Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Knees and ACLs

As women, we are already more prone to ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury. This is in part due to our hip and knee structures and to the still misguided belief, even among some sports coaches, that lifting heavy isn't for women.

 Because we're built for reproduction, our hips are set wider and this causes our legs to assume an inward angle at the knees, called the Q-angle, and it's several degrees greater in women than men. Because of this, during squats, deadlifts, pivots and jumps, women's knees tend to roll inward to a greater degree. In sports where there is a lot of acceleration and/or cases for impact (think basketball and soccer), this inward rolling and rotation puts the ACL at vulnerable position. If an athlete hasn't built up the proper support strength around the knee and hasn't been drilled on knee position relative to hips and feet, you're looking at a high rate of ACL injuries.

Unfortunately, you still hear, particularly in high school, coaches of women's sports shy away from putting their athletes through heavy lifting programs due to the fear of women getting bulky or losing speed and flexibility. Of course we all know that's poppycock.

There are several way to cue knees out during squats, deadlifts and jumps, and this is important for both men and women. A mental picture I've heard used several times to to imagine that your feet are on plates and you are trying to rotate those plates out from the hips without actually moving your feet. Keeping that tension in your hips throughout the movement should help keep the knees moving out in the direction of the feet.

I find that many times the rolling in of the knees seems to happen at the ankles. If the plate imagery doesn't work, I'm telling my clients to try to keep the pressure on the outside of their heel and midfoot, letting them know their arches are collapsing and ankles are rolling in. Usually one of these cues works and after a few session of cuing and poking at them, they start to make it a habit.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hip Angle for a Flat Back

Each new person I've worked with so far has needed some help with maintaining a flat back, and for many, it seems that the cue "hips back" or "stick out your butt" work really well. Check out the illustration below:

Where the spine attaches to the hips does not rotate like your knees or shoulders do. So, if you want to have your back maintain that neutral curvature, you're going to have to tilt the hips in the direction that you're moving.  When you bend down to grab a bar for a deadlift or clean, you're going to have to adjust your hip tilt forward to maintain that lower back curvature. Cues to consider are trying to point your tail bone up or pushing your booty back. Ultimately you're using your spinal erectors to keep position.

Just another way in which working out can fuel a lot of raunchy jokes.

Anyway, being able to maintain this proper pelvic tilt is also important in maintaining back  position in overhead moves where over arching in the lower back often occurs. In these cases, many people are allowing their hips to roll forward. Here it's important to think about maintaining normal distance between your ribcage and your hips.

Have fun and stick your butt out! 

Thursday, November 17, 2011


I just found a gold mine of medical seminars intended for the public, all made available through UC San Francisco's Mini Medical School for the Public program.

Search and be amazed:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Humility and Accomplishment

This is my article inspiration for today: Olympian to CrossFit

My take away was something I had been thinking about during training sessions recently, how humility paves the way for accomplishment. And you can make some real predictions about a person's success at any given task by they way they handle each.

I'm going to take a particular example from one of my clients. When we first started working together, she was terrified of jumping on the 8 inch box we had, and claimed to possessed no explosive power or athletic ability. I took her through some progressive workouts, and she attacked them all, not caring if she failed or not. A couple months later, she jumps on 18 inch boxes and can back squat 155 lbs. And while she might glare at me during a metcon, she beams at what she did when it's over.

Some other people take a task given to them, try a few times, feel awful and say "let's move on." There are people terrified of failure, they beat themselves up, and whether they know it or not, sell themselves short because trying 100% might mean failing 100%.

First, you have to have the humility to attempt a task at 100% effort and fail. If you want to eventually get somewhere you haven't gone yet, you have to admit that you're not there and you want to be. That takes humility and courage.

So get back to the gym, put your ego in your gym bag for later, and start working.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Continued Education and Issues with Authority

This post isn't really about fitness. More of a rant about myself.

I love to read. And I love to learn. I have lots of strength training and nutrition books, texts, manuals, what have you at home. And I follow several sites on the same topics. You'd think that getting my Continued Education Units (CEUs) would be quick and easy.

Except it's not. Why? Because I have to. And therefore, my procrastination habit kicks into full gear. Plus, I just don't like being TOLD what I have to do.

Not proud of it. I have two months left and 5 credits to account for. I'd better get cracking, I studied too hard and am too proud of my CSCS to let it lapse. :P