3 Muscles to Stretch for a More Powerful Tennis Serve

The feeling of a hard-overhand smash for the winning game point, or the bullet ace serve to preserve a victory can be indescribable!  To accomplish this feat, the body has to work in harmony with all of your joints having the mobility to act as a unit.  Any dysfunction in one area such as your ankles, and you can’t generate the power needed to hit that winning shot.  Because you sit most of the day at work, your body molds itself into movement patterns that aren’t conducive to a winning tennis game, even if you are taking lessons.  I’m going to help you with the three body parts to stretch than can give you the mobility you need to be the consistent winning player.

Prone Band Assisted Hip Flexor Stretch
  1. Hip Flexors – When you sit all day, your hip flexors and quadriceps are in a constant contracted position, which makes them overly tight.  Over time, this pulls your hips into a forward and downward tilt, making it difficult and painful to stand-up straight.  Tight hip flexors and quadriceps do not allow full hip extension at the height of your overhand smash or serve.  You limit your power and ability to flex your lower back and also bring your shoulder back into proper position.  Stretch your hip flexors and quads before and after each practice and match.  Hold the stretch for 20 seconds each, you can do one or two sets of stretches. 
  2. Biceps – Having your elbows bent, typing on your computer keeps your biceps in a constant slightly contracted state.  Over time, this leads to tightness and an inability to extend your arms fully.  If you can’t get full arm and shoulder extension, there is now way to get on top of the ball to hit it accurately and with power.  Tight biceps can also lead to tight forearm flexors, which contributes to tennis elbow.  Racquet sports such as tennis have been linked to tennis elbow due to the high biomechanical stresses placed on the forearm and wrist with gripping and swinging the racquet (Abrams, Renstrom, & Safran, 2012). In an overhead tennis serve, the wrist extensors must contract to assist in decelerating the forward moving arm.  Making sure your biceps have flexibility and full elbow range of motion is crucial to proper form in any overhead motion.  Similar to the hip flexors, perform a couple sets of stretches for each arm before and after practice or a match.
  3. Pectorals – In performing overhead squat assessments with clients, a typical symptom seen are the arms falling forward from tight pectoral muscles.  These muscles are also typically contracted from hunching over a computer or device all day.  The shoulders round and close in from hands being on a keyboard and wrapped around a phone or tablet.  Leaning into your screen also adds to this tightening with a forward head position.  You can see this noticeably on people who have a closed off appearance with their shoulders.  Tight chest muscles don’t allow for full shoulder retraction to get the racquet behind your head and extended for power and accuracy.  Bend your arm into an L position with the forearm at a 90-degree angle to your upper arm.  With erect posture, lean into any doorway and hold the stretch for 20 seconds.
Standing Pectoral Stretch
Static Biceps Stretch

Obviously practicing and working with a professional is optimal for developing a powerful and consistent service game.  Don’t underestimate the power you lose from these tight muscle groups.  Integrate the stretches into your practice and training to see better results than solely working with a coach.  You’re not investing time and money just to be average, take this info and raise your game to the next level!

To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com.  I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies.  Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.  Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!

3 Reasons Why CrossFit Makes Orthopedic Surgeons Rich

In my first full year as a personal trainer in 2009, the same gym member at the Laguna Hills 24 Hour Fitness in Laguna Hills, CA, would ask me every week if I heard of CrossFit.  My same answer was no, I wasn’t negative, I really had no idea.  Fast forward through the next 10 years and the marketing machine CrossFit is gained massive ground throughout the United States.  With it, orthopedic surgeons nationwide saw a surge in profits from CrossFit related injuries by deconditioned people attempting lifts and workouts their bodies were not prepared for.

Yes, this blog will be controversial because like politics, there is a distinct line between religious CrossFit box members, and the rest of America’s gym population.  Olympic lifts like the deadlift, clean, and snatch, are the foundation of CrossFit.  There is nothing wrong with doing those lifts in good form and technique.  All advanced gym goers need to incorporate them as part of an all-around fitness program.  Read that last sentence again and let it sink in. 

Photo by Victor Freitas on Pexels.com

Olympic lifts require joint mobility of the shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles, all working in unison to generate power for the speed necessary to complete them.  Any miscue from improper form can result in anything from a torn rotator cuff, to torn knee tendons and ligaments.  Let’s add the basic coordination needed to maneuver a loaded bar from the ground to shoulder height and above.

