Youth Strength & Fitness Training

Youth Strength & Fitness training has over the years been wrongfully considered dangerous and having the potential to interfere with normal growth patterns.  Research has demonstrated youth participation in resistance training has no adverse affects on structural growth, and may even favourably influence growth patterns (1).  Beyond influences on youth growth patterns strength and fitness training for school aged children is associated with many benefits, from psychological health, cognition and attention (6), overall health (4) and sport performance (1).

Benefits of Youth Strength & Fitness Training

School aged children benefit from physical activity in many aspects of overall health (5) and academic achievement measured by mathematics and reading achievement (7).  Aerobic fitness, which can be developed through resistance training and sport participation is positively associated with academic achievement in school aged children.  The opposite is seen with BMI (body mass index) which is shown to be negatively associated with academic achievement (7). Research also found school aged children dealing with ADHD saw improved motor skills, behaviour reports and information processing in school following regular pre-planned physical activity over a 10 week period (6).

Participation in sport does qualifies as physical activity and is beneficial for many school aged children to achieve health benefits of physical activity.  Simply participating in sport is a great first step towards improved health and academic achievement.  However, literature has demonstrated that sport participation on its own may be an insufficient stimulus for developing the connective tissue strength required for reducing incidence of injury.  Strength and fitness training can form the important bridge between sport participation and injury prevention required for children to stay active and reap the health benefits of sport participation. Strength and fitness training can ensure appropriate development of all normal movement patterns and facilitate reduced risk of injury.

Bridging the Gap Between Sport Participation and Physical Inactivity

Structured and supervised strength & fitness training may be of even greater importance for youth who do not participate in recreational sport and regular physical activity.  The health benefits of physical activity were found to be multiplied in high-risk youth (overweight and obese, high blood pressure, etc.) (5).  Unfortunately high-risk you may have an inability to participate in physical activity which in turn affects a child’s desire to participate due to negative feedback and low self-esteem (1).  This is where fitness professionals can provide assistance.  In private and small group settings children can participate in physical activity that is appropriate to their ability and skill level without social anxieties in a positive environment.

In the last 25 years childhood obesity rates have tripled (2) making physical activity participation at a young age an important tool to ensure children experience healthy growth and development.  Youth participation in physical activity and resistance training can facilitate development of lifelong exercise habits leading to improvements in cardiac function, blood pressure response, body composition, psychological well-being and improved bone density (strong bones).  Improving bone density in young girls through participation in resistance training and exercise will help to reduce risk of bone diseases later in life.

Studies suggest the more physical activity the greater the health benefit (4) and greater potential for academic success (7).  Physical activity should be a regular part of school aged children’s lives.  On average to improve and maintain health youth should participate in 30 minutes a day of physical activity.  This can be achieved through 30 minutes a day or 3-5 sessions of 45-60 minutes of exercise spread through a week (4).

Safety of Youth Strength & Fitness Training

Resistance training for youth of course comes with some risk of injury.  However injury from resistance training is caused primarily due to mistakes in technique and not a result of underdeveloped youth musculature highlighting the importance for a qualified fitness professional.  Consider that the forces a child experiences while playing recreational sport, in gym class or running around with friends are significantly higher than the forces their bodies will experience during appropriate resistance training.  Bodyweight running, jumping and landing expose a child’s body to forces 3.5-5x greater than bodyweight (3).  During resistance training very few individuals outside of highly trained elite athletes with years of training are capable of lifting weights of this magnitude.  With proper supervision and coaching from qualified and experienced professionals resistance training for youth likely presents significantly less risk of injury than recreational sport participation and can contribute to reduced risk of injury during physical activity and sport participation.

Appropriate Age to Start Training

There is no minimum age that children can begin participation in resistance training provided a qualified and experienced coach is programming and supervising the resistance training sessions.  Generally if children are ready to participate in sport activities then they are ready for some type of resistance training.  Before beginning a resistance training program youth must however be mentally and emotionally ready to comply with a coaches instruction (1).

Youth Strength & Fitness Program at Ace Sports Clinic

A resistance training program for youth at Ace Sports Clinic provides a safe and positive environment as well as qualified and experienced coaches for youth to develop physical fitness and sport performance.

 

  1. Science and Practice of Strength Training 2nd Edition, Dr. Vladimir Zatsiorsky & Dr. William Kraemer
  2. Canada Health Services, https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/childhood-obesity/childhood-obesity.html
  3. Ground Reaction Forces associated with effective elementary school based jumping intervention. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2005
  4. Evidence Based Physical Activity for School-age Youth. The Journal of Pediatrics. 2005.
  5. Systematic review of the health benefits of physical activity and fitness in school-age children and youth. International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2010.
  6. A Physical Activity Program Improves Behaviour and Cognitive Functions in Children with ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders. 2010.
  7. Physical Fitness and Academic Achievement in Third and Fifth grade students. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology. 2007.

