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Training Principle to Push Past Your Plateau

Training Principle to Push Past Your Plateau

We’ve all been there: you begin a new training program and for the first three to six months you are seeing tons of progress and improvements. Then, after a while you stop progressing and feel like you are stuck in the same place even though you are still following that same routine that once gave you such great results.

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Booty Bootcamp: Dumbbell Hell

Booty Bootcamp: Dumbbell Hell

There’s more to building the booty than squats and glute kickbacks. There’s also more to it than just working the glutes. Don’t forget about the hamstrings as well! They’re a vital part to building strength and the shape of your posterior side.

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Flexibility: Volume 4 Hips

Crush-Fitness-Flexibility-Hips-Ashley

 

Flexibility is the new stability. – Logan Green

 

The hip joint is actually a mobile joint but I thought this quote was so inspiring. The more flexible a person is the more aware they are of their body movement, thus, reducing the likelihood of injury. When looking at the kinetic chain, the hip is the second mobile joint from the ground and is responsible for joining the lower extremities to the rest of your body. In the ankle flexibility article, I discussed maybe having tight hip flexors is due to tight ankles. The kinetic chain is exactly that, a chain of joints alternating between mobility and stability to create a perfect environment for movement.

 

The Anatomy
The hip is a ball-and-socket joint created by the femur with the hip bone and allows a great range of motion. Mobility of this joint is only possible by an incredible number of structures. Muscles originate as high as the lumbar spine and have insertions as low as the tibia (the lower part of the leg).

Crush-Fitness-Flexibility-Hips

Crush-Fitness-Flexibility-Hips

 

Above is a diagram of the muscles associated with hip flexion, extension, lateral rotation and medial rotation. It can be overwhelming but have no fear, that’s why I’m here. This is to illustrate how intricate this joint is. The anterior and posterior muscles are listed below. Please note that these are not the only muscles associated with hip extention, rotation or flexion.

The anterior hip muscles include: the iliacus, psoas major and minor muscles

The posterior hip muscles include: the tensor fasciae latae, gluteus muscles, the piriformis, and quadratus femoris.

 

Flexibility Tests
One test will test flexibility of the posterior muscles of the leg (glutes, hamstrings and calves). Slightly bend the knees, bend from the hips. While keeping a neutral spine, reach for the floor and really focus on not curving your back. If you find your spine not parallel with the floor, you may have some tight muscles on the posterior side of your leg.

 

Another test is the squat test. The squat test will not only reveal if you have tight hips but may also let you know how flexible your ankles are. Perform an air squat, keep the spine neutral and continue until the femur is parallel with the floor. If the heels come off the floor this indicates weak ankle flexibility. If the back rounds out, this indicates weak muscles associated with the hip complex.

 

The last test that you can perform will also test for tightness in the hip. Position yourself on the ground and bring one knee to your chest, if the opposite leg lifts up you may have tight hips. Perform on both legs.

 

Improving Hip Flexibility

Hip Stretches:

  1. Butterfly Stretch - Sit with your legs in a butterfly position. With a neutral spine, bend at the hips and move your core towards your feet. Do not round your back. Hold for 30 seconds, release, breathe and repeat 2-3 times.
  2. Sit on the ground with legs bent and feet flat on the ground. Place one ankle over the opposite knee, lean forward and hold for 30 seconds, release, breathe and repeat.
  3. Lizard Pose - Position yourself with one leg forward and the opposite leg behind your body. The front leg should be in a 90 degree angle with the back leg stretched out into extension. The knee can be resting on the ground or for a better stretch left it and hold. Remember to lengthen the core and do not round out the back. This stretch will really open up your hip flexors!

 

I often hear of people struggling with hip flexor problems. Our lifestyles demand for most of us to be sitting or stagnant for long periods of time, working on a computer, sitting in a classroom or even relaxing during a three day Netflix binge. Ok, maybe that was a bit dramatic but you understand where I am going with this. After not activating a muscle for such a long period of time and then demanding that it bear most of our weight can be stressful on a muscle. Stretching and improving flexibility will reduce the risk of injury. Injury to such an important joint can create more weaknesses or even muscle imbalances throughout your body by favoring one side. Be sure to stretch and stay stable and strong throughout your kinetic chain.