Photo by Victor Freitas on Pexels.com

Three reasons why the sedentary executive and office worker make orthopedic surgeons rich:

  1. Lack of ankle mobility:  What do ankle joints have to do with anything?  Tight calf muscles and weak shin muscles lack the flexibility for a person to use their glutes for generating power.  A person leans forward because they can’t keep their heels flat on the ground when squatting.  This puts excessive force on the knees and hips, while also limiting balance capabilities because the person’s body weight and loaded weight are moving forward instead of vertical.
  2. Weak glute muscles:  Sitting for long periods of time weakens the glutes by overstretching them.  This also pulls the hips out of alignment and doesn’t allow a person to stand up straight and support their upper body.  The glutes are the largest muscles in the body and are essential for generating power in a deadlift, squat, and lunge.  Corresponding tight quadriceps cannot do the lifting alone and open a person up for knee and low back injuries.
  3. Lack of shoulder mobility:  A person sitting at their laptop and device all day has tight pectoral and latissimus dorsi muscles.  These muscles help keep the shoulders stable and your arms pushing straight over your head.  When your arms fall forward int an overhead squat, any load above your head is now moving forward and you’re going with it.  Really, you can’t even bring it into proper position because your muscles won’t allow it.  Torn rotator cuff, scapular injuries, and head injuries from dropping it can and do result.

CrossFit athletes experience injury rates to the shoulder that are comparable to Olympic weightlifting, rugby, football, gymnastics, or ice hockey (Klimek, Ashbeck, Brook, & Durall, 2018). In weightlifting, Olympic lifting, and CrossFit, risk factors for shoulder injuries include poor mobility and strength, lifting heavy loads overhead, quick and explosive movements like the snatch and jerk, and kipping pull-ups (Klimek et al., 2018).

These are just three of many potential injuries novice and beginners who start CrossFit programs experience.  Orthopedic surgeons love being located in the same strip mall as a CrossFit box for this reason.  Add to this, the fast pace of a CrossFit workout for someone that can’t run a mile without stopping at least once to walk or rest.  Are you one of the unlucky ones who fit into everything I’ve mentioned so far? 

Before you start any advanced type of fitness program, ensure your joints work in harmony.  Investing into something fun and enjoyable doesn’t have to come at a high physical cost that jeopardizes your ability to perform your job.  CrossFit has a place in the fitness world for those ready for the physical and mental challenge.  Establish yourself first with someone like me to ensure you learn proper lifting techniques, have mobility in all of your joints, and can sustain higher intensity workouts.

To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com.  I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies.  Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.  Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!

Low Back Pain: The Silent Killer From Sitting

Back pain.  What does your mind conjure up when you read those words, someone says they have back pain, or you hear about it from an advertisement?  The back is a large general area on you body and pain can radiate from all areas.  I have hurt my back a few times lifting weights on maximal type lifts, and moving in the same manner I do on a daily basis in the gym.  Where do most people who sit all day experience pain?  In their low back, and that’s also precisely where I injure myself also.

The presence of low back pain is significant in U.S. society with up to 35% of individuals experiencing reduced activity due to chronic back conditions and approximately 7% of that number with back issues that persist for 6 months or more (U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2019).  What executives, professionals, and older adults don’t often understand is their posture from sitting all day is the main culprit to their back pain.  You don’t have to sling heavy loads on a farm or construction site to put your low back at risk for chronic pain.  Overuse injuries are also based on posture and position, not just physical actions of the same repetitive motions.

Low back pain is very complex with several potential causes, which include but are not limited to muscle imbalances, decreased mobility, disc pathology, facet joint dysfunction, joint degeneration (spondylosis), and spinal instability (Cheatham & Kolber, 2016).   Let’s take a person who sits an average of eight hours a day between the commute and their career.  The muscles of the Lumbopelvic Hip Complex (LPHC), take on the brunt of sitting sins, which manifest themselves into low back pain (LBP).  Sitting weakens the glutes and hamstrings while tightening the quadriceps, hip flexors, and adductor complex.  In short, this means a person cannot bend their knees to lower themselves down into a squat position.  Whenever they bend down to pick up a box, bag of mulch, barbell, etc., they use the muscles of their low back instead of their glutes and quads in unison.  The low back is not built to take on such loads and is now compromised for high injury potential.  The weight of the load itself also does not need to be of a maximal resistance.

