Since I took a back seat to the Perform Better Summit this weekend after returning from 3 days in Kansas City at the Fitness Summit only a few weeks ago I decided to spend a good chunk of my time catching up on reading and my own studies.

Saturday I managed to read the breadth of this month’s Strength and Conditioning Research Review studies.  If you are a fitness professional and you have not subscribed to this yet you are really missing out.  Bret Contreras and Chris Beardsley definitely take fitness nerdiness to the next level by compiling the most recent strength and conditioning, physical therapy and biomechanics research.

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” – Harry S. Truman

Anyways, besides being Lindsay and I’s officially unofficial blueberry pancake Sunday, we hit Harvard Stadium Sunday morning to do stadium sprints for the 2nd week in a row.  The only way to describe this workout is quick and brutal but it feels good to get in a quick GPP session early in the morning on the weekends so I can get other things done during the day.  Manly things like chopping wood and shooting firearms (aka shopping and cooking for the week).

Today I bumped into a friend of mine from the gym and while we were chatting he complained of knee pain that shows itself after he does 1/2 the stadium until he finishes.  Besides the fact that my legs were Jello after 7 and I finished up with 9 sprints today and just visualizing 37 flights sucks.  Other than that, pain and imbalances are the main reasons I’m not a fan of endurance work.

The easy conclusion to make would be he has poor hip mobility, poor knee stability or poor ankle mobility which are the source of the pain.  We are typically able to visualize the motions that are associated with these joints which is the basis of the Joint By Joint approach made popular by Gray Cook and Mike Boyle.  It is a viable option in most situations but not all.

Some areas are just as prone to dysfunction from lack of stability as they are lack of mobility which is especially true at the hip as I have been finding with many of my clients.  It is an area that isn’t always talked about but might be valuable to understand when working with clients or dealing with your own pain.

When I talk about instability I am not talking about Lindsay Lohan off her meds but rather the inability of your hip to support your center of gravity standing both bilaterally and on one leg as well as during the gait cycle.  This happens from inherently weak muscles and/or excessive mobility of the hip and may cause knee, hip or back pain.

As you can see in (B), an unstable hip can cause a huge shift in your body’s ability to properly support your weight on one leg.  Although the only muscle depicted about if the glute medius, there are dozens of intrinsic muscles that act on the hip simultaneously to stabilize the joint.

This is one more reason that over stretching certain muscles such as those in your hips (eg pigeon pose in yoga) is not only wasting your time but could be doing bad things to your posture in the process.

Like I always say, too much of a good thing can be bad for business which is why for some people all the extra stretching you do can do more harm than good.  Overstretched muscles may become weak and loading that weakness with exercise will set off a chain reaction up and down the chain.

This is basically a shit storm that affects your hip, knee and ankle as well as other areas like your lumbar spine and your home life.  You will typically see internally rotated hips, a lateral pelvic shift and elevation of the pelvis all of which will place a valgus stress on the knee which is a possible cause of the anterolateral knee pain my  friend feels after going beast mode through the stadium.

In this case, the imbalances can happen to anyone from desk jockies, trained athletes, your grandma, and even those who train regularly like my friend.  He foam rolls, stretches and does various mobility drills regularly which is all fine and dandy if imbalances and compensations don’t already exist.

This is why it is important to first understand where the imbalance or deviation is coming from and then correct it.  Proper movement can only occur if your structural alignment is on point so instead of strengthening that imbalance with more and more exercise, fix it.

So in the words of O’Shea Jackson, otherwise known as “Ice Cube”, you better check yo self before you wreck yo self.  Fool.

Please get a discussion going in the comments section, I will have some exercises that we do at Perfect Postures up for you next week.

Written by Steve