Last week, we covered the training volume in part 1 of load management. If you missed it, go check it out. Today, we’re going to take a deeper dive into components of load management itself and what you as an athlete, coach or healthcare professional can do about it.
I geek out on this stuff so get ready.
Any injury ever:
FORCE/LOAD > CAPACITY
This means any force/load that exceeds the capacity of your tissue’s ability to withstand that force/load.
Enter LOAD MANAGEMENT.
The goal is simple: to protect you from injury and maximize performance
Proper training must be prescribed. Over-training and under-training both increase risk of injury.
You want to:
I’d be remiss to not give credit where credit is due: Tim Gabbett and company have been leading the front on this area and are really changing the way teams and athletes are handling training.
Now, let’s define LOAD:
It is broken down into 2 variables – external load and internal load
We use these two variables to create the:
ACUTE: CHRONIC WORKLOAD RATIO (ACWR)
This is also commonly referred to as FATIGUE compared to FITNESS. Fatigue being the acute workload and fitness being the chronic workload.
With technology nowadays, we have a number of ways to track this type of data. The most commonly cited method in the research is Session RPE (sRPE), which is time (total number of minutes) multiplied by the RPE for a given training session. The RPE is usually taken after a training session to gauge level of exertion/difficulty. This is measured as “arbitrary units” or “exertional units”.
For example, in week 5, let’s say a soccer player practices one day for 60 minutes at an RPE of 8. That gives us: 60 x 8 = 480 units. She practices 4 times during week 5 with a similar intensity. This gives us our ACUTE WORKLOAD (4 x 480 = 1920 units) for week 5.
Now we have to look at her CHRONIC WORKLOAD for weeks 1-4.
When we compare the two, you get:
1920/1808 = 1.06
Now what does this number tell us?
This ratio helps delineate whether you as the athlete are prepared for the task at hand – what you’ve done compared to what you’re prepared for – that can be a running a marathon, doing a CrossFit Open workout, playing in a professional football game or doing parkour in your living room.
In terms of injury risk, acute:chronic workload ratios within the range of 0.8–1.3 is considered the training ‘sweet spot’ where injury risk is at its lowest, while acute:chronic workload ratios ≥1.5 represent the danger zone. If you look at the trend of the curve before 0.80, you should notice the injury risk climbs back up – similar to a “U-shaped” curve. This relationship between workload and injury demonstrates that both inadequate and excessive workloads are associated with injury.
Now let’s say from the example above that week 5 workload came out to 3500 arbitrary units.
That would make the ratio: 3500/1808 = 1.94
This athlete is at an increased risk of injury.
When training load is fairly constant (ranging from 5% less to 10% more than the previous week) players had <10% risk of injury based on the study by Gabbett et al.
However, when training load was increased by ≥15% above the previous week's load, injury risk escalated to between 21% and 49%. This is commonly represented by ‘spikes’ in acute load relative to chronic load.
To minimize the risk of injury, we should limit weekly training load increases to <10%. There’s room to work within this, but a great starting point.
Athletes accustomed to high chronic loads have fewer injuries than those accustomed to lower loads, and this supports Gabbett’s assertion that higher chronic loads can act as a protective effect against future injury.
These two graphs give a great depiction of what happens when load is applied appropriately:
Compared to excessive load and/or lack of recovery:
This is something I use every day with my patients and athletes. I’ll look at their training program and see if there is a mismatch in training volume and load management. We start here then look to optimize other components of injury and performance training such as stress management, tissue tolerance, biomechanics, physiology, strength, power, etc. At the end of the day, ask yourself this question: Is your body prepared for the demand of the task?
Dr. Ravi Patel, PT, DPT, CSCS
With the CrossFit Open upon us and beach bod season approaching, people will be fitnessing. A LOT. With this, comes the opportunity for injuries to sneak up and leaving performance on the table.
People typically blame certain factors for an injury or lack of performance:
While these factors are definitely important to consider, there’s one that gets overlooked and is quite often the culprit:
I had a patient come in a month ago who was dealing with foot and ankle pain. It has been on and off for months, and she decided to get it checked out due to a recent exacerbation. She’s a ½ marathon runner who also does Orange Theory a few times a week. She was starting to increase her mileage for her ½ marathon coming up. I think you know where this is going…
Before trying to change up her running mechanics, change her shoes or blaming it on “overpronation,” we had a conversation about her training volume. I asked her how her running mileage and volume been. In this discussion, she said she went from 3 miles to 6 miles within a weeks time. BINGO. She was confused as she had previously ran this much mileage in the past, BUT... it’s been a couple months.
I also asked her about the first time she ever dealt with this same issue – she said she couldn’t really think of why it initially started – “maybe running form or my shoes?”. I asked her when she started Orange Theory – lightbulb went off. BINGO again.
Let me be clear – there’s nothing wrong with her doing both running and Orange Theory. There is when your body is not prepared for the demand of these tasks. This was and is a volume issue, and if you’re reading this, think back to a previous non-contact injury and see if you can attribute any other factors playing into that specific injury – moreso volume in this case.
Now, mobility, biomechanics, strength, etc., all play roles into whether we are operating as optimally as possible from a performance standpoint. For this patient, we did work on strength in certain areas and tweaked some things from a running standpoint, but the big component of her rehab was starting at a volume she could tolerate without pain or just a little, and progress forward from there.
Training volume falls under the umbrella of Load Management (coming in Part 2) and is a big reason why injuries occur.
Some common methods of measuring training volume include counting the number of sets to failure, the volume load (sets x reps x weight), distance, number of sprints, etc.
Here are some terms to understand:
Maintenance Volume (MV) – How much volume you need to maintain your gains
Minimum Effective Dose (MED) – Smallest amount of stimulus needed to drive positive adaptation. If we are below this threshold, then there will be no adaptation.
Maximum Adaptive Volume (MAV) – Here we are training at our optimal range of volume that we can adapt to and recover appropriately to drive optimal performance
Maximum Recoverable Volume (MRV) – This is the absolute maximum volume that your body can handle and recovery from. Sometimes it’s necessary to pass this threshold from time to time, called overreaching, in order to elicit greater adaptations. Important point here is to make sure it is not often and that deloads are accompanying this high accumulation of volume to allow for supercompensation (the point of overreaching to get the training effect you want – improved strength, power, speed, etc.). When this is not appropriately monitored or constantly overreached without recovery, you open the door for injuries to occur and performance to suffer.
(credit to Mike Israetel of Renaissance Periodization for this concept)
The way this is laid out is that you start with your MED, progress to MAV, then MRV to overreach. However, notice that you don’t dance with MRV often, nor do you want to.
Overtime, your MRV will increase, meaning you’ll get stronger and develop more work capacity, as long as you intelligently handle your training volume.
A good rule of thumb is The 10% Rule - While there can be some variability here, staying within a 10% increase from the previous week tends to work well for a lot of people. It pushes that threshold in a progressive manner and allows appropriate recovery from the increased demand on the body.
Next week, in Part 2, we’ll take a deeper dive into load management and training volume, explore exactly what this concept means, and how to practically apply it to yourself or athletes you work with.
Dr. Ravi Patel, PT, DPT, CSCS
It’s baaaaack. The largest fitness competition on Earth, the CrossFit Open, is finally here. Maybe you’ve trained all year for this, maybe you’re still new to CrossFit and are curious about all the excitement. Maybe you’re a seasoned vet, maybe this is your first Open you’ve ever participated in. Regardless of your CrossFit background, your fitness will be tested, your mental toughness will be challenged, and you will certainly have a blast working through these workouts with your crew at your local CrossFit affiliate.
That being said though, this is typically a time where we start seeing an uptick in the people we see coming in for CrossFit related injuries. Having an athletic background, where I had to personally sit out multiple seasons due to injuries, I speak from experience when I tell you there is nothing worse than working all year towards a goal/competition/test and not being able to perform at an optimal level, if at all, because of an injury. And, look, I get it. There is inherently an increased risk of injury when you're pushing yourself in a competitive environment. However, there are some very important things you can do to minimize this risk and allow you to perform your best. Let’s take a look at the three easy things you can do:
#1 Don’t Be Reckless
This is huge and something I see year after year. If you’re a CrossFit coach, or even just an observant CrossFit athlete, I’m sure you’ve seen what I’m about to explain...You’ve worked all year to create movement patterns that are both safe and effective. You know the importance of good, quality movement. However, throw in the element of an international competition and it seems like all these lessons about technique go out the window.