In my upcoming book, An Athlete in the Game of Life, due out in late 2020, I specifically discuss how these types of muscle dysfunctions in your 40’s can negatively affect life 20 years and more into the future.  Let’s give one example in my blog of the how and why LBP can be detrimental.  The body likes to be efficient in all movement, using the path of least resistance.  When one muscle group dominates another, it creates dysfunction and altered length-tension relationships.  In normal language it creates what I explained in the previous paragraph, one muscle group substitutes doing the work of the primary group because the body is used to moving in that way from tightness and weakness.  This in turn makes other joints of the body compensate for the dysfunction and imbalances leading to pain in say the knees or neck because everything must shift just to pick up that case of water.  Over time, you repeat this process as the “new normal” and the nerves reroute everything to this altered pattern.  One day you shift a little differently and BAM!!!  Now you’re stuck hunched over in extreme agony and out of work.

Did that scenario ring a bell for you or someone else you know?  Hopefully it rang an alarm also!  Hurting your back once makes you prone to hurting it again worse the next time unless you stretch, strengthen, and relearn the proper movements for picking up that case of water properly.  Obviously, you’re very successful in your career and don’t have time to workout hours daily.  This is where involving a Corrective Exercise Specialist as myself can assist you to be your best while not compromising your career and income.

Photo by August de Richelieu on Pexels.com

Suffering silently and thinking LBP is part of the sacrifice you pay for being a successful executive is false.  You don’t need surgery as the first responder.  Stretch those quadriceps and hip flexors a few times a day and add some hamstring and glute strengthening exercises before or after work in your bedroom. 10 minutes a day can pay big dividends now and 25 years down the road, guaranteed!

To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com.  I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies.  Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.  Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!

Considering SI Joint Surgery? Think Again

There’s a commercial currently playing on the talk radio station I listen to in my home area of New Orleans, LA, selling a minimally invasive procedure to alleviate SI joint pain, sacroiliac joint.  I know many surgeries that used to require a night or two in the hospital are now outpatient, this is probably one of them.  Is surgery really the answer when an exercise prescription and work modification could give you the same result?

SI and iliofemoral joint areas

What and where is your SI joint?  The pelvis and the sacrum compose the sacroiliac joint.  In conjunction with the iliofemoral joint, these joints account for movement and muscle attachment points for the LPHC (lumbopelvic hip complex).  Muscles above and below this area come together so we can walk, jump, run, twist, support, and stabilize the transition between the upper and lower body. The sacrum is set between the left and right ilia like a keystone. This is where the axial skeleton attaches to the pelvic girdle and the appendicular skeleton of the lower extremity. There is little movement at this joint which is classified as a diarthrodial joint (Cheatham & Kolber, 2016).

SI joint pain is a form of low back pain. Mechanisms that may contribute to sacroiliac pain include but are not limited to LPHC muscle imbalances, neuromotor weakness, trauma, overuse, poor sitting posture, and pregnancy (Cheatham & Kolber, 2016).  Most people don’t treat their bodies well by sitting extended hours daily at home and work and eating poorly to put on excessive weight.  These daily habits create pain that is first annoying to intolerable.  When they go to a doctor who makes a living on surgeries, that’s the option they are given.  Because bloodwork doesn’t show muscle tightness and weakness from poor posture and overuse, a person thinks surgery is their only option to alleviate the pain.  Is this you?  Probably so.

Low back pain is the most common form of pain around the world.  Most of it is manageable to preventable through exercise and wellness.  Similar to weight gain, low back pain doesn’t happen and end in one day, it happens over time until you notice it and can’t stand the discomfort.   85% of male gymnasts, 80% of weightlifters, 69% of wrestlers, 58% of soccer players, 50% of tennis players, 30% of golfers, and 60 to 80% of the general population were reported to have LBP (Daniels, Pontius, El-Amin, & Gabriel, 2011). Individuals who have LBP are significantly more likely to have additional low back injuries, which can predispose the individual to future osteoarthritis and long-term disability.

“But my job chains me to a desk all day and I get paid really well.  Am I supposed to quit my job and be in a gym all day?”  Of course not, silly.  Working from home obviously has added more stress to your life overall because you’re not set up to work 10-hour days at your dining room table or small desk in the bedroom.  Reducing and possibly eliminating SI joint pain starts with stretching muscles around the hips, like the quadriceps and abdominals.  When you sit, your knees are bent, and you lean forward into the screen.  This contracts the quadriceps and abdominals for long periods of time, causing them to be in a constant tightened condition.  The corresponding hamstrings and low back muscles get weak and can’t function to their standard potential either. 

SI joint pain areas

Sacroiliac joint pain primarily occurs around the posterior buttocks or sacroiliac region and can refer into the groin or down the posterior, lateral leg to the knee in some individuals (Cheatham & Kolber, 2016; Kurosawa et al., 2017).  A simple way to reduce SI joint pain is by daily stretching of your quadriceps and abdominals to assist the body in maintaining proper length-tension relationships in those areas.  Review the pictures below for examples on stretches.  To strengthen the weak muscles of your hamstrings and low back, add a couple sets of glute bridges, prone cobra, and/or planks.  Over a couple weeks, you can ease the pain without leaving the house and needing any equipment.  These suggestions are not the be all end all for helping your low back pain.  Working with a specialist such as myself, can provide you with more detailed info and corrections to last longer. 

Abdominal stretch
Standing quadriceps stretch

The low back area is affected by tightness in your ankle areas and weakness in your cervical spine areas, it truly is a complex problem.  By addressing a 1-2 muscle groups directly above and below the SI joint, you can avoid surgery.  Remember, follow the money.  Doctors know surgeries and prescriptions, not much on postural distortions and nutrition.  Find a fitness and nutrition professional to help decipher your individual issues.  Ask your company for help with standing desks and ergonomic chairs.  Worker’s comp is expensive.  Any investment to keep you at work generating a paycheck for your family is worth it.

To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com.  I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies.  Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.  Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!

How do You Know if Pain in Your Knee is From Your Knee?

Have you ever been to the doctor for pain or injury in one area, and come to find out it was caused by a weakness from another body part you had no idea was weak?  Pain radiating in your knees could be caused by a dysfunction in your hips or ankles.  All you know is that your knee hurts when you step a certain way, for example.  The term explaining this phenomenon is called regional interdependence.  What it basically means is the body relies on the surrounding areas of a joint to make that joint functional and stable.  A more scientific explanation when referring to your hips is, the body is an interconnected chain and compensation or dysfunction in the LPHC (Lumbar-Pelvic-Hip Complex) region can lead to dysfunctions in other areas of the body (Cheatham & Kreiswirth, 2014).

Poor posture causes pain throughout the body

Relax, regional interdependence doesn’t mean you’re a hot mess because your knee hurts.  By understanding the signs your body gives that something isn’t right allows you to make a more informed decision on what may be the cause.  Let’s continue on with the example of your knees experiencing pain.  The knees play a critical role connecting your ankles to your hips.  They show compensations from tight muscles, weak muscles, and any injury you have or had above and below them.  In previous blogs I discussed a few specific knee injuries, their causes, and ways to prevent future recurrences.  Please read them if you haven’t to get a better understanding of a problem you are experiencing.

When I work with clients as a Corrective Exercise Specialist, this regional interdependence is what I first assess to determine where is the cause of their pain or muscle dysfunction.  Most people don’t understand how much their daily sedentary patterns play on their joints.  The typical response of “I’m just old,” is not the answer to why you have troubles bending down to tie your shoes.  Let’s examine overall the lower body response to sitting for 6-8 hours daily:

Tight hip flexors, groin muscles and quadriceps

Weak hamstrings, glutes, and hip rotators

Tight calf muscles if your feet are in high heels or don’t touch flat on the floor

Weak shin muscles (anterior tibialis)

The results of these general muscle imbalances are overall fatigue, inability to use proper lifting form per OSHA (bending at the knees not hips to lift heavy objects), and higher injury potential if you’re physically active (gym, pickleball, tennis, golf).  Your “new normal” is not normal at all.  Your brain has adapted its neural pathways to align with your muscle imbalances to make you feel like this the way your body should move.  Does this start to make sense and ring a bell for why you have that nagging pain or discomfort?

With work culture changing to working from home, more device connectivity, and less overall physical activity, these movement problems will continue at an alarming rate.  I haven’t even mentioned what happens to your back and neck!  Muscles work in tandem.  If one side of your joint is tight, say quadriceps, the other is week, say your hamstrings.  Another way to think is your muscles push and pull.  If either is tight, the corresponding is weak.  The NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist textbook says, when a situation of overactivity-underactivity exists between muscles on two sides of a joint (e.g., the agonist is overactive/shortened and the antagonist is underactive/lengthened), a muscle imbalance is said to exist.

The goal of what I do with clients and what you need to think about, is bringing your muscles more into balance first, then work on improving the areas that are important for your hobbies and lifestyle.  Nobody is every perfectly aligned, and that’s ok, you always have something to work on!  Remember, regional interdependence affects how your body responds to pain from what you do the majority of your day.  Take a few minutes every hour and at least stretch the overly tight muscles.  I promise you will thank me now and down the road! To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com.  I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies.  Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.  Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!

3 Exercises For ACL Injury Prevention

You hear and read about them all the time in professional sports.  If you’re lucky, or unlucky enough to  watch a game when it happens, your stomach usually gets a little queasy.  Sometimes they happen and nobody even touches the athlete, he or she just goes down in a heap wincing in pain.  Have you guessed what I’m talking about?  If you said, “ACL injuries for $1,000, Matt,” then you are correct!

“But I’m not an athlete now,” or “I sit at my desk all day, there is no way I can have a torn ACL.”  Your statements may have some merit, but not totally.  ACL injuries are the most common type of non-contact knee injury in the United States.  According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine Corrective Exercise Specialist textbook: ACL injuries can affect both males and females of all ages and it is estimated that there are over 200,000 ACL injuries annually in the United States (Donnell-Fink et al., 2015).  There are not 200,000 pro football, basketball, and soccer players in the U.S., so the numbers have to come from other sources.

Many ACL injuries occur from indirect contact, such as changing direction and cutting, due to altered lower-extremity neuromusculoskeletal control imbalances resulting from anterior forces, lateral forces, rotational forces or a combination of all three forces on the knee (Gagnier, Morgenstern, & Chess, 2013; Paterno et al., 2010; Weiss & Whatman, 2015).  What does all this technical jargon mean for you, the person over 35 who maybe is just a casual gym member or enjoys being active?  It means you are still susceptible to an ACL injury through overuse of muscles doing the same activity, and/or underuse from poor posture and sitting.

The good news, with a few adjustments to your workout routine, ACL injuries can be reduced by 51 to 62% (Gagnier et al., 2013).  Even if you don’t workout and just enjoy activities like tennis, hiking, golf, or gardening, implementing the following types of exercises can pay big dividends in keeping your knees safe.

Three exercises to lower your chances of an ACL injury:

Side lunge
  • Side lunges – step out to one side laterally with both feet pointing forward.  Keeping your knee also pointing forward, lower yourself to where your thigh is parallel to the floor and your opposite leg is straight, butt out like you’re sitting down.  Then extend your knee standing back up and return to the starting position.  Repeat all one side or alternate, using just your body weight first and progressing to added resistance as you get confident and stronger.  Do 12-15 reps per leg as a beginning point.
  • Side shuffles – get into athletic position and shuffle without crossing your feet.  Take it slow at first making sure you stay low with your knees pointed forward and not internally rotating as you take a step.  What’s athletic position?  Look at a linebacker before the snap.  Lead with the right foot then stop and come back leading with the left foot.
  • Side-step up to balance – stand next to a step/box/elevated platform of about 24’ high.  Step up laterally and hold that balance position on one foot for a 1-2 count, then step down under control.  Repeat 15 times and switch feet.  Add resistance when balancing becomes easier.
Side step up to balance start
Side step up to balance finish

These exercises will strengthen the connective tissues on the outside of your knees in addition to the muscles in your glutes.  Stretch your groin muscles to help with proper muscle function and stability in these movements.  ACL injuries occur from weakness due to tightness on the inner thigh and weakness on the outer thigh.  Watch your confidence moving in all directions improve without over reliance on just your dominant side.  Typically, the subordinate side is the one injured from lack of use just from a simple step.

To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com.  I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies.  Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.  Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!

Reducing Knee Pain From Running Starts in Your Hips

Working from home and sheltering in place have changed the exercise and fitness landscape.  Home gyms popped up in garages and living rooms across the country.  Walking, running, and biking around neighborhoods gained a big boost in popularity also just to leave the house.  With a few posts from Instagram and YouTube, executives and older adults with little exercise experience found themselves going at with passion and fervor.  The common side effects of these new activities are overuse injuries from to hard, to fast, to soon without proper rest.  Some experienced workout peeps also have similar issues for the same definition of insanity:  doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.

Photo by Nathan Cowley on Pexels.com

Millions of successful executives and professionals enjoy running as their preferred method of exercise.  Running is great, and also has a huge overuse injury rate.  One of my most dedicated personal training clients is also a running fanatic and doesn’t understand the term rest and overuse which is causing her knee pain.  Couple this with the fact she’s a psychologist and sitting long hours daily working with her clients.  Even after encouragement, stern warnings, and threats I give her, she still does not stretch and do her muscular homework.  As a result, she has knee pain and consistent fatigue.

“Runner’s knee”, or the proper name, IT-Band Syndrome, is a common overuse injury among runners due to gait issues.  Pain is felt along the outside of the knee even though the cause originates along the side of the top part of the hip, the iliotibial band (IT-band).  IT-band syndrome is the result of inflammation and irritation of the distal portion of the iliotibial tendon as it rubs against the lateral femoral condyle as well as the compression of the fat pad, or less commonly, the greater trochanter of the hip, causing a greater trochanteric bursitis (Fairclough et al., 2006). In common language what the National Academy of Sports Medicine says is weak outside glutes cause the muscles along your outer thighs to takeover and compensate for them. 

Photo by Edward Jenner on Pexels.com

Weak glutes can result from extended periods of sitting.  The outside glutes, glute medius, are responsible for actions such as spreading your legs and taking side steps such as a side lunge or side shuffle.  To much sitting causes the glute medius to weaken, the groin muscles to tighten, and the outer thigh muscles (tensor fascia latae) to do the job of the glute medius.  What you look like is your knees turn in or towards each other in a squatting movement.  For runners, you can see the knees turn inward with each step.  Multiply that out over the steps in a 5K run spread out over months and years, and you feel what is happening in your knees now.

Standing groin stretch

What can be done you ask, because quitting your job or selling your company isn’t an option.  Begin and end each run by including groin and quadriceps stretches in your routine.  Add in side shuffles along the run concentrating on using your outer glutes to pull your legs not just the outer thighs.  On off days, do fire hydrants or any lateral leg movements, again focusing on the glute medius to be the focus of the movement.  The third ingredient and most important for runners, REST!  I know it’s an addiction, find something else to do for exercise.  Stop the insanity as I say.  The body builds on rest days, not work days.  I give you permission to take three days off per week from running and find another active hobby or don’t run period.

Fire hydrant start
Fire hydrant finish

To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com.  I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies.  Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.  Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!

How to Avoid Patella Tendon Pain for the Executive and Older Adult

Among lower-extremity injuries, the knee is one of the most commonly injured regions of the body (Brant, Johnson, Brou, Comstock, & Vu, 2019; Fernandez, Yard, & Comstock, 2007).  Knees are injured from walking, jumping, running, cutting, and from physical contact in sports.  If you’re over 40, odds are contact sports aren’t part of your usual exercise regimen anymore.  As an athlete, I have played a variety of sports growing up and into adulthood.  God has blessed me with not having major knee injuries even as an over 35 year old playing in a competitive soccer league.

In this blog and over the next few blog posts, I’m going to talk about different knee injuries related to muscular dysfunction from sitting extended hours, even if you are physically active at the gym or in your hobbies.  Older adults, professionals, and executives tend to sit for an extensive part of their day, which causes the muscles above and below the knee to be imbalanced.  Working from home and sheltering in place have exacerbated this issue since March 2020.

Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

Patellar Tendinopathy, or Jumper’s Knee, occurs at the base of the patella and from overuse.  Typically, higher forces like running, landing, jumping, and cutting, are placed upon the knee repeatedly during the same types of activities.  Pain is felt on the outside of the knee toward the base of the kneecap, on the patella tendon.  Patellar Tendinopathy is not an injury requiring surgery if you rest and work on the muscles involved for the actions I mentioned.

Most people that sit long hours have tight quadriceps and weak glutes.  They over rely on their quadriceps for running, jumping, landing, and squatting movements.  This tightness can pull on the knee placing added stress upon the patellar tendon.  Additionally, tight groin muscles (adductors) pulling your knees in can place more stress upon the patellar tendon from instability and increasing injury potential.  The Q-angle, which is the angle your quadriceps have relative to your hips, increases from tightness in the hip flexors due to sitting.  These are just a few reasons why patellar tendinopathy happens for the over 40 crowd working at their computer or seated at their devices.

Standing adductor stretch

Strengthening your glutes through active isolation exercises can reduce pain in your tendon.  Being able to rely on them, in addition to your hamstrings, helps absorb the forces your body produces during running and jumping.  When performing squats, lunges, and deadlifts, strong glutes are essential to increase the amount of weight you lift and keeping you in proper form.  In a golf swing and tennis serve, using your glutes to drive power into the motion is critical for distance and speed of the serve.

Glute activation exercise

Stretching your quadriceps helps to bring your thigh muscles into balance along with the strengthening of your hamstrings and glutes.  Most gym goers spend a lot of time on their quads after sitting all week, which makes your knee pain worse.  Stretch them before and after a leg workout or running session.  20-30 seconds for 1-2 sets is plenty to see results over time and reduce pain.  Most people stretch their hamstrings after long hours at their desks, when their quadriceps are what need stretching attention instead. 

Quadriceps stretch

The surface you train or run on can also play a role in Patellar Tendinopathy.  Hard surfaces increase the pain in your knees.  If possible, run on grass or turf.  Hitting the streets for distance running is not friendly to the patella tendon, mix up your surfaces and see new results.  Remember to rest, overtraining can be dangerous just like not training at all.  Your tendons and ligaments need time to heal after more intense session.  While you may feel like fat and lethargy are taking over, I promise they’re not after taking a couple days off.

To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com.  I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies.  Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.  Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!

How to Reduce Your Risk of Ankle Sprains

Have you every sprained your ankle?  If you played sports at all growing up or now, you likely sprained an ankle.  Ankle sprains are reported as one of the most common sports-related injuries (Herzog et al., 2019) accounting for over 50% of basketball injuries (Fong, Hong, Chan, Yung, & Chan, 2007).  Playing soccer mostly as a child through college, I had a few along the way.  For some people, they seem to get ankle sprains more easily than others.  Let’s look into some of the reasons why and what causes ankle sprains in the first place.

Photo by ThisIsEngineering on Pexels.com

Ankle sprains can occur on the middle and side part of your foot.  73% of ankle sprains occur to the lateral aspect of the joint (Raghava Neelapala et al., 2016).  Sprains occur when your foot turns inward during a step with enough force to cause a trauma to it.  This can be done while walking and tripping, making a cut during an athletic activity, or instability in your footwear (high heels).  You know it the instant the sprain happens.

Typically resting, icing, compression, and elevation (RICE) is an acceptable treatment for a sprain.  After a few days you test how much stress the ankle can take and make your best judgement on when to resume sports participation or wear those stiletto heels again.  Without proper healing time and making certain adjustments in your training, you can develop chronic ankle instability.  Several risk factors for ankle sprains and chronic ankle instability have been identified, including previous sprain (Morrison & Kaminski, 2007), increased arch height, or a supinated foot type as well as footwear, intrinsic muscle weakness, and even glute weakness (Friel, McLean, Myers, & Caceres, 2006), according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).

