Whether you want giant hamstrings or not, they most definitely should be on your wish list! Generally speaking, the hamstrings are the ‘ugly duckling’ to the more eye and ego-pleasing quadriceps. Yet from a performance perspective they offer so much, and also play a critical role in staying injury free. So much so in fact, that it’s worth highlighting that the hamstrings, along with the gluteals, play a vital role in knee stability and prevention of knee injuries, in particular ACL injuries which are about as common as a protein shake in a gym.
Having strong quadriceps without strong hamstrings is like strapping a V8 engine onto a bicycle. The bike (or in this case your hamstrings) have no chance in dealing with the power that your V8 quadriceps can create and it can be a recipe for disaster as the hamstrings just can’t deal with the torque that the quadriceps create, resulting in a torn hamstring or blown knee.
THE BEST HAMSTRING EXTERCISES
So now that we have clarified the importance of the hamstrings, which exercises are the most effective at building strength and size? We need to remember that the hamstrings are responsible for both knee flexion and hip extension, so a combination of these movements that simultaneously stretch the muscle while putting it under load at both its origin and insertion will put the most strain through the muscles.
There is one key characteristic that you will find is generally consistent across most great hamstring exercises: when the hips are forced to extend while the knee is also extended, this creates unparalleled lengthening of the hamstring muscle and also loads both ends of the muscle during the contraction phase of the exercise.
A study conducted by The University of Memphis took a group of untrained individuals and had them perform four well-known leg-focused exercises while measuring muscle activity. The exercises were the leg curl, Good Morning, Glute-hamstring raise and Romanian deadlift.
Although all four exercises successfully activated the measurable muscle groups, there were two exercises that stood out above the rest with an emphasis on hamstring activation. Those two exercises were the glute-hamstring raise (GHR) and the Romanian deadlift (RDL).
Both the RDL and GHR create positions where the hamstrings are placed on a huge stretch with a large amount of load. During a RDL, we hinge at the hips while the knees are virtually extended (maintaining soft knees). The focus of the movement around the hips with the knee position fixed is extremely effective at lengthening the hamstring, with the load managed at both ends due to the requirement of stability at the knee insertion and strength at the pelvic insertion.
The GHR is almost the opposite to the RDL, where the hips are fixed in an extended (stabilising) position while the knees flex and extend (strengthening) to lift your bodyweight against gravity. The midpoint that is created by a GHR is extremely intense and slightly unsettling at first as the position of your whole body prone and under load is manufactured by the machine and is not a natural position the human body would find itself in. That being said, there’s a reason why virtually every Olympic Lifting facility has one of these machines: the movement is particularly effective at strengthening the posterior line and of course in particular the hamstrings and gluteals.
Comparing these two exercises with the lying hamstring curl can give us further perspective. The research paper ranked this commonly found exercise dead last as an effective hamstring recruiter. Where’s the justice in that? After all, it’s the only exercise out of the four that more or less completely isolates the hamstrings, right? Wrong. The ‘trusty’ lying leg curl unfortunately at no point extends or loads the hips during the movement. In fact, if you have a look at a lying hamstring curl machine next time you’re at the gym, you’ll see that the machine actually flexes the hips 15-20o to help place the hamstrings on stretch. But because there’s no hip extension, all work is done around the knee joint which is only half the job of the hamstrings.
Also, we might think that the Good Morning is a very similar movement to the Romanian deadlift, so why wasn’t it as effective? Sure, it is probably better than an isolated hamstring curl, but there is something to be said for the position of the weight that is being moved. In this case, with the bar being on the shoulders the weight is a long way from the fulcrum (hips), so there is more load placed through all the joints between the hips and the weight in providing stabilisation. Therefore the spine and particularly the lower back will contribute significantly during a Good Morning and take the focus off the hamstrings, effectively reducing muscle fibre recruitment.
There are dozens of exercises that can target the hamstring muscles as a compound movement or in isolation. If you’ve been spending weeks, months, or years trying to bulk up your hamstrings without success, remember to focus on movements that actively extend both the hips and knee at some point during the movement. That way you can be sure your hamstrings are getting stressed the way they’re designed to be and you will be on a winner. If you’re not really one for mixing it up too much then be sure to keep to Romanian deadlifts and the glute-hamstring raise for best results.
• Begin by holding a pair of dumbbells or barbell
• Stand tall and keep a flat back
• Slightly bend the knees and drive your hips back
• Legs will remain stationary as you lower the weight with straight arms
• Again, keep the back flat throughout
• Pause once your body has come to a parallel position with the floor
• Return to the starting position
• Secure your feet into the pads of the Glute-Ham Raise machine
• Begin by crossing the arms against the chest
• Straighten your body, resting your hips on the center pad
• Activate the gluteals, hamstrings and calves to pull your upper body straight up
• Simultaneously, drop your knees slightly against the pad
• Your back will be flat throughout the movement
• Once you reach the top, slowly lower yourself back to the starting position, focusing tension in the hamstrings and calves
Muscle activation during various hamstring exercises, McAllister MJ, Hammond KG, Schilling BK, Ferreria LC, Reed JP, Weiss LW, Exercise Neuromechanics Laboratory, The University of Memphis, Memphis, Tennessee.
We all love a good box jump, the mental challenge of attempting to jump on top of a box that is higher than what we consider is humanly possible is a fantastic exercise for us and our clients in itself let alone the physical benefits. It teaches our clients a lot about mental fortitude and self belief.
The box jump is obviously part of the plyometric family and used as a speed/ power development tool for the legs. We can obtain fantastic improvements through our stretch-reflex cycle primarily in our lower legs and Achilles which transfers to a more rapid force output and therefore making us more powerful.
I don’t mind this so much as for the most part our typical clients aren’t training to become Olympic athletes, however! What I do mind is the lax nature in which personal trainers prescribe box jumps to their clients, whom for the most part are not ready for the complexities of the movement. PT’s don’t really understand these complexities and hence why they throw the movement out there like it’s going out of fashion.
When we run we have on average 2-3x our body weight going through our ankles, knees and hips at the point of contact with the ground. The average person only has around 20cm of lift off the ground, so how much force is generated and travelling though our joints when we jump of a 60cm box? The anecdotal answer is...a shitload!
This wouldn’t be a huge issue if our clients were only performing 3x6 with a 3min break between sets (This would be a typical prescription for power development). Instead we prescribe 15-20 reps during a circuit when our stabilisers are fried from the other 3, 4 or 5 movements included in the circuit. This in turn already puts our clients in a vulnerable position even before they have started their box jumps!
Let’s look at the numbers game a little more closely. So if the client has been prescribed 20 box jumps as part of the circuit and they are going to complete 5 rounds of that circuit, some basic maths tells us that equals 100 jumps or 100 contacts which is how volume is measured with plyometrics. Now what if I told you that in a typical power development session performed by novice athletes sees them perform no more than 60-100 contacts in a typical session!
The two really big considerations here is the fact that one, they’re athletes! Comparatively they have had significantly more training to deal with the stresses compared to the barely trained average Joe that’s rocked up to their first small group PT session in the gym. The second consideration is that all the athletes jumps/reps for the most part are performed in short sharp bursts where they are relatively fresh, not fatigued such as in a typical circuit environment where we find most box jumps performed in a gym. It’s the combination of these two points that sends the injury risk sky-high for our client’s, their ankles, knees, hips and lower back all become vulnerable.
So in conclusion be sure to think twice about who you get to perform a box jump, the environment in which you prescribe them and monitor the volume or reps you prescribe. Our average clients don’t need 15-20 jumps per round in a circuit environment, keep that mark closer to 8-10 and have the focus on quality not quantity. No one likes to see 15-20 jumps where the knees are buckled and the back is flexed forward it makes the movement hard to watch and the joints themselves hate you for it!
Tell us what you think, do you use box jumps with your clients? Leave us a comment below!
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked this question by clients I’d be a millionaire.
Shallow squats, push-ups, presses and partial chin-ups all fall into the same argument of “Does it make a difference if I go full range or just partial”
What follows is a breakdown of why we should ALWAYS work through a full range of movement when we lift.