Should You Be Stretching Your Hip flexors?

Do your hip flexors always feel “tight”? Have you been performing the same hip flexor stretches everyday without any improvement?

Although the stretches may feel like they are working and are releasing some of the tension, in most cases of hip flexor tightness the issue is often due to the hip flexors being overworked as a spinal stabilizer. Therefore, it is perceived tight because if you are in an anterior pelvic tilt (refer to figure 1), then your core isn’t in a position to stabilize the spine, thus, the overworking of your psoas to take up the slack.  With that said, in order to ensure that their is not a fundamental shortness in the tissue or some other neurological driver causing the “tightness”, it is important to first visit a healthcare practitioner (i.e., Physiotherapist, Osteopath, Exercise Physiologist etc.) to assess the hip joint and the surrounding tissues.

Our hip flexors attach to our femur with several other parts up the chain, eventually connecting to our lumbar spine and diaphragm. The specific muscle I am referring to is called the Psoas. As seen in Figure 1, the psoas flexes our femur, tips our pelvis forward (Anterior Pelvic Tilt) and can externally rotate our femur (turn the femur out), which are all important functions during walking.

Figure 1. Anterior Pelvic Tilt caused by hip flexors tipping pelvis forward and erector spinae (back muscles) pulling up

When I tip my pelvis forward (Refer to Figure 1) the psoas becomes short, and in order to maintain some semblance of stability, it pulls the lumbar spine forward (extension). This in effect causes our abdominals and deep spinal stabilizers to be weak and elongated, The Psoas now has to pick up the extra work to stabilize the spine so that we can stay upright.

So, why does this matter? Well, by performing all of those hip flexor stretches, you are attempting to lengthen a muscle that seems to be the only thing stabilizing your spine! This can lead to back pain, anterior hip pain, knee pain, and other possible pathologies.

However, if the muscle is not tight, then why do you feel like you need to stretch the hip flexor all of the time? You may feel tightness in the front of the hip, especially when extending your leg because you are lengthening a muscle that is stabilizing the spine as mentioned previously and this action causes the psoas to contract as a protective strategy in order to prevent you from stretching the muscle further, and possibly to the breaking point. Think of the muscle as an elastic band, what is happening is like pulling an elastic band as much as possible, and then trying to pull it even more. Eventually the band will reach a point where it can’t be pulled any further without breaking.

The question now becomes, if I am not supposed to stretch, then what should I do?

Firstly, we need to restore the position of the pelvis in more of a posterior tilt (belt buckle to the ceiling, which flattens out our lower back, and exhale through the mouth to drop the rib cage towards the pelvis. This posterior tilt and rib cage position will now give the abs and deep core muscles leverage so that they can stabilize the spine and restore the psoas to its optimal position.

After restoring position of the pelvis and restoring the optimal length of the psoas, we also need to strengthen it as it has been overworked and we want the body to remember this position so it does not default to the anterior pelvic tilt.

With all of this in mind, give these three exercises a try instead of making stretching your go to:
90/90 Hip lift 2-3 sets of 4-5 full breaths:

Key Tips:

  • Lay on your back and place feet on bench/wall/chair with hips and knees bent at 90 degrees
  • Place Foam roller/rolled up towel between your knees and squeeze
  • Inhale through your nose
  • Exhale through mouth, press lower back into ground, drive heels into bench and tilt pelvis while maintaining the lower back on the ground
  • Hold this position for 4-5 breaths trying to go further and further without compromising position

Deadbug with reach 2-3 sets of 6-8 reps on each side: 

Key tips:

  • Lay on back, arms reaching up with knees and hips bent at 90 degrees
  • Reach long through the arms towards the ceiling
  • Before you move any limbs exhale to bring the ribs down and press your lower back into the floor maintaining this position the whole time
  • Inhale through the nose without losing back position
  • Extend your leg then Exhale through the mouth, letting all the air out of your lungs

 

Front plank 2-3 sets of 8-10 full breaths:

Key Tips:

  • Start on elbows and knees, extend legs back, knees straight (can perform this on your knees)
  • Make sure palms are on the ground, and reach through your forearms, slightly rounding the upper back
  • Tuck the pelvis (belt buckle to ceiling) as much as you can while keeping abs tight
  • While maintaining the previous position, as you exhale try to reach longer through your forearms (push ground away and fill upperback) each time

References:

  1. theptdc.com/2014/06/5-steps-dealing-anterior-pelvic-tilt/ Figure 1 Diagram of Pelvic Tilt

Visit us today: Ace Sports Clinic

 

 

 

Yoga Therapy at Ace Sports Clinic

Yoga is a tradition that originated in India and dates back thousands of years.  Within the past century, it has made it’s way to the west and is now a popular physical activity for people who want to get some exercise but who also want to connect to their deeper selves via the union of mind, body and spirit.  Yoga therapy is a fairly new term that refers to the application of traditional yogic techniques such as asana (physical postures), pranayama (breath work) and meditation to improve specific health ailments in a particular person.  Because everyone is unique in terms of physical body, ability and health condition, yoga therapy is usually done one-on-one to holistically address one’s particular goals or health issues.  It is a more gentle approach than what one would typically experience in a ‘regular’ yoga class because the goal is less about exercise and more about health maintenance and healing.

In addition to treating physical ailments, yoga therapy is extremely successful in addressing issues that exist in the energetic plane such as anxiety, depression and insomnia.  It has been proven to help reduce risk factors for high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease through simple techniques using the breath, and can also alleviate side effects from harsh medical treatments such as chemotherapy/radiation. Although it is not a cure, a successful yoga therapy course can lead to lower drug dosages for individuals living with conditions such as type II diabetes or asthma.

Performed on a daily basis, yoga therapy will help maintain and enhance existing good health, prevent future ailments and speed up recuperation and/or complete eradication of specific health issues.  Considered to be a ‘complimentary system’, yoga therapy can be beneficial on it’s own but it can also be applied in addition to other types of medical treatments and physical therapies for maximum results.

If you or anyone you know could benefit from this kind of holistic, non-invasive, therapeutic approach to better health please contact Ace Sports Clinic to book a consultation.

Common Causes of Lower Back Pain

..and some quick, easy things to try at home to help settle it down

Low back pain is one of the most common injuries we see at Ace Sports Clinic. Often it’s of gradual onset, creeping in slowly, starting as occasional discomfort and eventually being a consistent uncomfortable or painful niggle. Sometimes it’s a full-blown crisis where we can barely move without intense pain.

In all of its forms, low back pain is often multi-faceted in its origins and while it’s rare to identify only one cause, there are common culprits that we see. Often when one area is functioning poorly, we find that the body compensates and shifts the blame elsewhere; meaning the source of the pain and the problem area may not be the same. This is why we can’t just look at the back when it comes to low back pain.

Below are three of the most common things we see which contribute to low back pain and some gentle exercises you can perform to try to help settle down the pain.

1. Tight hip flexors / Too much sitting

Your hip flexor, or your iliopsoas, is an incredible and powerful muscle. Made of two muscles which share a common insertion, the psoas major originates in a spinal attachment in your mid-low back. Psoas major makes its way forwards through your abdomen where it picks up the iliacus muscle at the front of your pelvis and together they descend into a shared attachment on your femur.

The massive iliopsoas has many attachments, including those at the lumbar spine, the hip and pelvis.
The massive iliopsoas has many attachments, including those at the lumbar spine, the hip and pelvis.

Since we spend so much of our time sitting, the hip flexor is often in a contracted or shortened position, which means, it can become tight without you even realizing. Due to its attachments, when your hip flexor is tight, it can have ramifications not just at the hip, but also in your lower back. Tight hip flexors often manifest in an excessively arched lower back, or flexion through the hips. Over time these postures put stress on the joints and muscles of your lower back and result in pain.

This can be common for those who participate in exercises or sports which cause us to lean forward such as hockey, cycling, tennis or squash as these activities tend to shorten our hip flexors

Hip Flexor Stretch

We often find that a correctly performed hip flexor stretch, is one of the most effective ways to settle low back pain contributed to by a tight hip flexor.

  • Begin by comfortably kneeling on one leg on the floor – place a towel/mat under your knee
  • Ensure you are straight and not twisted through your hips. Tuck your tailbone under to flatten your low back
  • The purpose of this stretch is to lengthen your hip flexor. If you have any excessive arching in your low back, you are effectively shortening your hip flexor because of its attachments to your spine.
  • Hold for 30 seconds. The sensation you feel should be a gentle stretch and not discomfort.

2. Lazy glutes

Your gluteal muscles are collectively one of the most powerful muscle groups in your body… when they work. A common finding in low back pain is overactive and tight quads, hip flexors and/or hamstrings and poorly functioning gluteal muscles. This can put strain on the joints and muscles of your lower back and alter your mechanics resulting in pain. If your quads are on fire after a leg workout and you feel nothing in your buttocks, this one is probably for you!

Why are the glutes lazy? As with all questions regarding the body, it can be for various reasons. Sitting is a huge contributor because it shortens the structures at the front, which re-positions your pelvis and inhibits the proper functioning of your glutes. Over time this results in the glutes becoming lazy and turning off.

Often poor workout technique or imbalance in your workout routine can be to blame. You should ensure that you balance exercises which target the front of your body with those which target the back 1:1.

In terms of technique, if you are finding exercises that are supposed to target your glutes aren’t making you ‘feel the burn’, come and speak to one of our exercise specialists and get some advice on how to make your exercises more targeted.
Some general advice is to avoid over-arching your back and to make sure your weight is in your heels rather than your toes.

Hip Bridge

The hip bridge is an excellent exercise to both open up your hips and also target your glutes and hamstrings. This is one of the most commonly prescribed exercises for low back pain where the gluteal muscles are one of the culprits

  • Start by lying on your back with your knees bent up and feet hip distance apart
  • Breathing in to prepare, on your exhale, press through your heels to evenly lift your buttocks off the ground to make a straight line with your body
  • Ensure that you do not over-arch your lower back to lift your buttocks higher.
    Slowly lower your body and repeat.
    Start with 2 sets of 10 repetitions

3. Poor Mobility

Mobility is an essential component of any healthy spine. When one area of your back is tight, it will impact other areas. It’s very common for anyone who spends a lot of time sitting to have poor mobility in their upper and mid-back, which can put excess pressure on the muscles and joints of your lower back, causing pain.

Poor seated posture is a huge contributor to poor spinal mobility. We recommend that desk workers or anyone who spends a lot of time in their car, have an ergonomic assessment done every 12 months at a minimum.

A major predictor of poor spinal mobility is previous low back injury. If you have a history of low back pain, you may be habitually protecting your low back by avoiding movement in that region, which could in fact be contributing to your pain. A lack of movement may be causing over-activity in the muscles of your back (and elsewhere), which can cause them to be tight and sore. It can also cause compensation patterns which can result in problems elsewhere.

Mobility is one of the most important things for a healthy body and we should all be including it as a regular part of our exercise routine. Including a weekly Pilates or yoga session as a regular part of your routine is a wonderful way to get some movement in your body.

Low Spine Twist & Arm Openers

Below are two gentle, easy mobility exercises which target your upper and lower back respectively. They can both be done in bed or on the floor and are an excellent way to start or end your day. We often encourage people to use these as a warm up exercise for sport as a way to gently get your body moving before launching into higher energy movements.

Low Spine Twist

  • Lying on your back, cross one knee over the other.
  • Take a deep breath in and as you exhale, drop your knees towards the side which is crossed over i.e. if you have crossed your left knee over your right, drop to the left hand side.
  • Keep your head, neck and upper body and hands flat to the floor to feel a stretch through your lower back and side.
  • As you inhale, bring your knees back to the starting position.
  • Repeat for 10 repetitions before swapping your legs over and performing 10 on the other side.

Arm Openers

  • Begin by lying on your side with your head supported by a pillow. Your knees are bent and your hands are stretched out at shoulder height with hands stacked one on top of the other
  • Ensure your shoulders are relaxed
  • Take a deep breath and as you exhale, float your top arm up and keeping the elbow straight, rotate through your rib cage to reach out to the opposite side
  • Allow your eyes to follow your hand to feel a gentle stretch through your rib cage and upper-mid back.
  • Remain in the stretch for a breath, before returning on the following inhalation. Repeat for 10 repetitions before swapping sides and starting again.

Conclusion

Any back pain is often a multi-faceted and complicated issue. Rarely is there one single cause and every person will have a different cause and different needs, however, we do know that mobility in your spine and equality in your movements are two of the things which reduce the re-occurrence and incidence of low back pain.

* If you feel any pain while performing these exercises, you should stop immediately and seek the opinion of a medical professional.

Victoria Chambers is an Australian trained osteopathic manual practitioner who is currently completing her certification in applied functional science and has previous dry needling qualifications. Victoria believes in empowering her clients to take their health in their own hands by giving them the tools to manage and prevent injury through effective education, hands on treatment and rehabilitation.

Osteopathy is a holistic, hands-on approach to healthcare which addresses the whole body’s needs to aid in pain, injury management and prevention. Osteopathy recognizes the important link between the structure of the body and the way in which it functions.
Your Osteopathic practitioner will utilize a variety of hands on techniques, alongside exercise prescription and education to work with you to achieve your health goals.
At Ace Sports Clinic we also collaborate as a team with our other expert health professionals towards the optimal well-being of our clients.
Call us today on 416 792 4223 to experience “The Ace Difference”