The way to build up ankle strength is doing exercises that increase proprioception.  Proprioception is how your body reacts to various stimulus in space, like standing on one foot with your eyes closed.  Anyone can increase foot and ankle proprioception by working on their balance doing simple tasks like washing dishes.  In the gym, try doing your normal standing type exercises on balancing on each foot for a set.  You can also do these activities barefoot to force the muscles in your feet to react and strengthen. Single leg balance and other types of proprioceptive training have been shown to be effective at enhancing ankle joint stability (DiStefano, Clark, & Padua, 2009). Barefoot stimulation and intrinsic foot muscle strengthening has also recently gained attention as an effective way to enhance ankle joint stability and position sense (de Villiers & Venter, 2014).

From experience, these small changes in your workout routine pay big dividends!  Older populations lose their balance more easily and are susceptible to broken hips and other broken bones in the arms and shoulders from impact.  Once you fall, your chances of falling again are guaranteed.  Build balance movements into your routine for all ages.  The same exercise has a completely different feel when you do. 

Working with a trainer or corrective exercise specialist like myself can help you integrate these types of movements safely and effectively.  To learn what a comprehensive corrective exercise program can do for you, contact me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com, and go to mattpeale.com.  Who is a corrective exercise program good for?  Everyone!  We are all athletes in the game of life, it’s time you treated yourself like it!

How to Reduce Your Chances of Shin Splints

Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome is pain in the front of the tibia caused by an overload to the tibia and the associated musculature.  MTSS is more commonly known as shin splints.  Athletes and weekend warriors of all ages have experienced shin splints at one time or another, and I’m one of them.  In high school I had shin splints playing soccer at various times, and in training for soccer during distance running regimens I also had the pain.  For most cases, simply buying newer and better supporting shoes can solve the problem.  Let’s look more in detail at how you can prevent MTSS without spending money on footwear.

The science behind shin splints from the National Academy of Sports Medicine says (Moen, Tol, Weir, Steunebrink, & De Winter, 2009), it is an overuse injury thought to be associated with the improper loading of impact forces and a more rigid foot type (Hubbard, Carpenter, & Cordova, 2009).   In regular English, this is referring to how your foot strikes the ground with each running step or jump landing on one foot, typically during sports.  Most athletes and common gym members don’t train, or think about, how they land during a jump or how their foot impacts the surface as they run.  Without a professional to analyze your gait for improper muscle function, why would you?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

When you land from a jump or running step, your lower leg absorbs all the forces from your body.  Your hamstrings and glutes play significant roles also, we are focusing on the lower leg, specifically the tibia, for this blog.  Your lower leg muscles stiffen up to protect the tibia from bending upon impact.  Depending on the angle, shoes you wear, and force your produce upon landing, the body automatically stiffens appropriately to avoid injury. 

Shin splints occur when the lower 1/3 of the medial tibial area cannot absorb landing forces appropriately.  If not treated, you could cause stress fractures to your tibia and possibly further damage.  According to NASM, risk factors for MTSS include improper footwear, over-pronation, rigid foot type (supinated), glute weakness, and delayed stabilization on impact.  Stretching and strengthening muscles around your ankle and in your feet are the best ways to prevent shin splints, besides replacing worn out shoes.

Calf stretch

What muscles need to be stretched?  Before athletic activities, use a foam roller along your calf muscles, and/or roll a frozen water bottle with the bottom of your foot.  Hold your body on the roller for 15-20 seconds on each tender spot of your calf.  Do not roll along your calf like rolling out dough.  Yes, it will hurt, and that’s part of the roller breaking up knots in your fascia.  Spend a couple minutes on each leg.  When you finish rolling, spend 20-30 seconds holding a calf stretch on each leg.  Do not bounce!  Repeat this process before every run, workout, or sport practice.  Also stretch after your activity.

What muscles need to be strengthened?  The muscles along the bottom of your feet and in the shin.  The anterior tibialis is the muscle that draws your foot up.  You can attach a band to a bench and pull your toes toward you.  Another alternative is to walk like you have swim fins on and deliberately point your toes up as high as you can, placing your heels on the ground with each step for 20-30 steps.  Do this for 1-2 sets.  Perform a short foot movement like the picture shows: bring the ball of your foot towards your heel without using your toes.  It’s tricky and takes practice. 

Short foot start
Short foot finish

To learn what a comprehensive corrective exercise program can do for you, contact me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com, and go to mattpeale.com.  Who is a corrective exercise program good for?  Everyone!  We are all athletes in the game of life, it’s time you treated yourself like it!