As a dedicated Fitness Professional, and long-time, enthusiastic sports and training student/practitioner, it is an on-going mystery as to why so many Hamstring injuries still remain as such a prevailing problem. As has been indicated previously in these blogs, strictly applied progressive strength, range and motion loads to the muscles and structures along the posterior chain (of which Hamstrings are an integral component) will produce inherent strength adaptations in this vitally important muscular/structural sequence.
It is of increasing concern, that the greatest emphasis in this area of gross sports related weakness seems to be more about injury treatment and rehabilitation than it is about prevention. (If this is not the case, current statistics and perceptions bely any such assertion). Modern training methods recognise the principal areas of note, but do not seem to apply systemic practices to alleviate/protect against these all too common interruptions to athletes in the performance of their chosen sports.
While it is conceded that there is no absolute guarantee against even one kind of soft tissue injury, absolute prevention is not the only focal area to be considered, as even if these injuries do occur, if relevant training adaptations have been of any benefit at all, then the period required to return to athletic performance should be diminished. That is to say, if a hamstring injury in earlier sporting eras kept an athlete out for a period of three to four weeks, then in this more knowledgeable time, training/medical understanding should be limiting this to one to two weeks. However, this is most definitely not the case, as clearly there has been no progress in this area. It seems that there are multiple Hamstring injuries to athletes on a weekly basis, not only in fierce competitive situations, but also on the training track. Once again, a clear indication that not only is not enough being done on the posterior chain, but it is not consistent enough, and does not carry with it correctly applied loads to the relevant inclusions along this vulnerable region. Furthermore, this responsibility lies within the scope of the strength & conditioning experts, as once the injury has occurred, medical/rehab personnel are powerless in limiting the extent of damage, and the recovery timeframe.
Notwithstanding all that has been said earlier in this piece, the most common error in preparing the posterior chain, is all too often a narrowly constructed and single minded specificity approach towards the Hamstrings, and even the posterior chain in isolation to other key physiological/anatomical factors. Due to the enormous reciprocal role of Hamstrings and the Lumbar spine, and by extension the co-operative intrinsic relationship of deep spinal inclusions and Transverse abdominis, essential Hamstring strength & conditioning is not complete without appropriate inclusion of primary, secondary and peripheral core adaptations, and how each individual athlete is able to respond and adapt to recently conceived multi-directional, tri-planar proprioceptive strength and fitness innovations.
There is, and has always been a deep-rooted reliance for exercise/training hopefuls to firstly seek-out the drive, or motivation to exercise. An objective that has resulted in motivation becoming a common and much debated topic. Many try to access this "Holy Grail" through the implementation of various strategies, which due to characteristics unique to each individual, although regrettable, are nonetheless intrinsically flawed.
a) Exercise novices, and even some claiming to be regulars, will often seek inspiration/motivation from their sporting heroes, or from one success story or another they have seen on television or read about in some glossy magazine. At best this is a short-term remedy, and is quite honestly a nonsense. Your strength and fitness training aspirations should not/must not hinge on the journeys and successes of others, especially since you cannot be aware of the full reality of that success.
b) It is not unusual for those aspiring to take on regular exercise to try and gain their motivation by concentrating their attention totally on what it is they hope to achieve. While setting goals can be quite useful, in many instances, the goals set are unrealistic in terms of the time and effort allocated for them to be realised. The best and most consistent strength and fitness training participants are those who are committed
to the entire training process, and who simply allow the desired adaptations to flow as a result.
c) Other exercise newcomers will recruit a friend with whom to exercise, in the hope this will provide them with the motivation they require. Although this is an often recommended plan, because each party is relying on the other to deliver the drive, something which can only be successfully generated from within each individual, and for that individual's benefit alone, this scheme is also unreliable. Experience has shown, when
predictably one falls by the wayside, the other soon follows.
Based on the above examples of "shifting responsibility", and also on the numbers who have attained both meaningful and long lasting results from motivation alone, it is clear motivation is widely overrated, and a commodity destined to deliver failure. Motivation is a very fickle and shallow impulse. You can never be sure you will have it when you need it, let alone when you want it.
