Today’s guest post comes from Evan Osar. Evan is doing a great job sharing his views and systems for corrective exercise. He has a new program teaching you his complete assessment and corrective exercise system that he has produced with our friends from Fitness Revolution. They have been gracious enough to offer a special discount for my readers. More info after the article, but you can learn more here: The Integrated Corrective Exercise Approach.
Does Strength Prevent Injuries?
The goal of corrective exercise is to help our clients develop a more ideal postural and movement strategy. We strive to teach the nervous system to hold a more optimal alignment, to breathe better, and to control the body better so our clients can hold proper posture and move with greater efficiency and without so much compensation, which is a key factor in many of our clients’ problems and loss of performance.
As strength conditioning specialists, we like to believe that strength prevents injuries because we think the stronger somebody is, the better they are, and the fewer injuries they’ll have.
I’ve been working with clients and patients for the last 17 years, and some of the most dysfunctional individuals whom I assess and work on are the strongest individuals.
Strength by Itself Does Not Prevent Injuries
How, then, do we prevent injuries?
What really prevents injuries is helping your client develop an improved strategy for posture and movement. What, then, are the key components to developing an improved strategy for posture and movement?
To improve your clients’ posture and movement, you must get them to understand and incorporate the fundamental ABC’s—the fundamental principles of the Integrated Movement System™.
A = Alignment
You have to teach your clients how to develop the optimal alignment, so when they load the joint, the joint is loaded in the right direction and position.
One way to visualize this principle is to point your finger straight up. If you place the palm of your other hand on the tip of that finger (similar to a “timeout” gesture) and apply force down through the finger, you could hold your finger like this for a long time and not have any issues because you’re loading the joint in the most optimal position.
Now, bend your finger back so it is no longer straight up but is pointing as far away from its palm as it can go. If you try to make the same “timeout” gesture with your other hand and apply force down through the finger, you can’t do that for very long before your finger would be very uncomfortable because it is being bent even further back.
This same concept applies to all the joints in your body: There are maximally optimal positions for loading, and there are suboptimal positions for loading. Our goal is to help our clients align better so that they can put less wear and tear on their joint structures.
B = Breathing
We must breathe three dimensionally, or have access to our entire thoracopelvic canister, from top to bottom and from the top of our lung field to our pelvic floor.
We must be able to breathe laterally, or side to side. We must be able to breathe front to back so that we can access the entire diaphragm; all the intercostal muscles between the ribs; the deep myofascial system; and muscles like the psoas, transverse abdominis, and multifidi.
All these muscles coordinate with one another in the process of breathing, which also enables us to stabilize. The primary stabilization of our core should come from internal regulation of pressure—intrathoracic and intra-abdominal pressure. That’s what core stability is really all about.
It’s not about bracing or squeezing muscles—that’s a part of core stabilization, but it’s not the primary component of core stabilization. Therefore, it’s not strength that prevents injuries; it’s the ability to align and breathe.
C = Control
Once we align the body in the right position, and once we have proper three-dimensional breathing, we must be able to control our body positions. So whether we’re in a static position, performing a dynamic movement, or moving through the fundamental movement patterns (squatting, lunging, pushing, pulling, bending, rotating in gait), we must be able to use the right muscles at the right time in the right manner to control the joint for the activity that you are trying to do.
The “right muscles” and “right manner” will both change depending upon the different activities we need to do. For example, your clients’ resting postural strategy should be different than what they would do if they were squatting 300 pounds. Certainly, we should have alignment of the thoracopelvic canister both in quiet standing and during a deadlift or squat pattern. What changes however, is the level of activation.
When we’re quietly standing in posture, we should have very little activity of the core muscles; they shouldn’t be off, but there should be very little activity: Our glutes, abdominals, and erectors should be soft. This is similar to how you wouldn’t walk around with your biceps contracted all day long, your abs gripped up all day long, your low back tightened all day long, or your glutes gripped up all day long.
As an exercise, stand up if you are sitting right now. Feel your glutes. They should be soft. Feel around your abdomen, and feel around your lower back. They should all be soft while at rest. This doesn’t mean they’re not toned—in fact, they should be soft, just like how your biceps should be soft at rest.
When we need them to activate to lift a heavy weight, lift a child, lift a bag of groceries, do a sled push, etc., we need a higher level of activity. The key is to use the right strategy at the right time so that we have the control we need for, in this example, thoracopelvic canister.
So when I’m squatting 300 pounds, I have a nice controlled thoracopelvic canister where I’m braced up and able to use intra-abdominal and intrathoracic pressure, and I’m able to layer my abdominal muscles, my low back muscles, and my hip muscles. But when I’m done with that squat pattern, I leave the gym, and I’m living my life, those muscles should release and become soft. What we see with our general population clients specifically is they are not stopping their gripping/bracing strategy when they leave their exercise session, and that’s what starts to put wear and tear upon the joints, overuses the muscles, and creates a lot of compensation.
So what prevents injuries? It’s not about strength.
All things being equal, strength will help you prevent injuries, but all things are not equal with our clients. Most of our clients do not have an ideal or optimal postural and movement strategy.
They don’t have great alignment, they don’t have great breathing, and they don’t have great control. They default to gripping, bracing, and doing very accessory dominant breathing as their strategy, and that leads to compensation.
So what helps prevent injuries?
The fundamental ABC’s: alignment, breathing, and control, which should be 3 primary areas of focus in corrective exercise.
Learn Evan Osar’s Corrective Exercise System
I am really excited to share that Evan and our friends at Fitness Revolution have offered my readers a special $100 off Evan’s new program, The Integrative Corrective Exercise Approach. In this great program, Evan shares his proven system to help you assess postural and movement problems and develop a corrective exercise strategy.
The program has a special price for my readers!