Blind Perseverance – by Jamie Bolton

We are all blind. Though not in the form that this suggests. What I’m talking about is being blind to the effects of positive changes, so much so that people often take a step back before the effects become ‘visible’.
j

You add work for weaknesses, say extra work for those lagging lats. Nothing seems to happen after a few weeks, so you stop and admit defeat. But you can’t bring up a weakness that quickly. And chances are, if you attacked it correctly, there probably are some positive changes. Did you take before and after pictures for comparison? It’s pretty hard to be critical of yourself when you see yourself on a daily basis. But you must perservere.

You up your fruit and veggie intake. Nothing seems to ‘happen’. Well, your mood might be a bit better, but thats subjective so you can’t count that right? And you haven’t caught a cold, since well, for ages. But that’s nothing to do with it either I bet? Changes like this are clearly positive, yet its all too easy to not notice the benefits. Perservere, you should be thankful for your lack of illness!

Dieting down from being a ‘big lad’. After a month or so, you don’t look or feel ‘as big’ and you can’t really see any definition yet either? Can’t be working can it? Diet abandoned. Yet again, there are minor changes happening, but you’re just stuck in the inbetween stage of being fat and being lean, where it doesn’t really look like much is changing. Perservere.

You do your prehab work every session. But you never get injured, so what’s the point? Wait what??? That’s exactly the point. Preventative work to minimise future problems is clearly inherently hard to assess the benefit of – you don’t get injured, but whose to say you wouldn’t have otherwise? True. Yet for such a small time investment, the benefits of not getting injured clearly outweigh the costs. Perservere and keep doing it.

Many things take time to reveal their true benefit. Some never ‘reveal’ it, you just don’t succumb to problems. And you should be equally thankful for this – theres no point flying forward in terms of progress for 6months if you then are injured or ill for the next 3. I’ll take slightly ‘slower’ progress for the investment of more time on protecting myself, if a tradeoff had to be made.

With other things like muscle gain or fat loss, you just have to hammer on sometimes. It may not look or feel like it’s working, but if you are pursuing your goals in the intelligent way you should be, following well-thought out, proven prescriptions for success, time will yield results.

It often feels like we’re spinning our wheels when we shouldn’t be. But ‘secretly’ we are driving forward yet blind to the positive changes. Don’t be too critical of yourself over a short time frame. Keep at it and keep plugging away and eventually you will ‘see’. Persevere.
k

Keep at it and the changes become visible

Until next time. Train hard. Train smart. Be strong.

Strong Flexible Hamstrings: An Athlete’s Best Friend – by Ben Coker

The hamstring group is comprised of 3 large powerful muscles that span the back of the upper leg; the biceps femoris, semimembranosus, semitendinosus. It is a bi-articulate muscle whereby it spans two joints, the hip and the knee. Resultantly the Hamstring acts as an agonist for knee flexion and hip extension and is a key force provider to a whole spectrum of athletic performances!

Bi-articulate muscles are more predisposed to strain due to the large forces due to contraction origination from both ends. Often the injury comes when the muscle is subject to high forces at the end range of motion (ROM). Sports that commonly cause hamstring injuries are sprinting sports that involve sudden accelerations, indeed 91% of hamstring injuries are incited through non contact mechanism and 57% occur when running. In soccer it is the most common injury, accounting for about 12% of all injuries. This is not surprising as in sprinting the hamstrings act at the hip to promote anatomical movement from flexion to extension whilst at the knee, extension to flexion. Sprinting involves acceleration and high force generation and as indicated above is done so when the hamstring is often near or at its end range of motion.

Witrouw et al (2003) (1) concluded from a study on 146 professional male soccer players that poor flexibility led to an increase hamstring strain rate. This make sense if we imagine the hamstrings as elastic bands. An old dry elastic band that has lost its stretch will often snap after a lesser force is applied to it in a stretched position. A new very stretchy elastic band can absorb more force or load through it before it reaches its yield point and snaps. Therefore, as in sprinting our hamstrings are often in positions at their end ROM, we want them to be able to tolerate more load (from sprinting) in those stretched positions. Therefore it is essential to regularly stretch your hamstrings to maintain and improve their suppleness and toleration of higher forces at their end ROM.

