“So, how much do you bench?”
“What’s your mile time?”
“How far can you get on the sit-and-reach?”
One of those doesn’t sound so familiar. Flexibility is something that is often forgotten by many. This is unfortunate because maintaining, or even increasing our flexibility, is something that greatly benefits our body in the long run.
As we age our body’s ability to go through its full range of motion naturally decreases. This is due to the fact that many of our daily activities cause our muscles to be in shortened positions without us even realizing it. For example, sitting at our computers often causes the front muscles of our chest to become tight and the muscles of our backs to lengthen. Sitting at a desk over-activates the hip flexor muscles. This causes the pelvis to become rotated, which can lead to several other problems. All of these imbalances can lead to aches, pains and additional injuries down the road.
What we do on a daily basis can put our bodies into poor and imbalanced positions, so it becomes increasingly important that flexibility exercises become part of our daily routine. Stretching allows us to maintain the body’s full range of motion and can correct any inequalities in muscle length.
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The knee can be at risk for injury because of the relatively long lever arm of the femur and tibia. Both of these bones are about twice as long as a lug wrench, so the torsional force produced by these long lever arms is substantial. Added to that is the body force that’s six to eight times your weight and transferred to the knee during running, cutting and jumping activities. Changing from quadrupeds to bipedal gait also plays a role in our knees as we change directions because the higher degree of force is concentrated on the knees (or a single knee) with movement instead of balanced on all four legs.
The human knee is made of living tissue and requires warm-up periods prior to athletic endeavors. Techniques to steadily increase your heart rate prior to workouts are crucial for preventing knee injuries. Jumping jacks, biking, walking or rowing are great ways to increase your cardiac output and blood flow before strenuous lower half training.
Dynamic stretching is also important as a mechanism to avoid injury and should be a part of your warm up. Research has indicated that static stretching (ex. lying on the ground and stretching in a hurdler’s stretch) will usually lower athletic performance by pre-stretching muscle-tendon units and changing muscle compliance and elasticity. Rare exceptions, such as dance and rhythmic gymnastics, do better with concentrated static stretching. As the knee increases temperature, there is greater flexibility in our movements and, although there are significant individual variances in flexibility, every athlete functions optimally as blood flow increases. Continue Reading »
The knee is a hinge joint and is the largest in the human body. It is made up of the femur and tibia, with a smaller fibula located to the outer aspect (pictured below, click to make larger).
The fibula functions largely as an attachment point for ligaments. The thigh musculature consists of the quadriceps and hamstring muscles, and the lower leg contains the popliteus and gastrocnemius muscles. Flexible meniscus fibro-cartilage supports the curved femoral faces on the relatively flat tibial plateau surfaces (pictured below, click to make larger).
Tougher ligaments attach the two together and consist of the outer collaterals (medial and lateral ligaments) and the inner cruciates (anterior and posterior cruciates). (Pictured below, click to make larger). Continue Reading »