Earlier this year one of our tutors injured his back whilst training. It’s not the first time he’s done it, but hopefully it will be the last. The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time as he was training to compete in a fitness competition which involved max lifting and endurance work.
Initially he was fairly annoyed with himself and attributed the injury to over training or under recovery between sessions. However, during his rehab which involved tens of sessions with the Chiropractor and Sports Therapist, it was evident that the main contributing factor to the injury was poor mobility and range of movement. Although you could argue this was still down to poor programming, he thought his range of movement was good with ‘ass to grass’ squats and no real issue with any overhead work.
How wrong was he? During his rehab he spent a lot of time and money working with the Chiropractor and Sports Therapist. The Sports Therapist was actually another tutor of ours who delivers the Sports Massage courses and has a vast amount of experience working in the NHS and with professional rugby teams. Together the Chiropractor and Therapist identified a muscular imbalance around the pelvic area resulting in poor pelvic control and tight muscles, which hampered his key movements such as the squat. Although he thought his squat was good and strong, the bottom phase resulted in a loss of control and a pelvic tilt causing the lower back to round slightly. This small movement combined with heavy loads is what resulted in a perforated disk between the L5 and S1 vertebrae. His back spasmed terribly resulting in him not being able to stand out of a chair, lie down, shower or even walk without assistance.
Although this instability was clear when you watched him squat, it wasn’t clear for him as he had no side view. During our Sports Massage courses and Personal Training qualification we often use the squat and overhead squat as an assessment tool to check range of movement, mobility as well as thoracic, lumbar and pelvic stability. Even though our tutor has ten years’ experience working as a personal trainer and a well sought after coach, he fell into the trap of not seeking support or feedback from other trainers and coaches, as a result he missed out on a competition which he had trained for for almost 12 months. Just because you feel you are an accomplished trainer, something we reinforce on our Sports Massage course and Personal Trainer courses is that you become biased and possibly short sighted when it comes to your own training. Seeking another professional’s advice or guidance isn’t a sign of weakness or poor knowledge, but rather a sign of a confident trainer / athlete who wants to improve their performance.
Throughout the rehab he worked on mobility improving the range of movement around his hips, thoracic cavity and shoulders. His hamstrings, hip flexors and pectorals were really tight. These are not uncommon in people who train and most therapists refer to these as the big three. His rehab involved static / assisted stretching, PNF stretching and lots of Sports Massage. As well as this the Chiropractor and Sports Therapist together identified weak areas around the pelvis / hips which also contributed to poor stability in the lumbar spine during the last range of the squat. Using exercises like the ‘Duck Walk’, banded clams, isometric squats and lots of single leg work such as split squats, Bulgarian split squats and single leg leg presses etc, the instability has improved.
He is now back training at a 100% and has increased his intensity of lifts (higher weight) on almost all compound exercises. His speed under the bar is now far quicker, meaning he can lift more and be more efficient in his Olympic lifts such as the clean and snatch. Training for strength is different to hypertrophy. Body building / hypertrophy training involves an increased time under tension for the working muscle – this has been linked with better results and more growth. Although there is a cross over and this will help strength to some degree, strength training is better with a fast contraction. There are several studies which have concluded that a fast eccentric phase of a lift will result in a fast concentric phase of the lift, this in return will result in a heavier load being lifted. Louie Simmons who is the most renowned strength coach and owns Westside Barbell (the strongest gym in the world) preaches this and his lifters have broken over a 100 world records and hold 3 out of the top 5 totals for power lifting… he knows his stuff! During our Personal Training courses we discuss the difference in training styles in far more detail.
The increased speed is a direct result of improved mobility and less restriction (muscles not as tight) which is what he’s achieved through working with our Sports Massage course tutor and the Chiropractor. In 2016 he is expecting to improve all his lifts even further and smash all his PB’s. He plans to continue working with the therapist to improve mobility even further but also for prevention work rather than rehabilitation.
So, if you train hard and the intensity of your training is almost maximal, we advise that you work with a coach, therapist or another professional to help spot any imbalances, weaknesses or technique issues which could be holding you back from progressing further or even result in an injury like our tutor did.
We hope you found this short article helpful. The FLM Training team would also like to take this opportunity to wish you all the best for 2016 and happy lifting.