This leads on to my second point. For many athletes leg training is dominated by quadriceps focus often leading to an imbalance in their quadriceps:hamstring ratio. Crossier et al (2008) (2) found that 47% of 462 professional soccer players they analysed were imbalanced! This is a very important point as such imbalances drastically increase the chances of an athlete suffering from a hamstring tear.

The quadriceps and hamstrings work as an antagonistic pair and cutting to the point in sprinting when the quadriceps contract to extend the knee ready for another ground strike, the hamstring group has to act eccentrically to act as a brake to the force applied by the quadriceps. If this did not happen the large powerful quads would extend the knee so hard that it would hyper-extend at extreme forces…I think you get the picture.

If your hamstrings are not eccentrically strong enough to act as a sufficient brake to the quadriceps then they will simply be stretched too far as the knee hyper-extends and will tear. It is therefore crucial to emphasis eccentric overload of your hamstring in your leg training! Exercises such as negative focused Nordic raises, stiff legged deadlifts and ‘2 leg up 1 leg down’ hamstring curls are example resistance training remedies.

The generation of force at the end ROM comes not only from the eccentric braking of the hamstrings in response to the quadriceps force but also from the following hamstring rate of force development (RFD) or power in the concentric phase. Once the knee is fully extended out in front of the body and ground contact is made the hamstrings (along with the glutes) act to promote hip extension and knee flexion – driving the body forward. In sprinting this must happen very quickly and the quicker the contraction the more force there is involved. If the hamstrings are not adequately trained to contract both concentrically and extremely quickly immediately following eccentric contraction then they are susceptible to tear! Therefore leg training for athletes must include hamstring work about the hip and knee that involves developing RFD following an eccentric contraction. Controlled Romanian and stiff legged deadlifts (focusing on the quick transition from eccentric to concentric), Nordic raises (if your strong enough), sled-pull throughs and explosive leg curls are examples of resistance training remedies.

It is important to add that strength endurance training of the hamstrings should also be implemented. Why? Well if the hamstrings fatigue quickly then their eccentric braking action and RFD will decrease quickly and the chances of a hamstring tear increase! Thus improving hamstring muscular endurance as well as hamstring strength will decrease the susceptibility of hamstring tears.

A final factor in giving you some knowledge in how to prevent hamstring strain comes from a quote that I took a few years back from Eric Cressey’s and Mike Robertson’s DVD series ‘Building the Efficient Athlete’. They say that structure dictates function and function dictates dysfunction. ‘What the hell?’ you’re thinking. I’ll explain.

Firstly ‘structure dictates function’: If we know the structure of the limbs and the muscles then we can figure out there function. In the hamstring example we know that the hamstring muscle spans the back of the leg crossing the hip joint and knee joint, inserting on the pelvic girdle and the lower leg. Therefore we can now ascertain that the hamstrings must act to cause flexion at the knee and extension of the hip.

Secondly ‘function dictates dysfunction’: If we now know the function of the hamstring is to flex the knee and extend the hip then we can look at co-agonists and antagonistic pairs of those anatomical functions to find dysfunction in a movement pattern. For example, the glutes are the main hip extensors and so if they are weak we can get a dysfunction in hip extension and thus in the hamstrings i.e. the lack of force produced by the glutes cause hip extension force to be compensated for by extra hamstring exertion leading to possible hamstring tear! The solution may lie in strengthening the glutes and not strengthening the hamstrings as this could compound the scenario!

Wrap Up

The take home messages I would give is this, try to think about your training and performance in terms of structure and function. This can lead you to identify problem areas, prevent injury and also allow you to better train your muscles! Secondly your susceptibility to hamstring injury can be greatly reduced by;

  1. Eccentrically overloading your hamstrings in training
  2. Developing hamstring RFD
  3. Developing hamstring strength-endurance
  4. Stretching your hamstrings to make them better able to tolerate force at the end of ROM.

Remember, prevention is always better than cure, not least if it improves performance too.

References

(1) Witrouw et al (2003) Am J Sports Medicine 31: 41-46

(2) Crossier et al (2008) Am J Sports Medicine 36: 1469-79

%d bloggers like this: