Monday, February 9, 2009

Building a Better Foundation

In the past couple of years I have done a lot of reading, a lot of observing, and a lot of learning. One thing that has caught my attention and intrigued me is the topic of "prehab". I had never really thought much of it until an internship I had this past summer at a collegiate strength and conditioning program. The coaches there incorporated prehab exercises in every workout. There was a lot of emphasis on joint mobility and joint stability. They composed movement screenings to determine problem areas and prescribe extra work to fix said problems. Seeing all of this focus on correctional exercises made me start to think about the things I had been doing with my own workouts as well as clients I had. I started to research and dive into more literature on the topic and my own training philosophies have been altered somewhat.

When you look at the body and the movements that are used in training, sports, and everyday life there are 3 portions of the body that serve as a foundation. These 3 areas are the core, the hips, and the shoulders. Any movement involving the lower body will almost undoubtedly involve the hips, whether it be flexion, extension, or some type of rotation. The same can be said for the upper body and the shoulder joints. As for the core, I have previously mentioned that it is the center point for the body and must stabilize to hold us upright and to perform our daily tasks. If these 3 areas are are not incorporated into ones training, then gains will not be maximized and injury, whether chronic or acute, is likely.

Let's take a look at the shoulder joint first. The shoulder joint is the most movable joint in the body which also makes it the most unstable. There are a group of small muscles that surround the joint and provide the stability and mobility of the shoulder. Included in this group of muscles are the infraspinatous, supraspinatous, teres minor, subscapularis. The deltoids are the major shoulder muscle but without the smaller muscles we would have a problem. Incorporating exercises into a warm-up that can strengthen these smaller muscles will help with injury prevention as well as provide a stronger base in which to strengthen the rest of the upper body. Including mobility work into a workout will also improve the function of the shoulder joint, allowing for better range of motion.

The hip is a similar joint, however there is a smaller range of motion in the hip because of the make-up of the ball and socket. Hip strength and mobility are the most lacking aspects of performance that I have noticed in people I have worked with. Most people don't squat to parallel because they can't. Their hips won't allow them to go that low. Another implication with squatting is the caving of the knees. This is something else I notice in a large number of people. Once again, weak hips. Injuries to the knees, more than not, can be connected to a lack of strength and mobility in the hips. Without bettering the hips, it's going to be hard to improve both squat form and strength. Think about sports. The hips are positioned and used in many different ways throughout a sporting event. They are the foundation of running, jumping, squatting, cutting, and so on. It's very easy to add hip exercises to a warm-up on a daily basis. These exercises over time will improve the hip from front to back as well as medially and laterally.

Prehab and corrective exercises are easy additions to a workout that can be utilized as a warm-up while improving the basis of all movements. There are a number of exercises and progressions for these areas. I myself have added some hip and shoulder work to my workout and feel that my squat form has improved immensely and my weight is also seeing an increase. I also incorporate these types of exercises in all of my clients as a form of warm-up. I have seen an improvement in them as well with both lower body form and executions as well as upper body. I suggest an addition of one or two exercises for each and see the improvements of strength and mobility.

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