Archive for September, 2008

In the previous hip flexor post we talked about how the tight hip flexor inhibits the gluteus maximus and increased lumbar extension and hamstring activity to compensate.  There are also several other compensatory problems that occur from the tight hip flexor.  Remember that most people have tight hip flexors due to sitting, driving, sleeping in the fetal position, inactivity and repetitive patterns.  So, if the hip flexor is tight it could lead to patellar tendon/knee pain, and plantar fasciitis.

Lets look at jumping.  Jumping requires an eccentric load (hip/knee/ankle flexion and internal rotation) followed by a concentric contraction (hip/knee/ankle extension and external rotation).  In the take off phase if the hip flexor is tight it inhibits the gluteus thereby decreasing its ability to generate force.  This leads to poor jumping ability.  It also limits the amount of hip extension that can occur therefore the knees will hyperextend as a compensation for the lack of extension at the hip.  The hyperextension and the increased quad force cause the patella to be compressed and inferiorly tilt more irritating the tendon and fat pad leading to knee pain and tendonitis.  

Upon landing the gluteus cant control the forces and the femur excessively internally rotates and adducts causing increased stress to the med knee. ( The gluteus maximus eccentrically controls femoral internal rotation during loading).  This can be one of the causes of poor jumping mechanics which has been seen especially in females and correlated too increased ACL injury risk.

If the hip flexor is tight it will decrease extension of the hip and therefore decrease stride length.  This can lead to increased extension of the low back which over time can cause low back pain or as a result cause the heel to come off the ground early in the trail leg of gait.  This results in the trail leg diminishing its eccentric loading and therefore decreasing its ability to push off efficiently.  This ultimately creates more stress on the front leg as the muscles have to work harder to re – supinate the foot.  The lead leg in gait relys on the push off and successive swing of the rear leg to re-supinate and unload.   With the trail leg heel coming off the ground early an a-propopulsive gait results.  While this is a mild stress that wont cause problems in one step, the microtrauma and/or fatigue over time (thousands of steps in a day, 7 days a week and 4 weeks in a month etc.) eventually leads to the tissue unable to tolerate the stress and bang, pain occurs in this case plantar fasciitis.  So, a tight hip flexor on one side can lead to plantar fasciitis on the opposite side.  The beauty and challenge on understanding function, it never gets old!

Get Strong! Stay Strong!





Have you ever heard the term “super-foods”? In keeping with other “supers” such as Superman, super powers and super human, it would seem that super-foods would be something that could help you – definitely not hurt you. They certainly are part of one of the most talked about current health crazes. But there are many foods that can help you feel better and get healthier, so why these? Just what are these super-foods and what can they do for you? Let’s take a look . . .

Have you ever heard the term “super-foods”? In keeping with other “supers” such as Superman, super powers, super human, and super-duper (ok, maybe not that one) it would seem that super-foods would be something that could help you – definitely not hurt you. They certainly are part of one of the most talked about current health crazes. But there are many foods that can help you feel better and get healthier, so why these? Just what are these super-foods and what can they do for you? Let’s take a look . . .

What are Super-Foods?

Super-foods are foods that are designed by nature to give you a balanced and healthy diet.  But, the true super-foods are jam-packed full of nutrients that help to treat a variety of health issues and have potent preventative powers.  And while the craze of super-foods is relatively new, the benefits of eating these foods have been in place for centuries. You may not know that some of them are even categorized as super-foods while in fact many are foods that you may already be eating and can help to treat or even prevent diseases like cancer and blindness.  You just have to know what ones to eat!

What are Some Super-Foods?

There are many super-foods, but these are some of the most common:

  • Beans (kidney, lima, etc) have lots of iron in them and are easy to cook and eat.  The best way to eat them is as natural as possible so that you get as many nutrients as you can (so, try not to just eat the ones in the can).
  • Blueberries are packed with vitamin C and have a ton of antioxidants that will help with your overall health.
  • Fish is great for helping you to feel more energized as well as having plenty of omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Soy is a great food that helps lower cholesterol and helps you to have a cleaner feeling body.  You can find soy in tofu as well as soy milk and oats and barley.
  • Fiber will help your body to have lower cholesterol as well and will lower blood sugar levels that may be running too high for your body.
  • Tea can help with many things but one of the most important is giving your body a boost with its important antioxidants.
  • Calcium helps with your bones and your teeth by making them stronger and last longer. 
  • Dark Chocolate is new to the super-food list and is probably the most loved one.  Recent studies have shown dark chocolate to have powerful antioxidants.

Why You Need Super-Foods

So now you know what super-foods are – but do you really need them all?

Well, the answer is yes. To keep your body feeling good and working well, it’s ideal to get at least a little of each of these super-foods on a regular basis. If you don’t like one of them, you can always look for an alternative that has the same benefits and can still give you what your body needs!

So give a super-food a chance, will you? Who knows . . . you might feel better than you ever had, almost super-human even!

Get Strong! Stay Strong!


Certain algae, especially the micro-algae spirulina and chlorella contain more chlorophyl than any other foods, and their chlorophyl content can be more than double depending on their growing conditions.  These aquatic plants are the most accepted and best known micro-algae at this time.  These primitive organisms were among the first life forms.  In blue green algae such as spirulina, we find 3 1/2 billion years of life on this planet encoded in their nucleic acids (RNA/DNA).  At the same time, all micro algae supply that fresh burst of primal essence that manifested when life was in its birthing stages.  Many people have instinctively began to turn to these original life forms for nutritional support.

Micro algae, in their dried state, – the usual commercial form of these products – we find, in addition to chlorophyll, the highest sources of protein, beta-carotene and nucleic acids of any plant food.  Their very large store of nucleic acids (RNA/DNA) is known to benefit cellular renewal and to reverse aging.  Too much nucleic acid however, can raise the uric acid level in the body, causing calcium depletion, kidney stones and gout.  Such problems havent  generally arisen because standard dosages of micro algae contain safe amounts of nucleic acids.  Another example of, more is not better!  The medical use of algae is not yet approved in the US by the food and drug administration, but many benefits attributed to them by doctors in Japan and elsewhere reflect their intrinsic and unique nutritional power (Hills 1980)).  In recent years, researchers have increasingly studied micro algae because they contain anti-fungal and anti-bacterial biochemicals not found in other plant or animal species.

Spirulina: contains special form of protein that benefits those with problems resulting from excessive animal protein, which does not assimilate well and further burdens the body with waste products.  Typically those who are overweight, diabetic, hypoglycemic, cancerous, arthritic, or suffering from degenerative problems often benefit from the relatively pure protein content in spirulina.  By eating only 10-15 grams daily of this form of protein the body normally becomes satisfied and animal protein is craved less.  In addition, the severe liver damage resulting from malnutrition, alcoholism, or the consumption of nutrient destroying food or drugs can be treated effectively by this type of nutrition.  Spirulina also protects the kidneys against injury that occurs from taking strong prescription medication (Yamane 1988).  Spirulina is also richly supplied with the blue pigment phycocyanin that has been shown to inhibit cancer-colony formation (Troxler 1987) and draws together amino acids for neurotransmitter formation which increases brain capacity (Hills Book Rejuvinating the Body, 1980).

Chlorella:  Another well known algal food similar to spirulina, but containing less protein , beta carotene and more than twice the nucleic acids and chlorophyll.  It binds heavy metals , toxins and pesticides.  Chlorella has been shown to stimulate interferon production, as well as other anti-tumor and imune enhancing activity (Kojima 1973, Day 1976, White, Komiyama)  Chlorella contains a greater quantity of fatty acids than spirulina.  About 20% of these fatty acids are the artery-cleansing, omega-3, alpha-linolenic variety; perhaps this is one reason chlorella has been shown to be so effective in reducing cholesterol in the body and preventing atherosclerosis (Hashimoto 1987, Sano 1987)).

Excerpts from Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition, Paul Pitchford, 2002

Get Strong! Stay Strong!


A strained muscle, sprained ankle or foot injury can make even the most motivated exerciser feel discouraged when it comes to working out.

But being injured doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t exercise, says Colleen Greene, wellness coordinator with MFit, the University of Michigan Health System’s health promotion division. By speaking with an expert and finding a plan that will work as you heal, you can still hit the gym while recovering.

“Exercise can definitely be beneficial for a person dealing with an injury. Depending on its type, the injured area should be moved and not left in place for a long period of time,” explains Greene. “Some people think they should just rest and not move at all with an injury. Doing that can actually be worse because—depending on the amount of time one does not move the appendage— the muscle might begin to atrophy.”

Greene notes that the general rule of thumb when initially handling an injury is to follow RICE—Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Once you have done this, consult a doctor to look at the injury as soon as possible. You may be referred to a physical therapist or specialist trainer if the injury is severe enough. These professionals can provide guidance for your recovery, as well as give you tips on how to maintain strength while recovering.

Greene also notes that there are “dos and don’ts” when it comes to specific injuries. Because each condition is unique, there are certain things a person can do and other activities the injured person should avoid while healing. She offers these tips on three common injuries:

General advice for any injury: See a physician or physical therapist to learn what exercises are possible with your type of injury. Focus on the goal of maintaining strength, not gaining it, while you are recovering. And always be wary of pain as you explore different workouts.

“Pain is always the indicator; discomfort is OK, but pain tells you when you should stop what you are doing and do something else,” Greene says. “You always want to keep in mind that you should be doing something that doesn’t re-injure or further injure yourself.”

Sprained ankle. When seeking out cardiovascular exercises, Greene suggests sticking with low- impact workouts, such as swimming or riding a stationary bike. She notes that running or aerobics are generally activities that are too high in impact. A person with a sprained ankle can also do upper-body or core impact exercises for strength training.

Plantar faciitis. Plantar faciitis is an overuse injury normally caused by a lack of cross training. For example, a person may develop plantar faciitis by only running when training for a marathon, but not preparing through other exercises, such as swimming or biking. Greene notes that people dealing with this type of injury need to focus on resting in order to heal, but it is possible to explore low-impact core and upper-body exercises while recovering.

“There are not a lot of ways other than physical therapy to recover from plantar faciitis except for resting,” she says. “You want to do things that are low impact without a lot of pressure on the area.”

Grab an ice pack, get some rest and allow your injury to fully recover before trying to get stronger.

Strained and pulled muscle. “The first thing a person with a pulled or strained muscle should know is that they, like everyone, should warm up thoroughly before doing anything,” Greene notes.

She also says that people with this type of injury should stay in a pain-free range by focusing on conditioning the side of the body opposite of the strained or torn muscle. If you have pulled a hamstring, for example, then aim to work on your upper-body.

Greene also notes that there are preventative measures that a person can take to avoid pulling or training a muscle. First, Greene recommends a good warm-up for five to 10 minutes. Second, be sure to cool down at the end of your workout. And don’t forget to stretch.

“We find that as people age, they can actually pull muscles by doing everyday things such as bending over to grab a bag of groceries or leaning over to put something on a shelf,” she explains. “So the preventative measures that can be taken to avoid pulling or tearing a muscle with exercise are also measures that should be taken to avoid tearing or pulling a muscle in everyday life, not just on a basketball court.”

Overall, Greene believes the most important thing injured exercisers can do when hitting the gym is to pay attention to their body. She also advises to stop immediately if a workout becomes painful.

“One of the basic exercise myths is ‘no pain, no gain.’ We used to think that a long time ago,” says Greene. “If you are actually in pain, you should stop immediately. Now we say, ‘no discomfort, no gain.’ There is a big difference.”

Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.

MFit, the Health Promotion Division of the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS) provides medically-based personalized health and wellness programs and services to UMHS patients, UM employees, the greater Washtenaw County community, and employers in Michigan.

Source: Laura Drouillard
University of Michigan

Get Strong! Stay Strong!



Concussions can happen to any athlete—male or female—in any sport. Concussions are a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI), caused by a blow or jolt to the head that can range from mild to severe and can disrupt the way the brain normally works.  

  • A concussion can occur when an athlete receives a traumatic force to the head or upper body that causes the brain to shake inside of the skull.  The injury is defined as a concussion when it causes a change in mental status such as loss of consciousness, amnesia, disorientation, confusion or mental fogginess.

  • Between 1.4 and 3.6 million sports and recreation-related concussions occur each year, with the majority happening at the high school level, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  Because many mild concussions go undiagnosed and unreported, it is difficult to estimate the rate of concussion in any sport, but studies estimate that at least 10 to 20 percent of all athletes involved in contact sports have a concussion each season

  • Because no two concussions are exactly alike and symptoms are not always definite, the injury’s severity, effects and recovery are sometimes difficult to determine.  The decision to allow the athlete to return to the game is not always straightforward, although research has shown that until a concussed brain is completely healed, the brain is likely vulnerable to further injury.  Thus, the critical importance of properly managing the injury.

  • Allowing enough healing and recovery time following a concussion is crucial in preventing any further damage. Research shows that the effects of repeated concussion in young athletes are cumulative. Most athletes who experience an initial concussion can recover completely as long as they are not returned to contact sports too soon. Following a concussion, there is a period of change in brain function that varies in severity and length with each individual. During this time, the brain is vulnerable to more severe or permanent injury. If the athlete sustains a second concussion during this time period, the risk of more serious brain injury increases.

  • In recent years, research has shown that even seemingly mild concussions can have serious consequences in young athletes if they are not properly managed. Loss of consciousness is not an indicator of injury severity. Traditional imaging techniques such as MRI and CT may be helpful in severe injury cases, but cannot identify subtle effects believed to occur in mild concussion. 

  • An explosion of scientific research over the past decade has taught doctors more about the proper management of sports-related concussion than was ever known before, and has raised public awareness and significantly changed the way sports concussions are managed.

  • Much of the recently published research includes data proving the usefulness of objective neurocognitive testing, such as ImPACT™, as part of the comprehensive clinical evaluation to determine recovery following concussion.  Recent international sports injury management guidelines have emphasized player symptoms and neuropsychological test results as “cornerstones” of the evaluation and management process.



Article adapted by MD Sports Weblog from original press release.





Contact: Susan Manko

University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Get Strong! Stay Strong!


Posted by sandco on November 19, 2007

Don’t drink alcohol. Take vitamins. Avoid eating eggs. We’ve heard these pieces of nutritional advice for years – but are they accurate?

Not necessarily, say two exercise physiologists who presented at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) 11th-annual Health & Fitness Summit & Exposition in Dallas, Texas. Wendy Repovich, Ph.D., FACSM, andJanet Peterson, Dr.P.H., FACSM, set out to debunk the “Top 10 Nutrition Myths.”

According to Repovich and Peterson, these nutrition myths are:

10. Eating carbohydrates makes you fat. Cutting carbs from your diet may have short-term weight loss benefits due to water loss from a decrease in carbohydrate stores, but eating carbs in moderation does not directly lead to weight gain. The body uses carbs for energy, and going too long without them can cause lethargy.

9. Drink eight, 8-oz. glasses of water per day. You should replace water lost through breathing, excrement and sweating each day – but that doesn’t necessarily total 64 ounces of water. It’s hard to measure the exact amount of water you have consumed daily in food and drink, but if your urine is pale yellow, you’re doing a good job. If it’s a darker yellow, drink more H2O.

8. Brown grain products are whole grain products. Brown dyes and additives can give foods the deceiving appearance of whole grain. Read labels to be sure a food is whole grain, and try to get three-ounce equivalents of whole grains per day to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

7. Eating eggs will raise your cholesterol. This myth began because egg yolks have the most concentrated amount of cholesterol of any food. However, there’s not enough cholesterol there to pose health risks if eggs are eaten in moderation. Studies suggest that eating one egg per day will not raise cholesterol levels and that eggs are actually a great source of nutrients.

6. All alcohol is bad for you. Again, moderation is key. Six ounces of wine and 12 ounces of beer are considered moderate amounts, and should not pose any adverse health effects to the average healthy adult. All alcohol is an anticoagulant and red wine also contains antioxidants, so drinking a small amount daily can be beneficial.

5. Vitamin supplements are necessary for everyone. If you eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, along with moderate amounts of a variety of low-fat dairy and protein and the right quantity of calories, you don’t need to supplement. Most Americans do not, so a multi-vitamin might be good. Special vitamin supplements are also recommended for people who are pregnant or have nutritional disorders.

4. Consuming extra protein is necessary to build muscle mass. Contrary to claims of some protein supplement companies, consuming extra protein does nothing to bulk up muscle unless you are also doing significant weight training at the same time. Even then the increased requirement can easily come from food. A potential problem with supplements is the body has to work overtime to get rid of excess protein, and can become distressed as a result.

3. Eating fiber causes problems if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). There are two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber can cause problems in IBS sufferers; soluble fiber, however, is more easily absorbed by the body and helps prevent constipation for those with IBS. Soluble fiber is found in most grains.

2. Eating immediately after a workout will improve recovery. Endurance athletes need to take in carbohydrates immediately after a workout to replace glycogen stores, and a small amount of protein with the drink enhances the effect. Drinking low-fat chocolate milk or a carbohydrate drink, like Gatorade, is better for the body, as they replace glycogen stores lost during exercise. Protein is not going to help build muscle, so strength athletes do not need to eat immediately following their workout.

1. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented by eating foods low on the glycemic index. High levels of glucose are not what “cause” diabetes; the disease is caused by the body’s resistance to insulin. Foods high on the glycemic index can cause glucose levels to spike, but this is just an indicator of the presence of diabetes, not the root cause.

Article adapted by MD Sports Weblog from original press release.

Get Strong! Stay Strong!


Most anatomy classes teach that the hamstrings flex the knee.  Based on this many people train and strengthen the hamstrings using a leg curl machine either sitting or laying on their stomach.  If we stop and look at the body function in various activity you will see that rarely ever are people sitting or laying prone and flexing their knees.  Even in walking or running when you see the knee flexing it is a passive event caused by momentum.

Lets first look at the anatomy.  In general. the hamstring attaches proximally to the ischial tuberosity (the bone you sit on) and runs down the back of your leg to attach distally to the medial and lateral tibiia (lower leg bone).  Next lets consider the “true” function of this muscle.  Using gait or a lunge as an example, knowing what the bones are doing (in all 3 planes) and knowing where a muscle attaches prox. and distally will allow you to see and figure out function of any muscle.  Remember that in the loading phase (eccentric muscle activity) the tibia advances forward and internally rotates and the pelvis/hip flexes, adducts and internally rotates (see when the foot hits ground and “barking hip posts for review).  So with that in mind, as the foot swings forward the hamstring muscle eccentrically contract to decellerate the leg to prepare it for heel strike.  When the foot hits the ground and begins to load the hamstrings eccentrically contract to control hip flexion in the sagittal plane (so we dont fall on our face).  They eccentrically control tibial internal rotation in the transverse plane and help control hip adduction (in single limb stance with the glut med / min) in the frontal plane.  Distally, think of the hamstrings like reigns of a horse controlling and acellerating tibial rotation.  Once the foot gets to late midstance we have completed the loading phase and the muscles now concentrically contract to propel us forward. The hamstring concentrically contracts to extend the hip and externally rotate the tibia.  How well the hamstring (or any muscle) concentrically unloads or explodes contracts depends on how efficiently it eccentrically loads.  Based on the biomechanics and “functional” anatomy one can see how doing leg curls will not prepare you to walk, run or lunge.  When considering exercise for function or performance it is important to consider how the muscle or joints respond to gravity, ground reaction force (GRF) and momentum.  Gary Gray refers to this as training in the context in which you will actually utilize the muscle and joints in relation to GRF, gravity and momentum.


Some examples (above) of functional hamstring exercise consist of single leg (SL) squats w/ reaches, lunges with reaches, isom. SL squat w/ alternating cross reaches modified deadlifts, and SL mod. deadlifts.

Get Strong! Stay Strong!


OK, since I enjoy talking about function and biomechanics lets talk about how to turn on your butt!  Thought that might get someones attention.  Any way, the Gluteal/hip/ butt muscles are the “powerhouse” muscles.  We call them the big house or the cannon.  The first thing to do before “shooting” the cannon is to “load” the cannon.  In function this simply means you need to efficiently load (eccentrically)the gluteus muscles in order to effectively unload or more forcefully create a concentric contraction.  During the loading or pronation phase ( front foot hits the ground in lunge or gait)

   the function of the gluteus muscles (max, min and med) is to eccentrically control hip flexion in the sagittal plane, hip adduction in the frontal plane and femoral/hip internal rotation.  If you look at an anatomy picture of the gluteus maximus you will notice that the fiber orientation is primarily in the transverse plane.  This baby was designed for femoral/hip rotation (a significant component of lower extremity pronation)

The gluteus attaches proximally to the saccrum and the illiac crest and distally to the greater trochanter and blends with the tensor fascia latae (TFL) to form the illiotibial band.  The ITB attaches distally to the anterior/lateral aspect of the tibia.

So, for example, when you are walking and your foot hits the ground and begins to pronate, the calcaneus everts causing the tibia to advance forward and internally rotate (see “When Foot Hits Ground” post).  This creates a quick “pull” on the ITB, which creates a quick stretch on the gluteus thereby stimulating the butt to contract.  This is further accentuated by the femoral internal rotation that also eccentrically lengthens the gluteus maximus.  Remember that neurologically a muscle responds to a quick stretch (eccentric load) by concentrically contracting. Therefore, if one has limited calcaneal eversion (after ankle injury or immobilization) they will not be able to effectively and efficiently turn on the butt which leads to compensation and further problems.  There in lies the beauty of function!


Get Strong! Stay Strong!


Ladders arent just for climbing.  Great for fitness, sport, youth training and just plain fun for anyone.  Variety is the spice of everything.  Keep your workouts fresh.  These could be done as workout by itself or maybe do 1 pattern between sets of lower body exercise and do the leg patterns between your upper body exercise.  By filling in the rest time of your workout you can increase caloric expenditure.

Get Strong! Stay Strong!


Medial elbow pain known as “golfers” elbow and lateral elbow pain known as “tennis” elbow can be quite painful and debilitating.  Most people complain of difficulty with gripping and twisting activities and can make lifting difficult.  Numerous modalities can help this condition such as rest, ice, electrical stimulation, stretches and iontophoresis.  While treating these conditions can be challenging finding their cause is often difficult too.  Understanding functional relationships can provide insite into why that elbow is taking a beating.  While most professionals should know that shoulder dysfunction can contribute to elbow pain, many dont even consider the hips role.  As discussed in previous posts shoulder elevation is coupled with extension of the hip.  Another functional realtionship of the hip and shoulder is that shoulder rotation is coupled with hip rotation.  So whats this have to do with the elbow you ask?  Well, think of a forehand shot in tennis.  Where does the power come from to hit this shot?  Thats right, form the hip in the transverse plane. (yes i know the trunk is involved too, but I want to stay focused).  To hit the forehand forcefully you must first eccentrically load the same side hip in the transverse plane. 


This requires an adequate amount oh hip internal rotation (motion).  Most people due to inactivity, sitting, driving and sleeping in the fetal position lack “normal” hip internal rotation.  Therefore their ability to eccentrically load their hip in the transverse plane will be limited which means their ability to generate concentric force is diminished.  The end result being decreased power in the forehand shot.  To make up for this most people will swing harder with the arm subjecting the medial elbow to increased strain on the medial elbow joint.  They may also flex the wrist harder to try to increase power.  All these things done repetitively can build to the point of pain.  

For lateral elbow pain, consider the backhand shot in tennis.

 In order to hit the shot with power you have to first eccentrically load the opposite side hip in the transverse plane.  Again, if hip internal rotation is limited, eccentric force production will be diminished thereby decreasing the concentric contraction and negatively effecting the power of the backhand shot.  In this scenario the stress of swinging harder with the arm (to make up for the lack of hip power) increases stress to the lateral elbow and many will  “flick” the wrist harder to try to gain power.  These relationships can also be applied to everyday tasks such as pulling a sliding glass door shut.  See, the old song we sang as kids is true…”The leg bone is connected to the hip bone, the hip bone is connected to the”…you get the picture.  Little did I know that I would make a living applying the principle of that song.  Who said kindergarten skills are’nt useful!

Get Strong! Stay Strong!