 

 

Sources

Prentice, William E. Principles of Athletic Training. McGraw-Hill, 2014

 

MACKENZIE, B. (2007) Static Flexibility Test - Hip and Trunk [WWW] Available from: https://www.brianmac.co.uk/flextest1.htm [Accessed 16/12/2016]

 

DuVall, Jeremy. "3 Flexibility Tests For Runners." Competitor.com. Running.Competitior, 04 Feb. 2015. Web. 17 Dec. 2016.

 

Jones, Oliver. "The Hip Joint." TeachMeAnatomy. Teachmeanatomy.info, 15 Nov. 2016. Web. 17 Dec. 2016.

10-Minute Yoga Sequence Before Bed

Crush-Fitness-Bedtime-Yoga

Do you have trouble falling asleep? I know my mind races before bed, especially when I have a million things that didn't get checked off my to-do list. I love doing a few yoga poses before bed to calm my mind and let everything begin to slow down and open up before crawling into my comfy sheets. Try giving yourself 10 minutes to unwind and unravel before bed by trying out these five poses.

 

You'll learn to tune into your breath and body to be in a better position to actually enjoy a relaxed slumber!

 

Standing forward fold (Padangustasana)

Crush-Fitness-Bedtime-Yoga

Standing forward fold will allow you to pour out all the stress of your day straight from your skull.

  • Begin with your feet hip-width apart and fold forward with straight back over the hips, bending the knees as necessary to use your two peace fingers to grab between the big and second toes
  • Shift your weight forward onto the toes, straighten the legs as much as possible

Hold here for 10 full breaths

 

Wide-legged forward fold (Prasarita Paddotanasana)

Crush-Fitness-Bedtime-Yoga

Open up your hamstrings and lower back with this juicy forward fold.

  • From here, widen your stance so your feet are wider than shoulder distance apart
  • Clasp your hands together at the base of your spine behind you, pressing the palms to touch
  • Gently start to bend forward from the hips allowing the crown of your head to float towards the floor

Hold here for 10 full breaths

 

Low lunge (Anjaneyasana)Crush-Fitness-Bedtime-Yoga

Hello hip flexors – this will allow you to open up through those extra tight hips.

  • Step right foot in between your hands as you lower onto your back knee
  • Press your body upright by leveraging your hands on top of your knee
  • Plant right hand on top of right thigh and extend the left hand up towards the ceiling getting a deeper stretch through your left hip flexor
  • Repeat on left side

Hold her for 10 full breaths *challenge to shift the gaze up towards the ceiling

 

Butterfly (Baddha Konasana)Crush-Fitness-Bedtime-Yoga

Open your feet and hips like a book with butterfly!

  • Sit on the floor and let your knees splay out wide as you bring the pinky toes and feet to touch like butterfly
  • Begin to open the feet like a book as you exhale to forward fold opening space through your hips
  • If you want more of a shoulder stretch, extend your arms in front of you

Hold here for 10 full breaths

 

Bridge

Crush-Fitness-Bedtime-Yoga

This will get your heart-pumping while opening your heart and hips at the same time.

  • Lie flat on your back with your arms extended along your body, palms planting into the earth
  • Bend your knees and begin to scoot your heels as close to your bum as possible keeping the feet hip-width distance apart
  • Begin to press into your palms as you lift your hips towards the ceiling
  • If you want more of a shoulder opener, clasp your hands together underneath your pelvis and begin to walk the shoulder blades closer to the midline

Hold here for 5-15 full breaths

 

Legs up the wall

Crush-Fitness-Bedtime-Yoga

This pose is one of the most grounding and relaxing poses. It truly is as simple as it sounds, and has many benefits like alleviating low back pain, relieving any swollen ankles/feet issues, and regulating blood circulation.

  • Wiggle your legs up the length of the wall, meeting the base of the wall with your bum
  • Let the bottoms of your feet face the ceiling and hang out here for 2-3 minutes
  • You can even put a pillow under your lower back/bum to open up the shoulders, release any lower back tension, and give those tight hamstrings an inviting stretch

 

Corpse Pose (Savanasa)Crush-Fitness-Bedtime-Yoga

Before climbing into your sheets for a full-body blissful night of sleep, chill out in corpse post for 5 minutes.

  • Lie on your back and close your eyes, let your toes splay out towards the edges of your mat or room, and allow your shoulders to melt down and away from your ears
  • Lay here for as long as you'd like, or for as long as your bedtime routine allows

 

Try squeezing this short yoga routine in before bed – your hips, head, and heart will thank you in the morning, I promise.

