soft (not locked out), but not significantly flexed, either.  Be sure to get the hips all the way through at the top, finishing with a glute squeeze.

A few additional cues we may use are:

1. Tell the athlete to pretend like he/she is trying to pick up a basketball with the support foot; it can help those who keep tipping over.

2. Provide a target – a medicine ball or dumbbell – that the athlete should reach for in the bottom position (this keeps folks from cutting the movement short, or making it too sagittal plane dominant).

3. Encourage the athlete to keep the chin tucked (to keep the cervical spine in neutral).

4. Put your hand a few inches in front of the kneecap and tell the athlete not to touch your hand with the knee; this keeps an athlete from squatting too much when he/she should be hip-hinging.

Typically, we’ll perform this drill for one set of eight reps per side as part of the warm-up.  However, in a less experienced population – or one with very poor balance – this may serve as a great unloaded challenge that can be included as part of the actual strength training program.

Give it a shot!

For more exercises like this, be sure to check out Assess and Correct: Breaking Barries to Unlock Performance.

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Mobility Exercise of the Week: Palmar Fascia Soft Tissue Work

Written on February 1, 2012 at 7:45 am, by Eric Cressey

Anyone who has ever broken or burned a finger will tell you that you just don’t appreciate how much you use your hands until you don’t have access to one for a bit.  Obviously, you partially lose your ability to do things – but what many folks might not appreciate is that you also lose some of your ability to sense things, as the hands contain a tremendously amount of sensory receptors relative to the rest of the body.  In fact, the tiny folds in our skin on the fingertips that comprise the fingertip are there because they increase the surface area of the hands – which allows us to get more sensory receptors where we need them.  Cool stuff, huh?

Why then, do we not give the hands any love when it comes to soft tissue work?  We’ll foam roll our hip flexors, lats, and other large muscle groups (which are certainly valuable), but we’ll ignore one of the most sensory-rich parts of our body – and one that is constantly active (and overused, in some cases) throughout the day.  We grip, type, and flip people the bird – but we never really pay attention to soft tissue quality in this region…until today, that is.

If you look at the structure of the hand, you’ll see that it has a large fascial, the palmar aponeurosis (we’ll call it the palmar fascia to keep things simple).  This structure has an intimate relationship with the muscles/tendons and ligaments of the hand, and serves as a link between the forearm and fingers.

Based on the size alone, you can see that it has plantar-fascia-caliber importance even if it isn’t weight bearing.  You see, of the five muscles that attach via the common flexor tendon on the medial epicondyle at the elbow, four cross the wrist joint and palmar fascia on the way to the hand, where they work to flex and abduct or adduct the wrist, and flex the fingers.

Loads of people have tendinopathies going on up on the medial elbow (Golfer’s Elbow), but they only work on this spot (called a zone of convergence).  Meanwhile, the soft tissue quality might be just as bad further down at the wrist and hand, adding tension on an already over-burdended common flexor tendon.  Think about it this way: if you had a pulled hamstring up by your glutes, would you only work to improve tissue quality at that spot, or would you work all the way down to the posterior knee to make sure that you’d improved some of the poor tissue quality further down as well?

Below, massage therapist and Cressey Performance coach Chris Howard talks you through two different ways to work out the kinks in the palmar fascia and surrounding regions, but keep in mind that it’ll always be more effective to have a qualified manual therapist do the job – and that’s certainly someone you should see if you have any symptoms whatsoever.


We’ve found that quite a few of our pitchers comment on how the ball seems to come out of their hand easier after this work.  Usually, they’re the guys who have the most stiffness along the forearm, particularly into wrist extension and supination.

Give it a shot at your desk at work and see how it feels.

Note: Chris’ video here is a sample of what comes in his Innovative Soft Tissue Strategies contribution to Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better.

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