For example, last year’s first Open workout (18.1) consisted of three movements: toe-to-bar, dumbbell clean and jerks and rowing. Can you guess what type of injury we saw coming into our clinic after this workout? If you said back pain, you’re correct. But why? Well, with this workout people were trying to perform as many rounds as possible for 20 minutes. To get better scores people weren’t maintaining core control for a solid hollow position with their toes-to-bar, they stopped getting full hip and knee extension for optimal power production during the drive portion of the clean and jerks, and/or they started to over-extend during the rowing component. All of these create situations that are destined to increase stress on your low back. Keep in mind that this was just the first workout! Now you’re either completely unable to participate in the other workouts or will not be performing at an optimal level because you’re trying to grind through an injury.
#2: Protect Your Sleep
There are four main pillars of health care that we look at with every patient who walks in the door at Athletes’ Potential: Movement, Stress, Sleep, and Nutrition. Sleep is easily on of the biggest problems that we see out of these pillars. And check this out, Sleep affects everything you do and everything you do is positively affected by quality sleep. Good, quality sleep literally improves everything: every marker on a blood panel, weight management, sport performance and recovery, productivity, and numerous types of disease management. The list goes on and on, yet the percentage of sleep deprived Americans, particularly in Urban areas, continues to rise at an alarming rate. In fact, the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 30% of Americans are sleep deprived getting fewer than 6 hours of sleep per night.
If you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re not giving your body a chance to recover. If you’re not recovering appropriately then you're leaving yourself at risk for injury and decreased performance. So bottom line, create an optimal sleeping environment, protect your night time routine, and get some good quality sleep sleep.
For more info on how to optimize your sleep. Check out this article we wrote.
#3: Maintain Perspective
This comes full circle with tip #1. For those of you trying to make it on to regionals, those extra few reps I mentioned could be the difference in making the cut vs staying home. However, for the vast majority of athletes competing in the CrossFit Open this is not reality. You all have careers, kids you need to take care of, and numerous other responsibilities that you need to keep rocking with once you leave the gym. Is bouncing off the top of your head to get an extra rep or two really going to mean that much if by doing so now you can’t look over your shoulder while driving? (yes this is a real scenario that we’ve worked on at our clinic...I’m looking at your 17.4). Or is that 2 position jump on the leaderboard really all the important if now you can’t bend over to pick up your kids?
Crossfit is meant to be a competitive, fun and challenging way to make all aspects of life outside the gym a little easier. This time of year is huge for all CrossFit athletes and it is truly impressive to see the physical accomplishments and PR’s that happen every single year in the Open. However, the Open isn’t an excuse to throw all safety out the window but it isn’t something you should be afraid of either. Following these three easy tips will ensure that you have a great time, reduce your risk of injury, and maybe even hit a PR or two.
Thanks for reading.
Dr Jake, DPT, CSCS, CF-L1
Recently, I had the opportunity to present to a local soccer club and their coaches on injury risk and reduction for the sport of soccer. In order to understand this, a “Needs Analysis” must be done. A Needs Analysis is a two-part analysis breaking down the sport into two components:
Today, our primary focus will be on evaluating the sport itself. This can be further broken down into:
Movement & Physiological Analysis
Soccer is a very lower-body dominant sport involving the hip, knee and ankle joints and muscle groups including the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings and calves. A soccer athlete must be able to run, jump, accelerate, decelerate, land, cut, kick, pass, head, shuffle, tackle – all while handling a ball and avoiding defenders. Oh, they also need the ability to sprint and jog throughout the duration of a 90+ minute game. Now, you’re talking about a dynamic athlete with a sound aerobic and anaerobic energy system. That’s A LOT.
Here’s a more thorough breakdown:
Sports injuries are inevitable. It comes with playing sports – exposure already puts you more at risk. You cannot prevent sports injuries, but you can help mitigate and reduce the risk of them happening – especially ones that are non-contact or overuse in nature.
Here’s a breakdown of the most common injuries in soccer:
A study done in 2017 by Khodaee et al. tracked detailed information on injury rates among high school soccer players over a 10-year period (2005 – 2014). You can see those below broken down by gender and injury diagnosis.
Muscle strain, ligament sprain and concussions are highest as expected.
What’s most interesting is the girls’ ligament sprain – very high for both practice and competition as compared to the boys’ group. Females are 2-5 times more likely to tear their ACL than males in a similar sport. There are a lot of factors that play into this and nothing is definitive. We do know that strength and neuromuscular control are big modifiable factors from an injury risk standpoint.
In another study from 2015, Waldén and company analyzed 39 videos for movements related to non-contact ACL injuries in professional soccer players. They found that pressing, kicking, and heading were the 3 most common movements in relation to ACL injuries.
Heading (check that right leg in D - ouch)
Cool, so now what do we do with all of this? Make some superhuman soccer athletes.
Have a plan in place to address these different components. It’s important to create a program for these athletes to develop these athletic characteristics – i.e. lower body strength, power, repeated sprint ability, cardiovascular endurance, change of direction and reactive agilities. Injuries happen all the time in soccer, but if we know what joints and muscles are most at risk, then we can better prepare these tissues to withstand the stress of the sport and build more resilient and robust athletes.
Dr. Ravi, DPT
Baechle, Thomas R., and Roger W. Earle. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2016. Print.
Turner, E., Munro, A. G., & Comfort, P. (2013). Female Soccer: Part 1—A Needs Analysis. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 35(1), 51-57.
While structured breathing work may seem simple-even silly- to some, we know that it is a powerful tool for the pregnant and postpartum woman. Deep breaths have the ability to calm the nervous system which can affect muscle tension, heart rate, and blood pressure. Additionally, the respiratory diaphragm can mobilize muscles in the pelvis and back due to anatomical connections. Muscles, including those shown in the photo below, are big players in midline stabilization and support. A great place to start is the 90/90 breathing drill (seen below). Try this out for 10-15 breaths at the end of your day.
Many postpartum women do not know all of the details after birthing their baby. Some have told me they were not aware they had stitches down below until the 6-week check-up when the doctor wanted to make sure they were healing well! The check-up at 6 weeks can be quick so arrive with questions. It is helpful to know about any tearing, episiotomies, tools used during the birth, etc. These factors are all great to bear in mind as you return to exercise and daily functioning.
Another question to ask-- “Is there a pelvic health PT that you would recommend?” They may know someone in the area or have worked with them prior. However, do not become discouraged if they don’t have a name to offer. A Google search for “women’s health PT” or “pelvic PT” should show professionals in the area. Compare websites and reviews to see if the PT would be a good fit for you and your goals!
Pelvic Health Physical Therapy
Once you have been cleared by the doctor for “usual exercise” and intercourse, I highly suggest visiting a pelvic health or women’s health PT. They will be able to further answer any questions about symptoms you may experience immediately postpartum and later.
A pelvic PT is specialized on evaluation and treatment of the pelvic floor musculature. They can perform internal evaluations to test the strength and endurance of your pelvic floor, check for prolapse, address any soft tissue issues, etc.
For the evaluation, the therapist will use a gloved finger to palpate muscles internally. While a great deal of information can be gathered from an internal evaluation, it is not necessary for visiting a pelvic PT. The therapist can then prescribe exercises to help relieve the symptoms and provide hands-on work to hips, back, sacrum and other involved areas. Your PT should be a huge help in getting you back to fitness postpartum! Other areas they can treat and improve are bowel/bladder issues, painful sex, and pelvic pain.
Focus on healing and strength rather than weight loss
Social media and advertising may be all about “getting your body back” and fixing “mummy tummy,” but that is not the focus when you are postpartum. The first step in returning to fitness is addressing foundational strength and continuing to heal from the pregnancy and birth. Your body will go through so many changes in the months following your pregnancy and the timeline is different for every single woman.
Steer clear of programs that say at week 8 you do blank. It should all be self-paced and based on symptoms, your birth story, and prior activity level. Do you need help starting out? This was the number one question I received from women in the clinic. “What can I do? Where do I start?” So I developed programming to recover and rebuild your core after having a baby. Check out the THRIVE: Rebuild Bundle programming HERE.
Find a community for support
Returning to group classes or running groups can be challenging because you will not be jumping right back into the level you were previously exercising. Having a group of women who understand your needs and have been or are currently at the same stage as you is tremendously beneficial. If this sounds like something you would be interested in, please join my Back to Fitness Postpartum Facebook page. We have posts nearly every day and a lot of great discussions- some serious and some silly!
Once you return to group classes, be sure that the trainer knows you are postpartum and if there are any symptoms with movements. If they offer other movement suggestions that still do not feel great, then modify further! Symptoms (leaking, pain, heaviness in the vagina) are a signal to decrease the workload by resting or modifying or both!
Getting back to fitness postpartum can be challenging but it is not impossible! With a holistic plan and support you will be able to recover and rebuild to get back to your favorite activities. If you are looking for help with learning more about postpartum fitness, the pelvic floor and how to reach your goals, then please reach out at Athletes’ Potential.
Thanks for reading,
Dr. Jackie, DPT
Why is this topic so important to me? It’s because I’ve personally been through this process. Twice. And it’s one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life.
Successful return to sport after anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction requires optimal physical AND psychological recovery. The psychological component is quite often overlooked. Fear, emotion, and poor self-esteem can have profound effects on patients' compliance, athletic identity, and readiness to return to sport.
An athlete can be physically prepared for return to sport, but if there is fear or anxiety associated, then this process should be prolonged. If you’re a clinician, parent, or athlete reading this, here are four key areas to consider:
1. Psychological Distress:
This is where education and setting the expectations is huge. When working with an athlete, it’s important to consider this as a part of rehab. Who wouldn’t have anxiety or emotions when they can no longer play their sport and get their knee operated on. It’s completely normal. Rather than hiding it, have a conversation with your athlete. Educate them on what to expect before, during and after the procedure and for rehab. Assure them that everything will be okay and that they will get back to their sport. When an athlete knows what to expect, there’s less psychological distress associated with the process, which can significantly impact the success of the rehab and return-to-play process.
3. Locus of Control:
4. Athletic Identity:
In addition to the 4 areas above, an objective measure can be very beneficial to quantify where the athlete stands from not only a physical perspective, but psychological. That’s where the ACL-Return to Sport after Injury scale (ACL-RSI) can be helpful. The ACL-RSI is a great outcome measures to assess athletes' emotions, confidence in performance, and risk appraisal in relation to return to sport.
Recognizing positive and negative psychological responses to injury is the first step in initiating treatment and potentially modifying beliefs through psychological interventions. It is important to identify patients who are at risk for poor outcomes because targeted psychological interventions may be successful. If you know of an athlete going through this injury and recovery process, don’t forget that there’s more to it than just what you can see.
Dr. Ravi, DPT
- Christino MA, Fantry AJ, Vopat BG. Psychological Aspects of Recovery Following Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2015;23(8):501-9.
- Sadeqi M, Klouche S, Bohu Y, Herman S, Lefevre N, Gerometta A. Progression of the Psychological ACL-RSI Score and Return to Sport After Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction: A Prospective 2-Year Follow-up Study From the French Prospective Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction Cohort Study (FAST). Orthop J Sports Med. 2018;6(12):2325967118812819.
- Ardern CL. Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction-Not Exactly a One-Way Ticket Back to the Preinjury Level: A Review of Contextual Factors Affecting Return to Sport After Surgery. Sports Health. 2015;7(3):224-30.
-Schub D, Saluan P: Anterior cruciate ligament injuries in the young athlete: Evaluation and treatment. Sports Med Arthrosc 2011;19(1):34-43. Melissa A. Christino, MD, et al
Here’s what we know:
That last bullet point is a HUGE problem. How do we know when an athlete is ready?
Traditional return-to-sport criteria are mainly focused on the time after ACLR and knee-specific impairments, while the return-to-sport decision-making process is only made at the hypothetical “end” of the rehabilitation period. When is this “end” point? When the patient runs out of insurance-covered visits? When the ortho clears them based on a 5-minute exam? When there’s no longer a government shutdown? This “end” point is completely made up and very subjective. That is why we need more concrete, objective measures to allow these athletes return to sport at a high level with the lowest risk of re-injury.
Dingenen et al. proposes: “an optimized criterion-based continuous and multifactorial return-to-sport approach based on shared decision making, with a focus on a broad spectrum of individual sensorimotor and biomechanical outcomes, within a biopsychosocial framework.”
I could not agree more.
This means that we need to get away from time- and isolated-based assessments and look at this from a holistic 360 degree view, taking into account not only the biological factors of the athlete, but psychosocial factors as well. Since there are many individuals involved in this process, it takes a team to make the outcome truly successful. This team consists of the individual, their family, physical therapist, athletic trainer, orthopedic surgeon, sport coach, strength coach, etc.
Remember – A single component alone (i.e. time) is not enough to determine whether someone is ready. All of the components below could have the box checked except the last one and this athlete would still not be ready. I hope this provides some insight to you if you are going through this process as an athlete, parent, or clinician looking to return to sport.
Source: Dingenen B, Gokeler A. Optimization of the Return-to-Sport Paradigm After Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction: A Critical Step Back to Move Forward. Sports Med. 2017;47(8):1487-1500.
“Since 2008, average family premiums have increased 55 percent, twice as fast as workers’
earnings (26%) and three times as fast as inflation (17%).”
“Premiums for employer-sponsored family health coverage rise 5% to average $19,616; single
premiums rise 3% to $6,896.”
“Deductibles for covered workers has tripled since 2008, growing 8 times faster than wages.”
Not trying to be a Negative Nancy, but that’s no bueno. Unfortunately, this is where our current
healthcare system stands.
This data was released by the Kaiser Family Foundation in a recent survey.
The annual survey was conducted between January and July of 2018 and included 4,070
randomly selected, non-federal public and private firms with three or more employees (including
2,160 that responded to the full survey and 1,910 others that responded to a single question about
Over the past decade, insurance premiums and deductibles have significantly increased relative
to workers’ earnings and inflation.
We continue to pay more for insurance, but get less in return.
We want a healthier country, but we continue to create barriers to access “healthcare.”
So how do we change this?
Use the system less and, more importantly, NEED IT LESS.
What I’m getting at is taking control of our own health. We have plenty of data to show that
chronic disease is impacting this country.
Improving and maintaining our health and wellness through movement, nutrition, sleep, stress
management, and social relationships is crucial. With technology, we have this information at
our fingertips. While it can be tough to decipher through the guruism and instamodels these days,
it’s important to do your research and find professionals that you trust with your health.
Here are some general recommendations we give:
1. Move everyday. Strength train at least 2-3x per week. Test your heart and lungs.
2. Eat real food, not too much, mostly plants (but also.. protein is life).
3. Get at least 7 hours of quality sleep each night.
4. Stress management is often overlooked and this can be managed through self-reflection,
meditation, counseling, exercise, etc. Find what works best for you.
5. Social connection and relationships is an area I believe is very important for all of us. We
all have our people and it’s important to prioritize those relationships for our own health
If you want to dive further into the details of this survey, you can find the original article here:
Insurance and healthcare is expensive. Employers and employees are starting to take notice of
this tread. They’re being incentivized to take a proactive approach as well as minimize the use of
At the end of the day, let’s get people moving better and eating less shit, and more importantly,
realize that we have the power to take control of our health and avoid being imprisoned by this
expensive healthcare system.
Dr. Ravi, DPT
Coming at you with the the final part of our two-part series for ensuring healthy shoulders while improving your pull-ups. In this part we’re talking about how to develop appropriate strength in the appropriate areas. For those of you who missed it, part one is super important and I highly recommend reading that before moving on with part two. For those of you who are caught up, let’s get after it.
Part II: Strength
In any training program, it’s important to make sure your movements are balanced and that your shoulders are working in multiple directions (ex: vertical pulling, horizontal pushing, horizontal pulling, etc). The pull-up is an excellent example of a vertical pull strengthening exercise. With most pulling exercises, your body is primarily moving through two movements: elbow flexion and shoulder extension. This means your primary shoulder extension (latissimus dorsi, teres minor, post delt) and primary elbow flexion (biceps brachii, and brachialis and brachioradialis) muscle groups need to work synergistically to perform this movement appropriately.
Unfortunately this synergistic relationship isn’t normally the case. More often than not I find that people way over utilize elbow flexion and underutilize shoulder extension. When this happens bad things happen and those bad things usually end up manifesting themselves as pain along the front of the shoulder. As you can tell in the picture above, the long of of your biceps tendon crosses the shoulder joint and when you rely too much on elbow flexion with pulling based exercises, you can end up agitating that tendon, which leads to shoulder pain.
I see the aforementioned situation happen all the time in athletes who do a lot of kipping pull-ups vs strict pull-ups, specifically in those who don’t have the requisite strength to perform consecutive strict pull-ups but are repping out 15+ kipping pull-ups at a time. Now I’m not saying kipping pull-ups are bad or that you shouldn’t do them, but kipping pull-ups should be an expression of strength, not a way to avoid a weakness.
To ensure you’re not overusing your biceps while doing the pull-up you want to have strong, engaged lats (latissimus dorsi). To make sure this is the case, check out our top 3 exercises below for improving shoulder lat strength and control.
Drill #1: Active Hangs
This drill is an all time favorite of mine for a couple of reasons. First, it allows you to feel how your lats should be contracting while you are going a pull up. Second, it allows you to strengthen your shoulders in a vulnerable/weak position. You’re only as strong as your weakest link and being strong in a weak position is a great way to prevent injuries.
Drill #2: Lat Pull Over
This one is a great example of “killing two birds with one stone” because not only are you able to improve lat strength with this drill, but because of the long eccentric phase (muscle contracting while lengthening) of this drill, it’s also a great way to improve shoulder mobility.
Drill #3: Single Arm Banded Lat Pull Downs
Breaking up a bilateral movement (using both arms) into a unilateral movement (using one arm) is a highly underutilized training modality that allows to balance out weaknesses. Plus, as an added bonus, you’re able to perform a vertical pulling drill at a slightly different angle which, as we talked about above, is how you train for healthy shoulders.
If you have shoulder pain while doing pull-ups, or want to prevent pain from coming, this two-part post is a great place to start. Ensuring appropriate mobility and then building appropriate strength is a common occurrence in the rehab world.
If you’re in the Atlanta area and are interested in working with a unique professional that can help you optimize your health in all of these areas, we need to talk. Being proactive and staying on top of your health will help you avoid serious health problems down the road.
Submit a contact request by clicking the button below and we’ll get you set up with one of our Doctors for a free 15-minute phone consult.
Thanks for reading,
Dr. Jacob, PT, DPT, CSCS
Have you ever been in the middle of a workout and feel an ache or pain? It’s completely normal if it’s something small and goes away. It’s another story if it continues to bother you or increase in pain.
Sometimes we just do too much (or too little) and it pisses off some part of our body.
You may start to realize it’s impacting the way you move and you may even avoid a particular movement that causes the pain altogether.
Often times, people see this as a sign to take some time off and rest. This may be the case in some instances, but it’s not always the best solution.
Some people go to a healthcare professional to find out what’s going on. Quite frequently, they’re told to stop that activity or exercise. We hear it all the time from new patients.
“Squats are bad for your knees.”
“Running will wreck your body.”
“Stop doing CrossFit. You’ll get hurt.”
But, what if you’re an Olympic weightlifter who has a competition coming up? What if you’re a runner who loves a good 5k? What if you have a stressful job and CrossFit is your outlet to relieve that stress?
Come on, healthcare - we can do better.
If these are your goals, we want to help you get there.
Here’s 5 different ways to train around pain and decrease stress on that painful area:
MAIN GOAL: MAKE THE LEAST CHANGES POSSIBLE TO THE MOVEMENT
Now, let’s break down each one of these using knee pain with front squats as an example.
Here are a few other examples for you:
Here’s the overall concept:
Pain comes on --> scale back movement slightly --> train movement --> adapt --> progress difficulty --> adapt --> back to prior level --> continue training pain-free --> hit PR
I believe that any great coach or physical therapist should be able to modify and progress/regress any movement or activity.
If you have given these methods a shot and pain continues to impact your life, then find a healthcare professional who understands your goals and doesn’t tell you to stop.
Dr. Ravi, PT, DPT, CSCS
Dr. Danny and staff's views on performance improvement, injury prevention and sometimes other random thoughts.