Sunday, January 21, 2024
Do you love working out?
Do you enjoy playing tennis or pickleball?
Do you prefer being out on the links, playing a little golf?
Or maybe you like to run, bike, swim, or play hoops occasionally?
Whatever activity you love, if you want to continue to do it, you must make sure your joints are up for the task.
Today, more than ever, active adults are falling prey to the "Vicious Cycle of Soft Tissue Care." A cycle that kicks the pain down the road until you need some kind of invasive intervention like surgery.
Anti-inflammatories, injections, and symptom-focused modalities can extend the time of your favorite activity, but eventually, the "inevitable" occurs.
There was a time in the last 20 years of working with athletes and active adults where I too participated in kicking the pain down the road.
I achieved great results by using specific bodywork techniques and increasing an athlete's efficiency of motion.
Through continual exploration and learning, I've realized some of the holes in my approach.
My mentor of 20 years shared with me a discovery he had made while working with some of the top professional athletes in the world.
This means that just because you can physically go out and play tennis, do CrossFit, play golf, or go for a run does NOT mean your joints can sustain the activities.
Another way to think about it. If you lack proper strength in your foot/ankle complex, when you run, your body will find a way around this local deficiency and compensate by overusing another region or joint.
This can manifest as knee, back, and even neck pain. The frustrating thing is this can seem to "come out of nowhere." One minute everything is fine, the next minute it isn't.
I have been running around playing basketball and soccer for decades. Thousands of suicide sprints for basketball and miles and miles of runs for soccer. Never had a problem . . . until I did.
In my early forties, every time I ran, my neck would KILL me. For years, I've been unable to tolerate running because of my neck. I knew I had a shock absorption problem and blamed it on my structurally flat feet. I just accepted that running wasn't for me and retired my running shoes.
This all changed when I was introduced to these joint capacity assessments.
I had a high global capacity. I could squat, and bench press heavy weight. Could throw a football around, go hiking, do CrossFit WODs, play some basketball, and go for 20 mile bike rides.
The aches and pains I had in my neck from running and my knee, shoulder and ankles when I worked out, were just things I figured I'd have to live with. I managed it by lifting lighter weights, doing more reps, foam rolling, and daily steam and cold plunges.
All super helpful things.
But what was exposed by these exercises was that my local tissue capacity was, frankly, terrible.
One of the areas that had significant deficiencies were my feet and ankles.
After doing Exercise #1 below for a month, I have been on 4 runs and have had zero any neck pain.
The 5 exercises below will assess whether your joints can handle your current activity levels.
The 5 areas of the body that are most injury-prone are the lower leg, knee, hips, lower back, and shoulders.
These five exercises are essential for you to be competent in. I found them challenging, and I'm always surprised by how tough they are for many of my active clients.
The Heel Rise Exercise tests the tissues of your foot and ankle to sustain load and tension over a period of time. This is important because the foot sets up the kinetic chain for success in every standing activity you do. Therefore it is important for it to have the strength endurance to transfer load up the body.
Researchers conducted and analyzed this test with individuals aged between 20 to 81. These studies provide guidelines for where you should be based on your age.
The chart below shows the "low-average-high" number of reps performed by males and females at various ages (20s, 30s, etc.) As an example, I am 45 years old and male so I should be able to do approximately 26 heel rises on each leg.
These reps must be high quality reps done repetitively without resting. This test is often done incorrectly, so all variables must be accounted for when executing. The video below walks you through how to do it.
Knee health is more involved than other regions because of its dependency on the hips and feet.
Training foot/ankle and hip capacity is crucial to keeping your knees healthy.
This exercise is one of many exercises I give my clients to test knee capacity.
To target the knee joint in the Wall Sit, you must do the following:
* All lower body joints are at 90-degree angles: Foot/ankle, knee Joint, and hip.
* Arms crossed over your chest
* Back flat against the wall by tucking your tailbone under. This will shift the load into the quadriceps and knee joint.
The goal is to be able to hold for 60 seconds.
This may be one of the most important exercises to master.
Restriction in the hip complex is directly or indirectly the cause of almost every knee, back, shoulder, and neck problem I've treated.
This exercise trains the 360-degree mobility and stability of your hip joints.
Once again, technique is everything with this one.
The goal is to do this on both sides for 3 minutes without touching the floor.
One of the most important things you can do to keep a healthy spine is to MOVE IT!
Sitting for hours on end each day keeps the spine in one position, creating stagnation.
To maintain spinal health, the spine must be able to move smoothly from head to tailbone.
The goal with this exercise is to create segmental flexion and extension throughout the spine. Becoming aware of any "flat spots" in your spine or areas of the spine that are not flexing or extending.
This exercise is not only a test for spine health but one to execute daily.
You can do it in a 4 Point Stance or Standing. I'd recommend both.
For all of you pushing and pressing weights, this is a MUST to test and create capacity in.
It order to maintain a healthy shoulder joint, you must train rotational integrity. This refers to your shoulder joint's ability to stabilize during various rotations.
The picture below illustrates the powerful shoulder capsule. The shoulder capsule is a connective tissue structure that surrounds and stabilizes the shoulder joint, contributing to its range of motion and stability. Composed of ligaments and a thin synovial membrane, the shoulder capsule holds the humerus (upper arm bone) securely within the glenoid fossa of the scapula (shoulder blade.) Its flexibility allows for a wide range of movements while maintaining joint integrity, but injury or inflammation to the shoulder capsule can impact mobility and lead to conditions such as frozen shoulder.
Maintaining a healthy and strong shoulder capsule is important for all upper body movements but is imperative if you are pressing and pushing.
You need sufficient rotational strength and integrity in this area to safely push and press weights away from your body. If your workouts involve pushing and pressing, aim to be able to hold 10% of your body weight in this position. I also recommend at least 10% body weight for racquet or throwing athletes.
This can be tested by standing up against a wall with you upper back and shoulder against the wall and holding a weight perpendicular to the wall. The goal is to hold the weight in that position for 30 seconds with no pain or straining.
If any of these exercises cause joint pain, please do not do them. Seek out a professional to assess your condition.
In conclusion, safeguarding your joints is paramount if you're an active adult who values staying physically engaged in activities like working out, playing sports, or enjoying outdoor pursuits. The "Vicious Cycle of Soft Tissue Care" poses a real threat to active individuals, often leading to surgeries. After two decades of helping individuals prevent injury and enhance performance, I've realized the importance of addressing local tissue capacity alongside global function.
I'm confident that successfully performing these five exercises and maintaining your ability to do so will not only prevent injuries but also enhance your overall performance.
Yours in Vitality,
Interested in a comprehensive assessment?
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I am a integrated holistic health professional that has empowered thousands of individuals over the last two decades to optimize their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being, I am obsessed with empowering myself and others to embody the principles of vitality and no longer settle for the current traditional models of "health."
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