Discipline is the only true initiator to exercise, and the definitive means to "getting the job done". It is the most effective way to establish that vital exercise pattern. The desire and application to succeed comes from within: You may not like it, it may be an outright, soul-destroying struggle, and it may be necessary to include some training modifications, but when you have finished, you will have actually done something. Unlike the vast majority of the population who merely dream of having "what it takes" to take-up and master the exercise challenge.
DISCIPLINE IS SINGULARLY THE BEST WAY TO ACHIEVE REAL RESULTS,
AND THE ULTIMATE PATH TO CONTINUED MOTIVATION!
Imagine a training protocol that incorporates every aspect of strength/fitness and flexibility/mobility, that exponentially applies the benefits of modern core training concepts, while utilising all of the recognised strength, fitness, flexibility and mobility exercises, but with a very specific and deliberate focus on a multi-layered system of vital inclusions. An approach employing rising instability and postural manipulation as its progressive base for biomechanical and physiological adaptation, and one which emphasises the referral of loads through the body's principal centres of stability and function in each and every possibility of movement and moment opportunity. One with an inherent capacity towards unlimited progression options, ranging from the seemingly innocuous, to the most insanely extreme. In essence a contradiction to recognised standards, one where its most basic contention is advancement built on instability, and as such opposite to current traditional exercise methodologies which still advocate support and stability, and where the outcomes are just as routine as the methods used are predictable. A puzzling approach, especially when one considers the vastly unpredictable nature and diverse incarnations of functional life, and the limitless scenarios they can and will deliver.
When considering functional training, many stop at the mundane day-to-day routines individuals encounter and must contend with, but do not truly consider those sporting/athletic situations which to many are also a component of everyday living. To be truly adapted, one needs to be occupied in a preparedness rationale dominated by an emerging awareness of the necessity to stimulate maximal adaptation in strength and fitness at all progressions of functionality. A task not achieved by continually trying to "smash" out PB's, using ridiculously non-functional and inappropriate resistances. But rather an objective accessed by relentlessly seeking positions that create more challenging levels of uncertainty, which apply loads to the vital inclusions of posture and core, as well as the individually targeted muscles. Outcomes achieved by performing each exercise selection with rising instability and reducing structured support.
A strength and fitness protocol entirely suited to elite athletes involved in serious sporting pursuits, and also to would-be athletes, aspiring to elite performance, who are aspiring to stronger, fitter and healthier lifestyles. An alternate training approach for those committed to taking their strength and fitness intensities to new heights, by fully testing their physical and psychological tolerances as a more effective means of satisfying training potentials.
The concepts of Bodii training and their associated techniques have undergone an on-going, yet spontaneous evolution in exactly this alternative training style. One which found its origin in one solitary exercise, subsequently sparking a deep curiousity and thorough exploration into all its possible variations and often surprising expansions. Bodii offers creative training alternatives, while continuing to mature in a dynamic and unconventional direction, leaving participants wondering where their next training session is going to lead.
High contact/impact male athletes are simply getting too heavy. There exists an ill-conceived notion that bigger is better, to a point where weight increases can no longer be considered functional.
As an avid student of strength & fitness applications for a period well in excess of four decades, especially in relation to techniques that determine sporting adaptations, it is more and more apparent that the modern male athlete involved in high contact (body-to-body)/impact (body-to-playing surface) sports is becoming too heavy. While it is of course vital to be stronger, it need not be reflected in an athlete's objectives toward deliberate and specific weight increases. An outcome most often determined by the strength training techniques employed by individual club, strength & conditioning departments.
Many male contact/impact athletes at the elite level are in excess of 100kgs, with a great many more within the high 80 to 90kg ranges. If strength training practices were employed that focused purely on functional principles that applied to that sport, and specifically targeted the core as the initiator of all movement and the centre from which all effective power is generated, then the benefits outlined below could be more realistically achieved. Provided of course this process is conducted in tandem with concepts that through simultaneous multi-planar neuromuscular techniques, strengthen, stabilise and positively mobilise key body structures (in some instances, efforts to increase flexibility ranges, actually destabilise target structures), thereby allowing athletes to achieve optimum weight ranges, as determined by individually unique genetic factors.
1. High speed body contact would not create as much potential for serious injury, especially when between an athlete over 100kgs, and another much less in weight.
2. VO2 max, and therefore overall aerobic capacities would be greatly enhanced, enabling athletes to perform to higher levels for longer, with corresponding positive effects to deal with/delay/overcome fatigue.
3. While there are many drills to seemingly foster increases in agility, it cannot be argued that reductions to overall body weight will further assist in this regard.
4. While balance training is commonly used to improve core strength (a facet of strength training far too complex to cover in detail in this discussion), in settings that still employ traditional strength training techniques, it does not go far enough. It is one dimensional, and due to this finite limiting factor it does not have the inclusive depth necessary to deliver the advanced adaptations high performance sports demand. Training practices must offer multi-planar profiles, that subject participants/athletes to simultaneously applied opposing forces. All while also deliberately engaging in progressive balance considerations. The purpose being to produce a more inherently developed capacity for the athlete to maintain their footing, and as a result not go to ground. A contention in this piece, that many instances where athletes slip and fall, only to be eliminated from the contest, are not entirely due to the use of inappropriate footwear, but may be more directly attributed to core strength/stability shortcomings. Imagine the reverse if contact/impact athletes were able to stay on their feet even in only 1% more of such cases. A turnaround that is undeniably beneficial, and could ultimately prove to be game changing.
5. An expectation exists in this opinion, that due to reduced loads brought about by a decrease in applied sporting resistance (body weight), combined with advanced proprioceptive/neuromuscular training techniques to mitigate irregular forces, those key structures most commonly susceptible to serious long-term injury/rehab, would be better protected. Outcomes similar to those in the design and manufacture of modern motor vehicles. There was a time when vehicle designers/manufacturers believed that the sturdiness implicitly built into motor vehicles went hand-in-hand with their commitment to delivering improved safety outcomes. However, research has proved this to be a misconception, and no longer are vehicles made from heavy steel components, but are constructed using much lighter alloys, containing in-built centres to more efficiently absorb energy (crumple zones). In this way the damage caused by collisions has been able to be minimised. There are many examples that can be used to illustrate this concept in a sporting sense, particularly in terms of its non-recognition/non-adherence/non-acceptance in the two male dominant Australian football codes, and extending beyond our shores to the gridiron competition in North America. In fact no sport has been immune, neither for men nor women, with the common trend in each as viewed by this commentary, being the unrestricted pursuit of enhanced, traditionally sought strength & conditioning outcomes.
To all the KEEN RUNNERS/JOGGERS/WALKERS out there - what are you doing to minimise the risks of the repetition type injuries your sport/activity has the tendency to cause from time to time. You know, those bouts of shin splints, knee and ankle pain, hamstrings/glute tightness, and in some cases even mild to chronic hip bursitis. While the common tactics of ensuring your footwear is adequate, and regular flexibility training can in some cases ease these conditions, most often, they are only treating the symptoms. The underlying condition hinges more around individual biomechanical flaws, where there is inherent hip & pelvis instability. When there is an imbalance in the muscles controlling hip & pelvis movement, your legs are prone to moving through awkward/contraindicated ranges, creating unwanted loads on the muscles and structures that support and therefore enable the running/jogging/walking actions.
So, please make sure you are doing your hip & pelvis stability, strength and alignment exercises!
Here is an interesting, but very challenging variation to the traditional Bench Press. In terms of it's relative significance, the conventional version is an exercise burdened with way too much responsibility and credit. However, with this radical adjustment to position, overall adaptations through core and posture become more specifically targeted. Alignment at the bench is taken up at right angles, with the lumbar curve positioned at the forward edge of the bench. A spotter passes the loaded bar to the participant, and the normal eccentric/concentric phases are performed. Initially, loads will be high, so resistances need to be considerably reduced. However, as adaptations occur, as is indicative of all Bodii concepts, appropriate increases will become possible. Highly inclusive and unsupported core strength and core stability requirements are essential. A demonstration can be seen in the slideshow below.
For those of you truly interested in better understanding "the core" and it's very specific involvement in movement and exercise, try this very simple demonstration.
In a standing position, lift one foot from the floor and take note of how readily you are able to balance on the supporting leg. Now do the same on the opposite leg. Having tested your ability to balance on each leg, repeat the above process, but this time consider what you understand by the core, and activate the relevant muscles.
What is your reaction to this shift in focus? If you have adequately engaged the correct muscles, you will notice a sense of improved stability, prolonging your capacity to balance, and minimising any urgent need to lower the raised leg back to the floor. A deeper insight into these complementary core engagement and balance functions can be gained by also performing this demonstration with your eyes closed.
Observation: The above demonstration allows us to consider the global concept of exercise. Not from the traditional possibility that general strength training may incidentally affect the core, but in terms of how the deliberate and sustained inclusion of the core will expressly benefit fundamental strength training outcomes. In other words, optimal expansions in desired strength & fitness outcomes, stimulated by training that originates and extends from and through the core.
In cutting edge strength & fitness/sports specific training and adaptation, there is an ever increasing awareness and attention to the muscles along the rear of the human anatomy. The reasoning behind this is to strengthen these muscles in order to help minimise the risk and incidence of injury in this area. However, from observations made, this practice is not inclusive enough in its scope.
While Bodii training focuses very heavily on the posterior chain, it does in fact extend beyond most accepted practices. Where such techniques tend to include only the muscles of the lower back, gluteals and hamstrings, Bodii reaches to the calves/achilles tendons at the lower end, and to the curves of the thoracic and cervical spine at the top end. A complete emphasis that better ensures consistent flexibility and mobility ranges in this vitally important, and oftentimes injury prone functional muscular sequence.
One example can be seen below in the calf raise/hamstrings stretch slideshow, and although range of movement is not great, loads are substantial.
While it is true core strength and stability training has become more normal within co-ordinated strength and fitness training protocols, in its present form Bodii has found it to be inadequate and somewhat limiting. To expand on accepted concepts of core training, and to substantially improve performance results, the Bodii system operates outside these general, and consequently restrictive boundaries.
One example to clarify the above comment is the most widely recommended method of choosing fitballs. The size of fitball is determined by an individual’s ability to reach and maintain a natural seat, with feet flat and thighs parallel to the floor. A position said to provide an optimal posture, enabling the user to complete fitball exercises with maximum effect. Apart from the very early stages of adaptation, Bodii has found this method to be ineffectual, and has adopted the following alternatives.
1. Beginners should indeed choose a fitball where a natural seat may be assumed. In some instances it may even be appropriate to choose a fitball which is slightly larger. However, this only applies until participants have adapted to the basics of fitball work and have become familiar with their effects on core inclusion.
Why do this? In Bodii there is initially a very heavy demand for lower back inclusion. The above process enables a larger fitball to provide support for the pivoting trunk as it acts as a lever, extending out and away from the fitball. By choosing a fitball with a slightly higher than normal seat, the lower back through Multifidus, and trunk through Transverse abdominis, are supported by the ball, allowing participants to increase progression of strength and stability in all required core inclusion factors, especially the lumbar/lower back. A vital consideration, when in accordance with future overload intensities, this adaptation will not only be expected, but demanded.
2. As participants continue to adapt, the appropriate fitball size will gradually reduce to between 45 and 15cms. The correct fitball choice within this range will depend entirely on the developing skill/strength level of individual participants. For the purposes of Bodii, all balls within the size ranges specified above are suitable for use as a core-ball.
3. A core-ball should have the following features for it to function with greatest effect:
i) Be between 45-15 centimetres in size.
ii) Have a weight range of 1-6 kilograms.
iii) Have a non-slip surface.
iv) Does not compress too deeply when it is required to take the participant’s weight, but neither will it not compress at all.
4. As the smallest commercially manufactured/used fitballs are limited to 45cms, when the requirement is for core-balls less than 45cms, non-slip rubber and/or leather medicine balls have been found to be best suited to this purpose.
"Core strength" and "Core stability", are they really the same? Or is it time there was some clarification of these commonly misquoted concepts? Due to the regularly applied interchangeability of these two notions and the resultant confusion this causes, Bodii sees an overdue need to differentiate between the misleading terminology of "core strength" and "core stability". These two SEPARATE aspects of core effectiveness are popularly bundled into a single characterisation. Bodii recognises increases in core strength as being the result of strength training loads when they are imposed directly on the muscles of the primary core. When strength training loads target the structures, muscles, or biomechanical and physiological inclusions surrounding the primary core, they contribute only to stabilising the core. It is those structures, muscles and inclusions subjected to the load which will derive actual strength benefits.
Excerpt from Advantage Through Adaptation, Program I - Introduction to Bodii.