GREATER LEVEL OF GROWTH
How many times have you heard that squatting is the key to large legs? This is one of the main reasons why the squat is in the top 4 exercises to have in your repertoire. To go one step further, if you’re looking to really increase the size of your legs, then you need to start squatting deep. A study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology showed that subjects who squatted to a full 120 degrees of flexion showed significant increases in thigh muscle mass.
HUGE BOOST IN STRENGTH
You don’t have to be a powerlifter to enjoy the strength benefits that come with performing squats. If you are a power athlete, then listen up: squatting deeper is the key to leaps and bounds in gaining strength. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research had two groups: one doing shallow squats and one performing deep squats. At the end of the first half of the study, the deep squat group excelled in every measurable area with an emphasis on strength. What’s interesting is that for the second half of the study, both groups were not allowed to train for 4 weeks! The shallow squat group saw the fastest reduction in muscle and strength. The deep squat group maintained most their muscle and strength!
IMPROVES OTHER AREAS OF FITNESS
Imagine training legs on Monday and boosting your performance in other areas on Wednesday. Squatting deep has been shown to improve other areas of fitness, with an emphasis for those athletes looking for greater jumping power. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that subjects who squatted deep saw a significant improvement in their vertical jump and explosive power.
SAFE FOR KNEES AND ANKLES
A primary concern during the squat (and a tell-tale sign that something is wrong) is when you feel unnecessary strain in your knees and ankles. Yes, the squat is a multi-joint exercise but if you are ONLY feeling it in your knees then you need to change what you are doing. As demonstrated in this study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, squatting deeper will help to shift the load into the hips. This shift will alleviate excess pressure on the knees and ankles while strengthening the hip muscles.
The benefit of full range of movement and strength training is well documented. For a lot of us this makes the next step to obtain a full range of movement. This can be easier said than done at times so be sure to keep working hard with your stretching routines so you can gain the necessary flexibility. This way you can get the most out of your gym program each and every workout.
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2015 saw some monumental changes for me mainly thanks to the arrival of our triplet girls in June to compliment our two and a half year old son.
What I wanted to share with you today was something I’ve never experienced in my training life that I now have a new found appreciation for in terms of what clients or other people might be going through when they come from a similar space as what I have.
Training while tired or stressed is something I thought I had come to terms with when I had my first boy. Sure I lacked that little extra zing or push at the end of a heavy set but hey I would still find myself in the training arena each day and happy to punish myself time and time again.
Fast forward two years, one new business, a business mentoring course, a written book and of course triplet girls and I found myself in a completely new head space! Sure the broken sleep hurts but again I was used to that with my boy, it hurts but you pick yourself up and get your ass moving.
What no one can ever prepare you for with multiples is the unrelenting pressure that comes with multiples especially triplets. Cleaning bottles, washing nappies, patting to sleep it doesn’t stop....ever! You get through the honeymoon period well enough (sleepy baby stage) but over time and the persistent nature of what it is you do just slowly weighs you down, and I like to use the words ‘weigh you down’ as it’s this exact feeling that I’ll talk about in a second. Anyway, couple all that with the new business and everything that goes with it and you have one completely different mind to work with.
I love everything there is about a training environment, from the sweat and bad body odder right through to the pain that goes with hard yakka nothing gets me up quicker in the morning (except the ear piercing sound of three screaming babies). It’s the sole reason why I do what I do. I got my first formal training program when I was 14 years of age, was coaching by the age of 18 and haven’t looked back since.
What this past year’s experiences in particular the triplets has done to my training however is unparalleled in my world, while at the same time both frustrating and intriguing all at the same time.
Where I used to bounce off the walls in excitement at the thought of putting a weighted bar on my back and pumping out 5x5 squats I now feel nothing but exhaustion. My wife would say my mind is now normalising, and although I’ll never agree with her at the same time I do now have a greater appreciation for individuals who don’t naturally ‘get-off’ on training like us fitness professionals do. I can see now how throwing weights around as a concept can be more exhausting than liberating.
The difference here is that instead of doing nothing we as ‘fitness freaks’ will find different outlets to get our fix. So of course this means I haven’t stopped training, that thought will never enter my mind as long as I’m breathing, I however rarely pick up a heavy dumbbell these days and although I’m sure that will change in time, for now I have just found different outlets. I find myself doing far more calisthenics (which at 105kg is plenty of weight) while at the same time sprinting which I’ve always enjoyed from my track and field days, has brought a whole new dimension to it. Like most people who do any form of running they will tell you they feel ‘free’ (albeit for a short while) while running, this is most definitely the case for me and I have a new found love for it again.
There’s no doubting how much children enrich your life, however at the same time they certainly do teach you to appreciate the little things you took for granted before they were here. Time to train is certainly one thing but having the energy to train like a beast is another thing again.
I read an interesting research paper the other day that addressed this very topic along with reviewing others like it. Coming from a world where maximal efforts and pain are my friends. I struggled with the notion that the answer to this question could be yes, so I was obviously interested to hear what they had to say. It was attention-grabbing at the very least and thought provoking. As I briefly mentioned above if you also come from a world of hurt and love it as much as I do then you will need to step out of it to gain a better perspective.
Ok so the researchers took 22 university students that considered themselves ‘recreationally active’. Using a health questionnaire they were then put into one of two groups, the low intensity group (LIE) or high intensity group (HIE) this basically distinguished if the subject performed any low or high intensity exercise within their week to week routine.
The subjects performed 3 exercise sessions the first was performed at a moderate intensity on a stationary bike and stepper, while the final two sessions they played Wii sport Boxing, Tennis, Step Aerobics and Cycling. The entire time they were hooked up to a Polar Heart rate monitor to measure cardiac output. Now it’s fair to say the HIE group didn’t get a great deal out of the Wii games from a cardiovascular perspective. However the LIE group had favourable results with both Wii Boxing and Wii Tennis, and although the stationary bike and stepper came on top, these two games weren’t far behind. Not bad considering the games were played on the easiest level!
However the plot thickens when we start talking enjoyment levels and adherence rates. Each subject was asked to fill out a questionnaire after each session rating their enjoyment, enthusiasm, satisfaction ect,ect. Predictably, the Wii games topped the chart streaks ahead of the formal exercise with Wii Tennis leading closely followed by Wii Boxing. Copious amounts of studies have shown that when enjoyment levels and satisfaction levels are high, subjects are 30-40% more likely to adhere to an activity. So this obviously begs the question, if we have a client who is a serial offender for not following their 30-40min of movement a day, would active gaming act as an appropriate back stop?
It pains me to say that it actually has merit. Don’t get me wrong it would have to be a last resort, however the key again comes back to adherence and in our world consistency is key. If the Wii means that individuals would actively move 4-6 times a week for 30-40min when they previously wouldn’t then as I said it has merit. At the very least a combination of formal training and Wii could act as a good way to break up the formalities of exercising while the client is still finding their feet in what is initially a daunting and fearful world known as regular exercising.
KEITH E. NAUGLE,1 KELLY M. NAUGLE,1 AND ERIK A. WIKSTROM 2, 2014, CARDIOVASCULAR AND AFFECTIVE OUTCOMES OF ACTIVE GAMING: USING THE NINTENDO WII AS
A CARDIOVASCULAR TRAINING TOOL1, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida; and 2University of North Carolina Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina
Training whether it be running, lifting, climbing or other is all about stressing your physiological system to gain as much adaptation as possible. In a very simplistic view, the more stress on your body the more your body is forced to adapt Take away the stresses and you diminish the effectiveness of your workout. Here are 3 sure ways to increase your results in the gym environment.
1) Excessive rest periods - Stop taking your phone onto the gym floor!
Now I understand that these days with smartphones and the hundreds of fitness apps we have access to there are times we need our phones on us while we workout to gain access to training programs, GPS and the likes of. However, there isn't a greater distraction during your workout than a mobile phone. When your Personal Trainer programs 60 secs recovery between sets they did so for a reason. A sneaky check of Facebook or text message to a friend rapidly extends your rest period and eats into the possible gains you could gain from the workout. So leave it in the locker!
2) Time under tension - Don't rush your movements
From a resistance training perspective, most people are after improvements in strength and/or hypertrophy. How fast you perform your squats or push-ups plays a critical role in getting the gains you want, this is commonly known as your time under tension. Most tearing of the muscles occur during the eccentric phase of a movement (Downward phase of a squat or push-up). Slowing this phase down brings many benefits but the two in particular are 1) increased tearing of muscle fibres and therefore better adaptation and 2) Safety, the faster you move the more force you generate and the therefore the greater chance of injury. Always try to keep a 3 second count on the eccentric phase of all your movements.
3) Pain is your friend not enemy - Mind beats matter every time!
It's well known that success is won or lost more times than not by mental will power. The person who folds first is generally always the loser.
Training is no different, and when it comes to gaining the most from your training sessions the longer you're prepared to push through the discomfort the better your results are going to be. So the next time you find yourself running up a steep hill in the final 5min of your run and that little voice kicks in and says..."just walk a little". Visualise your goal, picture yourself in that bikini or crossing the line in the next fun run in a PB time! You'll be amazed in the "kick" it gives you and of course this ultimately means better results.
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Considering a career as a personal trainer? Find out how to become a personal trainer in Australia with our 6 step process:
I could sit here and write a blog that basically says do your Certificate IV in fitness and choose your business name. This might be technically correct however if you want to become a PT and actually have a long and successful career then there is a lot more to it than just completing your course.
What follows is 6 critical steps that outline what must be done if you want to succeed as a PT. Failure to compete any of the 6 will have a detrimental effect on your chances on 'making it' in what is one of the world’s most competitive yet rewarding industries to work in.
Step 1.Train yourself
A passion for training others always needs to start with a passion for training yourself. I love exploring movement of the human body, always have, and always will. The aesthetics that comes from training has just been a by-product and I suggest you look at it the same way. I understand that body image is important I get that, however as a PT if you have a high focus on just how you look it presents a very superficial view on the fitness industry. Health and Performance should always be the highest priority. I highly recommend that you spend years training yourself first before you venture into business as a PT because in short, how are you supposed to know what your client is going through if you haven’t experienced it yourself first.
Step 2: Shadow a PT
Walk in the shoes of a PT, a typical cert IV in fitness requires you to shadow a PT for 20 hours. I personally would set that figure at 100hrs. Again the better you know what you’re in for on the ‘other side’ the better you can make a judgement of if its right for you and what challenges lie ahead. Be sure to shadow PT’s in all environments, indoors, outdoors and studios so again you can get a feel for what works for you, don’t get stuck doing all your hours in an environment that you’re comfortable in.
Step 3: Do a Cert IV in Fitness
Remember spending more money on your course doesn’t mean a superior product. In fact often the opposite is true. Be sure to choose a RTO that has a well rounded scope of training practice and doesn’t live in the dinosaur age of the isolation model. If you choose online learning remember you need to work twice as hard to get the practical context of what you are learning. The amount of times I’ve lectured online students face to face that have wished they chose the face to face option because they gained so much more context from the information being taught face to face.
Step 4: Choose your location/Niche/Business name
Once you have done your hours shadowing you should have a good idea of the styles of training you love, the types of people you want to be around and the environment you prefer. Now put all that into practice by finding an opportunity in the area you wish to work. Nut out your brand, niche and business name in order to give your vision some clarity and direction and above all remember the golden rule of ‘you can’t be everything to everybody’ nor do you want to be because you won’t attract the type of client you want to work with. Direct your business to the people and style of training you love.
Step 5: Register your business
Get straight onto Fitness Australia and other national bodies to get your service the necessary registrations required, this will include, Fitness Australia, Fair Trading, Insurance, First Aid, and so forth. Without them you won’t be able to successfully establish yourself and be legal.
Step 6: Find a mentor and learn as much as you can as quick as you can
This final step is probably the most important moving forward. Remember first and foremost, your Cert IV in fitness lays a paper thin foundation and it doesn’t matter what industry you work in, if you have a weak foundation then cracks will appear. Without aggressive up skilling both formally and informally you will struggle to succeed long term. One for the biggest issues new PT’s have is the excessively high turnover of clients in their first 12 months. This is primarily due to lack of knowledge and it’s this skills gap that ultimately send PT’s back to their day jobs. Be sure to find a PT who has 10 years industry experience that you respect. Get semi regular training from them, pick their brain and play 20 questions. Learn the mistakes that they made so you don’t have to make them. It’s the cheapest and quickest way to safe guard yourself in the industry moving forward.
How much do personal trainers make? What is the average personal trainer salary in Australia?
These are good questions and ones that not only individuals who are considering the fitness industry should ask but also those that are in the process of establishing themselves as personal trainers. Annual salaries for personal trainers vary significantly between $25,000 - $150,000+ depending on the level of experience, dedication, and what role personal training plays in their life. The average personal trainer that lasts longer than the initial 6 month set-up phase generally earns $30,000-$50,000 in their first year after tax.
Setting your hourly rate:
How much we should charge as an hourly rate is a really tough question and one that struggles to be answered in 500 words, there are however some key considerations that we can look at to help us find a figure that we are comfortable with. This is critical as the figure that we decide on needs to directly match the service that we provide so our clients see value in the figure. If they don’t match then not only will you struggle to get clients but your client list will act like a revolving door and you will struggle to hold onto them.
The first point that needs to be made about setting your price is you confidence. Confidence dictates most things in life and making money is no different. If you do not believe you are worth the price that you are charging then your leads will eventually see through your mask and you will struggle to maintain a steady client list. Ensure that you love the product that you offer and it is well suited to the market you are targeting. If you don’t think the product is the ‘beez knees’ then how can you expect others to?
If you create exceptional value that is highly targeted to your niche market then the price automatically gets taken out of the equation simply because you get exceptional ‘buy in’ from the lead as they see so much value. Consider the hourly rate less of money that is handed over for the 60min and more the price they pay for a ‘package’ that includes services A, B, C ,D & E (value adds!). This is far more attractive in the client’s eyes than the alternative.
The simple fact around location is that you simply can’t charge as much out of the city as you can in the city. In fact there are even large variances from city to city depending on the size. Sydney and Melbourne pt rates are generally 20% higher than Brisbane for example. PT’s that base themselves out of the city in rural communities find they are naturally drawn more towards offering group sessions than 1-on-1 because they can’t charge the rates that make is worthwhile, while at the same time it’s more affordable for the clients. So think carefully where exactly you want to establish yourself. If you want to get the most out of a location then my golden rule is to set up within a 20-25km radius on the CBD of a major city. You will get the best bang for your buck.
While you are learning your trade mistakes are made, we all make them its part of learning no matter what the trade is. So if you’re finding your feet in a self employment setting, be kind on yourself. Start with a lower hourly rate and look to increase your hourly rate each year as your experience increases. Not only will you build a quicker client base meaning you can stay afloat more easily but you then increase your experience quicker as you increase the number of hands on hours faster.
If a high hourly rate, steady lead generation and excellent retention rate sounds good to you then be sure to check out the PT Accelerator Program. Click the button below.
As often happens in the health and fitness industry, every decade sees a monumental shift away from the previous decade’s trends. Right now, there is a 'whole body exercise' based movement that is sweeping gyms and clubs throughout the country. The focus on the big four (squats, deadlifts, bench press, and overhead shoulder press) is a welcome change in the world of fitness. The idea is to maximize exercises that allow for absolute functional movements. For instance, a squat helps to build the muscles required for bending down to pick something up. Developing these muscles will, in turn, protect you from injury.
With this focus on function, those in the industry are witnessing a movement away from isolation exercises. Let’s take a look at why and how isolation exercises need to remain an important part of your workout.
Do You Need to Isolate?
Isolation exercises, such as bicep curls and triceps extensions, are often associated with the bodybuilding world as these athletes would often work on one muscle group per day in order to maximize growth. While full body movements such as the deadlift are essential for your body composition and development, isolation exercises are also needed. With pure hypertrophy aside, isolation exercises can be utilized as functional tools just as much as compound movements.
Correct Strength Imbalances
Everyone has experienced the dominance of one muscle group over another. The best example: Think about which hand you write with. Now consider the ease of performing exercises with that side of your body. Isolation exercises can help to correct strength imbalances. For instance, perform several sets of a bench press exercise with dumbbells, not a barbell. Using dumbbells forces each side of the body to produce the same amount of force output. Try this for several weeks and you’ll notice a vast improvement in your overall performance when you return to the barbell.
Get Rid of Overcompensation
You can also use isolation exercises to rid yourself of overcompensation issues. For instance, many exercises are forward favoring, such as the dumbbell shoulder press, front dumbbell raise, and lateral dumbbell raise. Many times, people forget about the back of the deltoid, resulting in a weak rear deltoid that needs to be assisted by the other two. Isolating that muscle will strengthen it and allow it to become part of the whole functional unit once again. The result is amplified performance at bigger, compound movements such as the bench press.
Supporting Your Rehabilitation
One of the best ways to utilize isolation exercises is when you are going through rehabilitation. Whether you were injured or required surgery, the muscle group that experienced a lengthy period of inactivity isn’t going to be able to simply jump back into the game with the others. It will require several weeks, maybe even months, of consistent isolation work in order to be brought back up to speed. For instance, if you injured your hamstring, the last thing you would want to do to strengthen and support recovery would be to jump back into squats or lunges. Instead, you would want to isolate the muscle using a lying hamstring curl. Slowly, the muscle will regain its strength via muscle memory, allowing you to return to full body exercises.
While compound exercises are important to achieving functionality and an overall balanced body composition, isolation exercises are equally as important as they pick up the pieces that larger exercises leave behind. Whether you need to correct strength imbalances or prevent muscle overcompensation, isolation exercises need to have a home in every workout program that you perform.
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As the workforce has witnessed a monumental shift towards the standard desk job, there has been a dramatic rise in complaints of lower back and knee pain. Are the two connected? What does sitting down in a comfortable chair for 7 to 9 hours per day have to do with your knees? As it turns out: everything. Prolonged sitting will result in the shortening of important hip flexor muscles, which, in turn, have a direct impact on your knees. Let’s take a look at how everything fits together then review the exercises you need to start doing to strengthen your flexors and stop knee pain.
USE IT OR LOSE IT
All movement originates in the core. If you are taking your core out of the equation for 7 to 9 hours each day, 5 days per week, this amount of inactivity is going to weaken these muscles. What’s more, your body will experience a shortening of the hip flexor muscles. This tightening of the muscles results in an unbalanced pull. Remember that your hip flexors are connected to your lower back and leg bones. It is these flexors that engage… You guessed it. Flexion! Weak, shortened flexors provide an uneven pull on your bones, resulting in what is called an anterior pelvic tilt.
IS PELVIC TILT REALLY THAT BAD?
Absolutely. It has been directly connected to the majority of complaints of lower back, hip, and knee pain. As you’ll see in this study from American Physical Therapy Association, pelvic tilt impacted the lumbar spinal curve, knee orientation, head mobility, and other parts of the body. Over the long term, pelvic tilt can become increasingly worse, magnifying spinal disorder and overall pain. So what can you do to stop pelvic tilt before it becomes a real problem? Let’s review the two most important muscles and the exercises to start adding into your program to stop pelvic tilt.
GLUTEUS MEDIUS AND MAXIMUS
Here are a set of muscles that certainly do not get the attention they deserve. The glutes are very important stabilizer muscles that help with everything from simply walking around to performing a series of rotational movements. But these laterally and posteriorly placed muscles can be hard to activate. Why? Think about it. You walk and run in a forward motion. You don’t walk like a crab. Therefore, you need to dedicate time to targeting these muscles. Weak abduction, particularly from glut med, can result in medial rotation of the femur, the knees collapsing inwards, and flattening of the foot arch - and that's just below the glutes. The glutes are the foundation of developing great posture and ridding yourself of pelvic tilt. Start adding the following exercises to your weekly routine after a thorough stretching session.
By providing yourself with a hip-focused day of exercises, you are ensuring that pelvic tilt will no longer be a problem in your life. If you want to stop the knee and back pain that you are experiencing, be sure to get up and move around every hour while at work. Once you're home, complete a stretching session then jump into the exercises listed above.
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Tristan Hill, Masters of Sports Coaching, author of Lifting the Bar and mentor to Personal Trainers.