Properly activating your glutes before starting any exercise is important to ensure safety and optimal performance. Complex lifts such as deadlifts or squats not only require a strong and engaged core, but also activation of your large leg and glute muscles to help generate a desired level of power for the movement.
A tight upper back may be attributed to stiffness in the shoulder, neck, or back muscles surrounding the thoracic spine. Rounded or slump shoulders, having sway in the lower back, or a forward head position due to weak back extensor muscles, short and tight chest muscles, or weak abdominal muscles may result in an individual having poor posture. Poor posture can place tension in the upper back and may result in irritation or pain. Sports, weightlifting, irregular sleeping positions, or car accidents may also cause tightness in the upper neck and back region. Mobilizing and strengthening the muscles surrounding the thoracic spine may relieve an individual of stiffness or pain, while improving an individual’s range of motion and functioning. Remember to have a balanced, upright posture by standing tall, bringing the shoulders down and back, tuck your chin, and keep a neutral spine to work on better posture.
Lie sideways on a mat or on the floor with both arms extended to one side and hands together. Bend the knee of the top leg to form a 90 degree angle. Place a long foam roller underneath the bent knee if you are unable to touch the ground with this top knee. Keeping your lower body in this position, twist your upper back by bringing the top arm over your body to the other side to touch the floor. Repeat 10-12 times, then lie on the other side and complete the same movement.
Begin in a table-top position with your knees hip-width apart and wrists shoulder-width apart on a mat or on the floor. Keep a neutral spine and head position. Move into the “cow” pose by inhaling as you drop your belly down towards the mat as you lift your chin and chest up to gaze toward the ceiling. Then move into the “cat” pose by exhaling as you draw your belly into your spine and round your back toward the ceiling. Repeat 10-15 times.
Begin seated in a chair with both feet planted on the floor or seated on the floor. Raise one arm up towards the ceiling. With your arm raised above your head, slowly bend to the opposite side. Return to the start position and lower your arm. Then raise the other arm and slowly bend to the opposite side. Repeat 5-10 times on each side.
Place a long foam roller perpendicular to your spine on a mat or on the floor underneath your shoulder blades. Interlace your fingers and place your hands behind your head to support the weight of your head. Slowly push with your feet to roll the foam roller up and down the thoracic region. Maintain a neutral spine and engage your abs.
This exercise helps to re-train muscle activation in the shoulder blades and mobilizes the muscles surrounding the thoracic spine for a better functional recovery. Place your hands and knees in a four point or table-top position with a neutral spine. Engage the inner core and start by walking one hand out to one side, then back to the centre, and then to the other side, then back to the centre again. Put full equal weight each time you place your hand down. Maintain a neutral spine throughout the exercise. Repeat for 30 seconds for 3 sets.
Knee and ACL injuries commonly occur in sports such as soccer, ultimate, and rugby. Athletes may require months to even more than a year to recover and to be able to return to play. There is a vast amount of literature describing a number of ways on how to prevent knee and ACL injuries. However, the most effective prevention strategies are the ones that are based on scientific evidence, a thorough assessment made by the coach and medical team, and the individual’s input.
Strongly suggested by research, programs most beneficial in preventing injuries consist of flexibility drills, running drills, strength training, core strength, and plyometrics. Each session should last approximately 20 minutes with a goal of exercising a minimum of 30 minutes per week. Programs should be implemented through out the year from preseason to regular season. Although most research studies focused on athletes between the ages of 12 and 25 years, these programs may benefit older individuals.
1) Toe Taps: Standing tall, kick one leg up and touch your toes to the palm of your hand. Alternate legs. Repeat 10 times on each side.
2) Reverse Lunge & Hop: Step back with one leg until you get into a lunge position. Swing the back leg forward until your knee is bent at a right angle by your chest. Maintain an upright body and repeat on the other side. Perform 10 repetitions on each side.
3) Calf Stretch: Standing tall on one leg, extend the other leg forward with only the heel in contact with the floor. Gently bend forward at the hips and feel a stretch along the front leg. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on other leg. Perform 3 times on each side.
Perform running drills such as forward and backward running or bounding. Watch Physiotherapist Claire lead two athletes through a series of running and other dynamic drills below.
1) Planks: Begin on the floor resting on your forearms and knees. Extend both legs until your whole body forms a straight line from the top of your head to your feet. Engage the core and glute muscles. Begin by holding this position for 30 seconds. Progress to 60 seconds or more to increase difficulty.
2) Glute Bridge: Begin on the floor with your back flat, legs bent at approximately 90 degrees and both feet on the ground. Place both arms to the side then engage your core as you lift your hips up. Hold for a second or two at the top as you squeeze your glute muscles.
1) Box Jumps: Use a box that is around your knee height or higher. Stand in front of the box with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend slightly downwards, swing your arms back, then swing them forward and explode up off the ground onto the box. Repeat 10 times.
2) Lateral Skater Jumps: Begin by standing on one leg and bend the other leg. Jump sidewards and land on the leg that was bent. Then switch sides. Repeat 10 on each side.
