Eccentric Based Strengthening – proven to increase flexibility and reduce lower limb injury according to recent studies!
Stretching may be a thing of the past according to a recent review that looks at the effects of eccentric (lengthening the muscle under load) training for increased strength, flexibility and overall reduced risk of lower limb injuries.
There are many factors that contribute to lower limb injuries some of which are poor neuromuscular control, reduced strength, poor joint range of motion and reduced flexibility.
In the past stretching was believed to be an important part of injury rehabilitation and that it could reduce the time until return to sport and it has been an encouraged activity during a warm up and cool down for many sports for years.
Most current studies suggest that stretching is ineffective at reducing injury risk, post exercise muscle soreness and improving performance. In actual fact, stretching has been shown to be a cause of injury if done during a warm up. Stretching reduces the contractile ability of the muscle and therefore decreases the stability of the joint.
So… If poor flexibility and range of motion are risk factors of lower limb injuries how can we improve this without stretching?
According to a review of 6 studies of the lower limb it showed consistent evidence that eccentric training increases range of motion with joint stability.
What is eccentric training?
All movements that we do with our body have a concentric (muscle shortening) phase and eccentric (muscle lengthening) phase. For example when completing a bicep curl the concentric phase is lifting the weight towards to shoulder (muscle is shortening whilst contracting) and the eccentric phase is straightening the elbow again (muscle is lengthening whilst contracting).
Sarcomerogenesis is the most likely reason why a muscle can improve in flexibility after eccentric training. It is where there is a prolonged shift in the muscle length-tension curve and the muscle adapts to the mild damage that is caused by eccentric training. This then improves the generation of torque a muscle can provide as well as reduce the chance of injury in an extended joint position.
Next time you decide to push yourself into a painful stretch think about whether this could be detrimental to your muscles and joints. Ask how we can help you complete some eccentrically loaded exercises to improve your flexibility.
Written by Beth Chiuchiarelli – Exercise Physiologist
Work Out Tip – How Many Sets/Reps Should I Complete
The number of sets and reps that you do for each exercise is highly dependent on what you are wanting to achieve out of your training program.
Someone who plays a high intensity, power based team sport such as netball or basketball would ideally want to increase their strength and then progress to improve their power and speed. However, perhaps you enjoy hiking or running marathons where endurance based program is more suited to allow you to continue at a constant speed for longer.
Here is a description of each fitness goal to allow you to select the correct sets and reps for your gym program:
• Endurance- Ability to maintain a certain activity at a constant speed for longer • Hypertrophy – Increasing the size of a muscle • Strength – Ability to move a certain amount of weight • Power – Ability to more a certain amount of weight quickly
The following table demonstrates the required number of sets and reps needed to focus on each specific goal:
Fitness goal Sets Repetitions Rest between sets Endurance 3 15-20 30 sec Hypertrophy 3-4 8-12 1 min Strength 4-5 6-8 2 min Power/Speed 5-6 6-8 2-4 minutes
Make sure you read our previous article ‘What weight should I choose’ http://www.mdhealth.com.au/weight-using/ and you will be able to apply this general rule of weight selection:
“If the last 2 reps of each set are hard to complete without losing technique you have the correct weight however, if it was too easy to complete or you could not complete all of the repetitions your weight is too light or too heavy!”
Written by Beth Chiuchiarelli Exercise Physiologist at MD Health
Core Stability – How It Will Be Even Better In The Future
Following Nicholas’ rehabilitation after his disc prolapse, we have been working hard to determine the best way to incorporate some of the additional core stability training, in particular, Multifidus training, as part of everyone’s Pilates program over the next few months. So why is this important?
What Does Multifidus Do?
The Multifidus are a small group of back muscles which make up some of the deepest layers of the back muscles. In particular, they make up the ‘Local Stabilizing system’ of the lumbar spine, which means their major role is to keep one vertebrae (eg the top vertebrae) ‘stable’ over the other vertebrae (eg the bottom vertebrae), so that the power muscles, such as the erector spinae muscles can move the spine safely. In other words, the multifidus control the amount of glide one vertebrae has over the other. If this is ‘uncontrolled’, it puts pressure on the support structures such as the discs and facet joints, causing injury.
How Does Multifidus Differ From The Abdominal (Transversus Abdominus) Muscles In Core Stability?
These muscles work together, but are not the same thing. The Transversus abdominus muscle wraps around the body and attaches onto the spine indirectly through a thick layer of connective tissue called the thoraco-lumbar fascia. The multifidus muscle attaches directly on the lumbar spine and has a more direct action in maintaining core stability. Multifidus also attaches onto the thoraco-lumbar fascia, so the muscles are linked and enhance each other’s actions
How Do We Train Multifidus?
We can now view multifidus directly on ultrasound. Viewing the activation of this muscle will now become a standard part of your re-assessment and we will work on teaching everyone how to contract this muscle during their Pilates sessions over the next couple of months
• Kneel onto your hands and knees • Make a small arch in the lower back • ‘Squeeze’ the muscle of the lower back ‘in towards each other’. You should feel the muscle in the lower back puff up. Hold for 3 second
Don’t worry, we will be practicing these exercises during your Pilates sessions
Written by Nicholas Charalambous Physiotherapist at MD Health
The lunge is a great multi- joint exercise for strengthening muscles that support your hips, knees and ankles. Compared to the squat, which is an up and down motion on two legs, lunges requires you to be in a split stance with one leg in front of the other which requires more strength, balance and core stability. It is imperative to perform lunges with the correct technique otherwise you may be compromising the effectiveness of the exercise or cause yourself an injury.
Here are some important technique cues for lunges:
1. Maintain good posture!
Your back must be straight and your shoulders retracted and chest lifted. Your head should be facing straight ahead.
2. Feet should be in line with your hips
Your front and back leg should be in line with your hips. Many people try to put one foot in front of the other which makes the exercise much more difficult. It is much more functional to maintain correct alignment of the knees with the hips.
3. Keep knees behind your toes
When bending the knees into a lunge both the front and back leg should be able to bend to at least 90 degrees. (If you find this difficult it is ok to lunge only until you feel comfortable)
Make sure that your knees do not go over your toes otherwise you will be putting added strain through the quadriceps in the knees rather than evenly distributing weight through the gluteal muscles at the hips.
4. Knees should be in line with your second toe
If you have some weakness in your hips you will find it difficult to maintain your knee in line with your second toe. You may find that your knee collapses inward the further your bend. If this is the case only lunge as far as you can whilst maintaining all of the above cues.
Need some help with your lunges? OR want to know ways in which you can adjust the lunge to make it harder or easier?
– post a comment and we will get back to with some exciting new lunges to try
Many women are afraid of exercising whilst pregnant, however it is highly dependent on what type of exercises you choose to do.
For example it is very important to maintain the strength and stability of your joints especially your pelvis. During pregnancy the ligaments that support your pelvis become more relaxed, which means you are more dependent on your muscles for stability.
If you have weak muscles you are at risk of back and pelvic pain. Maintaining the strength of the muscles that support the joints will reduce the pain and support your pelvis during labour.
The Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy
There are many other benefits of taking part in a specific exercise program designed for you and your body’s needs such as:
• Improved strength of your back and gluteal (buttocks) muscles which can help manage back pain as your baby grows • Improved posture • Improved core and pelvic floor control • Improved circulation • Weight management • Improved sleep and stress relief • Prepares your body for labour • Recover from labour faster = faster return to pre-pregnancy fitness and a healthy weight
All of the above positive outcomes will allow your pregnancy to be a much smoother process for you and your baby.
Exercises that are safe during pregnancy:
• Pilates – core and pelvic floor strength and stability • Specifically chosen resistance exercises for increasing your strength • Walking • Swimming
Exercises to avoid:
• Running • Cycling • Contact sports • After approximately 16 weeks you should avoid exercises lying on your back due to the risk of your baby slowing the return of blood to your heart. Exercises in side lying, standing or sitting are fine. • Jumping or activities that risk falling such as skiing or horse riding
Recommendations for you:
We recommend that before you decide to exercise whilst pregnant you must speak to a Physiotherapist or Exercise Physiologist to design a program specific for you. That way you know that the exercises you are doing are safe and will benefit you and your baby! Please share this article with your expecting friends or contact MD Health on 03 9857 0644 for a FREE Full Body Assessment. We would be happy to help design a program for you!
Article written by Beth Chiuchiarelli Exercise Physiologist at MD Health