This article gives a great synopsis on ACL injuries, treatment options, and prevention. It’s almost verbatim the same synopsis we have at Bench Busters (which is perhaps the reason I like it so much). However, I have a little bit of concern for some of the prevention exercises suggested here. A heel touch is an extremely advanced exercise and should only be given to those who have enough strength and body awareness to execute it properly. And in my 12 years of training, I have seen a total of 2 people who can do this properly. For someone who is already having a hard time maintaining proper biomechanical form, this exercise is near impossible and could end up doing more harm than good. Furthermore, the what makes an injury prevention program really work is its ability to teach proper biomechancial form. I think this is extremely difficult for most people to understand without visual images.
The Yankees suffered a tragic loss yesterday as another top-notch athlete went down with an ACL injury. Rivera’s intense dedication to his position may have been what caused his downfall. While it is admirable to devote yourself wholeheartedly to your position, it is a disservice to your athletic career to neglect general body conditioning. There’s a reason why athletes spend countless hours squatting, pressing and lifting– you have to prepare your body for that freak, unexpected movement, that one time that your body has to deviate from its normal movement pattern. In sports, you will eventually meet that moment when the body has to break its normal movement pattern. The more training and muscle memory you have built up for maintaining proper biomechanics, the more likely your body will handle that sudden change in movement without a “misstep.”
Reading through the news, this was the first time I’ve seen someone refer to an ACL tear as a “repetitive motion” injury, and I have to say I disagree.
Repetitive motion injuries are usually caused by a wearing down of a joint or overuse of one or two particular muscles over time. Tennis Elbow is a good example. The injury is not caused by one wrong swing, but rather putting repeated torque in the elbow joint after thousands of swings. ACL injuries are usually caused when an athlete does a stopping and cutting motion. The foot stays planted, the knee turns, and POP! There goes your ACL. It only takes doing it wrong one time to tear an ACL, however, with proper body mechanics you could do it all your life without ever getting hurt.
Knowing this logic, maybe you can also understand my perplexity at “experts” who recommend that adolescents play multiple sports in order to prevent injury.
If you play soccer and take up swimming, okay, I could see how that would prevent ACL injury. You would be supplementing a fast pace, high impact sport with a low impact one. Swimming has its own potential injuries but an ACL tear is highly unlikely. However, taking up something like basketball to add to your soccer regimen isn’t going to decrease the risk for injury. Both sports are fast paced and require turning and cutting. Even though you kick in one and shoot in the other, you’re still running back and forth along the court or the field.
Real injury prevention is borne out of the ability to navigate your body in space, to have proper body mechanics so deeply engrained in your muscle memory that the minute you think about changing directions your body knows how to coordinate all lower body joint movements.
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This exercise is NOT appropriate for beginners. Balancing on the foam roller requires a serious amount of body awareness and core strength. It’s guaranteed to humble even the fittest of athletes. Not only does it work the core, but challenges the small stabilizing muscles of the legs and hips that often do not get the attention they deserve.
Stand on the foam roller with the feet hip distance apart. The arch of the foot should be resting on the apex of the roller. First, just try getting up and holding the balance for a few breaths. If you can hold that reasonably well, try adding the squat. Reaching the arms out in front helps to counter balance the weight of your hips going back. Make sure to stick your bottom out as you squat down so you’re your knees don’t come forward of the foam roller. Remember- this is a core exercise! Contract the abdominal muscles to stabilize the body. In particular, pay attention to the obliques and lower abdominals. See if you can get 10 squats without falling off.
Oh yes…this is really happening. Just when you thought planks couldn’t get any harder, we bring you the walking plank. And for a little added intensity, we’ve taken it to the foam roller. The result- Amazing!
The hardest part of a plank is finding the right position. The body has to be in a perfect diagonal line, meaning that the head and the pelvis should be in line with the spine. Common mistakes are to let the hips sag, or to have the bottom sticking up in the air. Anyone can fake a plank. It’s really difficult to do a plank properly. However, if you’ve been doing the weekly exercises and practicing your plank, we think it’s time to take it to the next level!
Start with the palms in the middle of the foam roller and find your plank. The most important thing is to make sure the core is extremely active. If the core is not fully engaged, or the pelvis is the wrong position, you will feel strain in the wrists. Why work the wrists when you could be working the core? Pull in those lower abdominal muscles! Once you’ve found an honest plank, slowly walk the hands all the way to the left of the roller, then walk all the way over to the right. Try to keep the pelvis still and in neutral as you go back and forth. See if you can go 4 times to each side. As you get stronger, feel free to work your way up to 8 times per side.
This exercise is a classic Pilates exercise. The focus is on using the core muscles to slowly articulate the vertebrae. The back should look round like the letter C throughout the entire exercise. The more you tuck the tailbone under and draw in the lower abs, the more work you will get out of the exercise.
Start sitting up tall on a mat. Feel the crown of the head reach up toward the ceiling and the spine lengthen. Take an exhale as you tuck the tailbone under and slowly roll your back down to the mat one vertebrae at a time. If you are properly rounding your back, the lower back will be the first thing to touch the mat. Inhale as you lay the head and shoulders all the way back, arms to the ceiling, keeping the abdominals engaged. As you exhale, drop the chin toward your chest, draw the abdominals in, and slowly roll back up to a seated position, one vertebrae at a time. (Remember to maintain that “C” curl on the way up.) The legs should stay down, firmly pressing into the mat. It should look smooth and precise. Try not to jerk your body forward in order to make it back up. If it does, you either have weak abs or tight hip-flexors. In that case, you could try the same exercise with bent knees and see if it makes it a little easier.
This is another Pilates exercise, although it’s a greatly modified version. For those of you that can master this one, we’ll reward you with the full version in the future (it will take months of practice to build the strength needed for the full variation). This is not an easy exercise to execute properly. It’s easy to use jerky movements to force your way to the top, however it’s extremely difficult to do with the fluidity, control and precision needed to build the core muscles.
Start sitting up with the knees bent hip-distance apart. Reach the left leg forward so the thighs and knees are about parallel. Sit up tall, feeling the spine lengthen and the shoulders drop down away from the ears. As you exhale, curl the tailbone underneath you and slowly round the back down onto the mat one vertebrae at a time. From the side your lower back should look like the letter C. If the back was properly rounded, your lower back will be the first thing to touch the mat on the way down. Keep your abdominals engaged as you lay the head and shoulders all the way back, taking a full inhale. As you exhale, re-curl the spine back into the letter C and try to slowly, one vertebrae at a time peel your back off the mat (no jerking or using momentum!). Try to keep the shoulders relaxed away from the ears and the abdominal muscles hallowed out. It should take a minimum of five seconds to roll either up or down. The slower you go, the more muscle you will use. See if you can complete 8 reps on each side without losing good form.
Pro tip: A common problem with abdominal work is that we often focus too much on making the stomach feel “hard,” rather than “scooped out.” If you don’t want bulging, protruding abdominal muscles, make sure not to let the stomach balloon out while you’re working.
This is a great “on the go” stretch. You can almost always find a bench, cable box or other structure to help you get into the stretch. The rotation in the torso gives you more bang for your buck because you get a spine stretch and a hamstring stretch. Two birds with one stone! This is also a great post-running or biking stretch since it can be done outdoors and doesn’t require any special equipment.
Stand facing the bench (wall, trashcan, or whatever you can find), and put one foot up. Make sure that your hips are squared to the front, and your toes point straight up to the sky. Stretching is 10 times more effective when it is done in proper alignment- take the 2 extra seconds to make sure you’re lined up correctly. Place your opposite hand on the outside of the thigh and turn your chest as you reach back through the opposite arm. Try to stay tall as you rotate so that you’re maintaining length in the spine- it will give you that much more of a stretch. The trick is to not let the hips rotate as you rotate your spine. If you’re right leg is extended forward, think of pulling back through the right hip in order to keep them square.
**Pro tip: make sure that whatever you put your foot on is below hip height, especially if you have tight hamstrings. Anything hip-height or above will make it impossible to keep the hips in alignment and could over-stretch the hamstring.