Ever feel pain or swelling on the side of your foot? These symptoms may be due to a condition called Cuboid Syndrome, also known as cuboid subluxation or lateral plantar neuritis. In addition to pain in the lateral mid-foot, redness and a restricted range of motion in the ankle may be present. This syndrome is typically associated with an inversion sprain of the ankle. This is when the foot is forced inwards causing the cuboid bone to sublux, or partially dislocate. The cuboid bone is located near the mid-point of the outer side of the foot and is one of the seven tarsal bones that make up the arch of the foot. It connects the foot and ankle as well as provides stability to the foot.
The peroneus longus muscle is a muscle that runs along the outer side of the lower leg and attaches to the lateral side of the foot. Repetitive strain of this muscle due to activities such as ballet, jumping, or running, may place tension on the cuboid bone. Commonly found in athletes, Cuboid Syndrome may also occur in sports such basketball, football, or soccer. Weight-bearing, uneven pavement, or quick changes in direction that occur in sports may aggravate symptoms. A third cause of this syndrome may be an individual’s altered foot biomechanics. Athletes who have over-pronated feet, also known as flat feet, may be more prone to cuboid subluxation.
Imaging such as x-rays, MRIs, and CT scans can be used to rule out other causes of pain. However, a cuboid subluxation can be difficult to diagnose and therefore, must be carefully assessed by a general physician or other health care professional.
Daily strengthening and mobility exercises should be performed on a pain-free basis to prevent the foot and ankle from becoming weak or stiff. Watch the videos below on how to properly perform strengthening exercises:
Other treatment options include foot support such as padding, taping, or orthotics to help stabilize the bones of the midfoot or correct for over-pronation. Rest from repetitive, weight-bearing actions such as jumping or running may help alleviate pain. Ice affected area for 10 minutes at a time to reduce swelling and inflammation. Consult your family physician, physical therapist, or podiatrist to perform a manipulation if the cuboid bone is suspected to be dislocated.
Finger sprains commonly occur in sports and every day activities that involve heavy lifting or repetitive hand motions. Falls or contact sports such as football may even force a finger out of its normal joint position resulting in a dislocation. The force to the finger may cause joints in the finger to hyperextend or move sideways. Sprains of the finger are classified according to the extent of injury or damage.
1) Grade I – Mild: A first degree sprained finger is present when the ligaments are only stretched but not ruptured. There may be localized swelling, slight pain, and slight reduction in range of motion, but strength remains unaffected. An individual may continue to engage in an activity. Taping of the injured finger may be more effective. Recovery is immediate.
2) Grade II – Moderate: A second degree sprained finger occurs when there is partial ligament tears, a greater reduction in range of motion and some loss of strength with more swelling and pain. The joint capsule may also be damaged. Recovery will take longer.
3) Grade III – Severe: A third degree sprained finger involves complete rupture of the ligament, complete loss of range of motion and typically dislocation of the finger. Significant pain and swelling is present. X-ray is required for diagnosis and surgery may be indicated.
In the first 48 to 72 hours after the sprain, the individual should protect the finger by taping it to the adjacent finger or by using a finger brace. Apply ice for about 15 min every two hours with a small ice pack wrapped in a dry towel or use a large cup filled with cold water and some ice for immersion.
Once swelling has gone down, the individual may begin light range of motion exercises by placing a soft object such as a tennis ball or rolled sock in the palm of the hand and gently squeezing the object. Repeat 10 times and stop if any pain arises. Surgery may be indicated for third degree sprains. Consult a physician for the appropriate diagnosis.
1) Ball Grip: Hold a ball in the palm of the hand with all fingers enclosing the ball and gently squeeze. Hold, then relax.
2) Pinch: Place a ball between the thumb and index finger. Gently squeeze, then relax.
3) Opposition: Hold a ball with the thumb and pinky finger. Gently squeeze the ball using the two fingers, then relax.
4) Side-Squeeze: Place a ball between any two fingers and gently squeeze, then relax.
Overuse injuries are commonly found in dancers due to their intense training regimes. Nearly 60 to 90% of dancers experience an injury or multiple injuries during their careers (Steinberg, Siev-Ner, Peleg, et al., 2013). These injuries include chrondromalacia patella (“runner’s knee”), Achilles tendinopathy, and metatarsal (foot) fractures. Some major causes of injury may be due to anatomic structure, genetics, training regime, improper technique, floor surfaces, age, body mass index, muscle imbalance, nutrition, and menstrual function (Steinberg et al., 2013).
Dance typically includes being on the toes and forefoot in a extreme plantar flexion position, known as “en pointe.” Individuals with poor balance and landing techniques will experience higher ground reaction forces which may subsequently strain the back, knees, and ankles. Incorrect form in many non-professional dancers entail a valgus knee position (knees caved inwards) and hip adduction. Conversely, mature, experienced dancers are able to rely on stronger hip and knee joint muscles to stabilize themselves during landing from jumps. Young dancers also experience lower back pain. Causative factors include high preseason training intensity, history of low back pain, low body weight, scoliosis, and stress fracture in the pars articularis of the spine (Steinberg et al., 2013).
Studies have recommended minimal exposure for young dancers to overload exercises, especially those involving the spine and caution with extensive stretching exercises (Steinberg et al., 2013).
Here are a few essential tips to reduce the risk of injury:
|Steinberg, N., Siev-Ner, I., Peleg, S., Dar, G., Masharawi, Y., Zeev, A., & Hershkovitz, I. (2013). Injuries in Female Dancers Aged 8 to 16 Years. Journal of Athletic Training, 48(1), 118–123. http://doi.org/10.4085/1062-6050-48.1.06|
Acute sprains and strains may impede performance and delay return to a sport. Proper management, treatment, and prevention is essential to recovering effectively. An athlete must first understand the definition and recognize the differences between a “sprain” and a “strain.” A sprain is defined as a violent overstretching of one or more ligaments in a joint. A sprain can result in pain, tenderness, swelling or bruising at the joint. A strain is defined as a stress or direct injury to the muscle or tendon. A strain may also cause pain when moving or stretching the injured muscle, but can also cause muscle spasms.
1) Grade I – Mild Strain: slightly pulled muscle with no muscle or tendon tears and no loss of strength and low levels of pain
2) Grade II – Moderate Strain: partial tearing of the muscle or tendon at the bone attachment with reduced strength, moderate pain levels
3) Grade III – Severe Strain: complete rupture of muscle-tendon-bone attachment with separation, substantial loss in strength and high levels of pain
1) Grade I – Mild Sprain: minor tearing of some ligament, no loss of function
2) Grade II – Moderate Sprain: partial rupture of portion of ligament, moderate loss of function
3) Grade III – Severe Sprain: complete rupture of ligament or separation of ligament from bone, substantial loss of function
2) ICE: Sudden cold may help constrict capillaries and blood vessels to slow or restrict internal bleeding. Place an ice pack between a towel or dry cloth. Apply ice every hour for 10 to 20 minutes at a time.
3) COMPRESS: Compression can help reduce swelling post-injury. Wrap the injured part firmly with an elasticized bandage, compression sleeve, or a cloth. Do NOT wrap the cloth too tightly as it may cut off blood circulation and lead to more swelling.
4) ELEVATE: Elevate the injured part about level of the heart to reduce swelling and pain. Place a soft object such as a pillow or piece of clothing to use as a prop below the body part.
Continue to follow the above RICE method for two to three days post-injury. Daily stretching may help loosen the muscle. Key to prevention is to stretch the tight muscles and strengthen the weak muscles.
Watch the videos below on how to recover from a common ankle sprain or shoulder strain:
Rock climbing is a fun, but challenging activity that requires strength, endurance, and skill. It is important to strengthen your arms and legs to move up near-vertical or overhanging rock. Having a strong core and torso will help keep the body balanced and up against the wall during the climb. Check out the following exercises below that to help condition your body before you tackle your next mountain or rock climbing wall.
Weak scapular muscles can lead to an array of injuries including shoulder impingement, rotator cuff tears, and other shoulder-related pains. Pain may be followed by a restricted range of motion and may severely worsen if left untreated. Strengthening the scapular muscles can provide long-term benefits for rehabilitation and performance. Try the five following exercises below:
1. Lie down flat on a bench with a light dumbbell in each hand.
2. Hold the dumbbells on either side of your chest with the palms facing away from your shoulders and your elbow at a 90 degree angle.
3. Push your arms upwards and feel your shoulder blades separate. Remember to keep the dumbbells parallel to each other until the very top of the press.
3. Inhale and slowly bring down both dumbbells to the sides of your chest until you reach the 90 degree angle at the elbow. Breathe out on your next rep. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps.
1. Stand a few steps away from a wall, then place your hands on the wall so that they are slightly more than shoulder-width apart and arms are locked out.
2. Maintain a neutral back and neck, then slowly lean towards the wall by bending your elbow.
3. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you lower yourself and hold this forward position for 2-3 seconds.
4. Slowly straighten your arm and relax your shoulder blades. Repeat 10 times.
1. In a comfortable standing position, hold a light band in between both hands about shoulder-width apart.
2. Pull the band as wide as you can, then slowly bring the arms back to the starting position. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps.
1. Lie on your stomach on a bench or Swiss ball with a light dumbbell in each hand.
2. Straighten your arms so that the dumbbell is in front of your head.
3. Lift the dumbbells up, keeping your arms straight, to make a “Y” shape with your torso.
4. Slowly lower them down. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps.
1. Hold a very light dumbbell straight in front of you at approximately 45 degree angle.
2. Maintain this position for about 10 seconds.
3. Then, slowly lower the dumbbell to the side of your body. Perform 10 holds on each side.
BONUS: Watch this video to learn an extra exercise for the scapula muscles!