Flexibility: Volume 3 Knees

Crush-Fitness-Flexibility-Knee-Ashley
“Better bend than break.” – Scottish Proverb

 

Flexibility throughout the kinetic chain is important because of the relationship muscles have with joints. If there is a weak link in one part of the chain it can be detrimental to other areas as well. The knee is no exception and is a complicated joint all on its own, not to mention the muscles it shares with the hip.

 

Anatomy

Components of the Knee
The knee is one of the more complex joints and there is an extremely ample amount of information. Instead of only doing the muscles, the tendons are also explained for a better understanding of flexibility at the knee. These are not the only structures responsible for stability but they go hand in hand when looking at flexibility.

 

Tendons: Attach muscle to bone. Although tendons are a fibrous collagen tissue they are still flexible enough to maintain proper function of a joint.

 

Muscles: As a stability joint, the knee has many muscles that participate in movement. The quadriceps and hamstring groups are responsible for flexion and extension at the knee. With a disproportionate muscular ratio between the hamstrings and quadriceps muscles, one may experience knee problems. Bailey Palmer, an exercise physiology professor at Texas Tech University, expands on this subject, “Athletes can strengthen their hip extensor muscles (i.e., hamstrings) to improve their hamstring to quadriceps strength ratio, which can reduce muscular imbalances and improve overall stability during sport specific movements.”

 

For the visual people (like myself)

Crush-Fitness-Flexibility-Knees

 

Movements

The movements of the knee and the muscles that are responsible for those actions:

  1. Flexion: bending a joint from a large angle to an acute angle; bringing the leg closer to the core.
  • Hamstring Group: Biceps femoris, semitendinosus, semimembranosus (gluteus muscles can also aid in flexion)
  • Gracilis
  • Sartorius
  • Popliteus
  • Extension: extending a joint from a smaller angle to a larger angle; opening up the hips by pushing the leg away from the core.
  • Quadriceps femoris (made up of four muscles): Vastus lateralis, vastus intermedialis, vastus medialis, and rectus femoris
  • Medial rotation: Movement toward the middle or midline of your body (small degree of rotation)
  • Sartorius
  • Lateral rotation: Movement away from the middle of your body (small degree of rotation)
  • Biceps femoris (gluteus muscles can also aid biceps femoris)

 

Where do I start?
Start by stretching the hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors and calves!

 

Hamstring Group: Hamstrings in my opinion are one of the most commonly missed muscle groups to stretch or strengthen. Neglecting such a large muscle group can have serious consequences. Some simple hamstring stretches are listed below including a flexibility test.

  • Flexibility Test: Stand upright. Bend at the waist while keeping your knees straight or slightly bent. The less bending at the knee indicates good flexibility. Don’t worry; some people will never be able to touch their toes, the smaller the angle at the waist means greater flexibility.
  • Stretches:
    • While sitting on the ground place your legs in a 45 degree angle or wider. Bend at the waist without rounding your back and hold for 30 seconds and repeat once or twice. Between each stretch, take a deep breath and try to decrease the angle at your hip the next time. The pull should come from the back of your leg and be slightly uncomfortable.
    • This can also be done with legs in front of you.

 

Quadriceps Group: This muscle group may easily over shadow the hamstrings because we can see them! Also, if you don’t like to run, it is easy to forget about them. How do we test and stretch them?

  • Flexibility Test: Lie on your stomach; bring your leg toward your gluteus. If you can touch your feet to your gluteus, you are flexible! Again, there are always exceptions! If you have huge hamstrings or calves, this may impede your ability to get a positive flexibility test. Also, if your hip flexors are tight, it may also not give you an accurate account of your flexibility.
  • Stretches:
    • Stand next to a wall and use it for balance. If no wall is available touch your nose with one finger for balance, it works! Bring your foot to your gluteus and hold it with your hand for 30 seconds. Breathe and repeat.
    • This also can be done lying on your stomach using a rubber exercise band.

 

Calves: Ashley, Why are we talking about the calves, aren’t they used in ankle mobility? Yes, yes, they are. Because muscles only know how to contract, they must cross over a joint to produce the desired movement. See ankle mobility to get the full scoop on calve stretches!

 

What if I have knee pain?

Knee pain is very common. Among those that suffer chronic knee pain, there are other options for strengthening the muscles in the thigh and hip that do not require great stress on the knee. Professor Palmer goes into depth here to explain more, “For those experiencing knee problems that may limit their ability to strength train, performing non-weight bearing physical activity (i.e., swimming, cycling) can improve flexibility and muscular endurance.”

 

Why is flexibility important for the knee?

Flexibility at the knee reduces the likelihood of injury. Stretching and properly warming up will reduce muscle strain or tears. It is better to teach your body to bend than to break from a stressor that can be prevented!

 

 

References:

Flexibility: Volume 2 Ankles

Crush-Fitness-Flexibility-Ankles
“You can’t build a strong building on a weak foundation.” –Gordon B. Hinckley

 

 

The Foundation
The ankles are the first mobile joint between you and the ground. They are not only the foundation but also are responsible for shifting weight quickly and assessing any kind of weight bearing stimulus. This joint is also overlooked when observing a weakness in the kinetic chain. Do you have a hard time with exercises like squats or maybe deadlifts? The ankle may be the culprit. Don’t worry! There is a way to improve performance! The answer is flexibility!


Flexibility improves range of motion (ROM). If we can achieve optimal ROM then we can improve multiple aspects of fitness without plateauing as easily and also prevent injuries from occurring.

 

 

Anatomy
For a better understanding of how to assess your ankle mobility, knowing the anatomy can benefit you in where to start.

 

Compartments of the Ankle and Lower Leg
First, there are essentially four different compartments that make up the muscles of the lower leg and ankle. Within each of these groups is between two- four muscles. It can get tedious explaining every single one. Below is a description of each compartment.

  1. The anterior (front) compartment is responsible for dorsiflexion (bringing the foot toward the shin).                                             Crush-Fitness-Flexibility-Ankles
  2. The lateral (side) compartment is responsible for plantar (pointing) flexion and eversion of the foot.                                                                                                              Crush-Fitness-Flexibility-Ankles
  3.  The superficial (surface) posterior (back) compartment is responsible for plantar flexion and flexing the leg.                          Crush-Fitness-Flexibility-Ankles
  4. The deep posterior compartment is responsible for plantar flexion, inversion and rotating the leg medially (to the middle).               Crush-Fitness-Flexibility-Ankles

 

Where do I start?
A good place to start is a flexibility test of the ankle.

 

Flex Test
Lay on your back with your feet against the wall from heels to toes. Begin by flexing your foot or pulling toes toward the front of your leg. If there is more than an inch between your toes and the wall you have optimal ROM of your ankle, anything below that is moderate or acceptable.

 

 

Extension Test
When looking for extension of the ankle, lay on the ground away from the wall. Point your toes as far as you can until your ROM is at its max. Ideally there will be a straight line from your leg to the tip of your toes. Speaking in degrees, 20-30 degrees is acceptable.

 

What exercises will improve ankle flexibility?

Static stretches (held 20-30 seconds)

Stretch muscles on the posterior side of the leg:

    1. Gastrocnemius: Place both hands in front of you on a wall. Place the leg you are stretching 3 feet from the wall (this should be behind you) and extend your knee and keep your heel on the ground. As you lean forward you should feel the calf muscle stretch.
    2. Soleus: This is the muscle underneath the gastrocnemius. Instead of keeping the knee straight, bend it. The weight will shift and the inner calf muscle will be stretched.

 

Active Stretches

The active stretches are great for this mobility joint because it is practical for everyday movement.
    1. Circle movement: rotate your foot in a circle with curled toes. Be sure to do this on a slow fashion and really reach for the furthest point that your toes can reach. Also, this might create a cramp if done too fast in either the arch of your foot or the calf. Go in both directions. You should feel your ankle loosen up. 
    2. Dorsiflexion and Plantar flexion: This is simply pointing your foot (extension) and pulling it back toward your shin. Point with curled toes and you should feel the stretch in your ankle.

 

Dynamic Stretch
Remember: Dynamic stretches should not be the initial type of stretch.
    1. Ankle Stretch: Take a knee. One leg should be in a 90-degree angle in front of you and the other leg should supporting most of your weight with the knee on the ground. The leg in front should have the heel in the ground. You can use your hands to stabilize your upper body and control the ROM. Push the hips forward and that will create a change of angle at the ankle joint. Push until it is uncomfortable but not painful. Repeat 10-15 times.

 

 

References: