Are You Leaking Part I


By Kyle Arsenault CSCS

 

Don’t worry, this is not a personal question involving liquids of any kind!

The type of leaks I am referring to are energy leaks. I have briefly discussed energy leaks in a past post, but it is a crucial piece to understanding why proper movement is critical for overall health, fitness and performance success…and thus a concept that needs to be expounded upon!

You can think of an energy leak as a site where energy is lost in the body along its path to producing movement. The energy leak will occur at a joint that is unstable either from lack of strength, the inability to contract the proper musculature or the improper timing of muscular contraction (or a combination of the three). When a joint is unstable, the energy produced at any one point cannot be efficiently transferred to another point and produce optimal movement.

Like a broken bridge, energy leaks decrease or completely prevent the flow of traffic (energy)…Good Luck!

The lack of proper energy transfer, and the subsequent deficient movement, will result in decreased strength, power, speed and quickness (all of which are essential for athletic/fitness success). And worst of all, the deficient movement, especially when produced repeatedly during sport, recreational training/activities or activities of daily living, will often result in injuries.

For example, let’s take a look at running / sprinting…a common form of recreational fitness and a movement pattern found in almost every sport (except for golf, bowling, spelling and mathletics…all worthy sports, just no running).

When running there will be an action/reaction force between the contact of the “drive” leg and the ground. This force allows for the individual to essentially pull themselves over the surface and propel themselves forward. Depending on how strong and in which direction the force is that occurs between the foot and the ground determines how fast the individual moves.

For optimal movement and maximal speed, the force produced at the foot needs to be as strong and efficient (in the right direction…down and back) as possible. This force must be able to travel from the “drive arm” through the shoulder, upper back, core, and hips and down the knee, ankle and foot to the ground. If there is a leak along the way, energy will be lost from the system, the force between the contact foot and ground will be reduced, overall performance (in this case speed) will be compromised and injury potential will increase.

A Closer Look

Let’s take a closer look at an energy leak that is all too often observed in the untrained or improperly trained individual.

A common energy leak originates at the hip but is most apparent when observing the knee. When the glutes (your butt) and other supporting structures at the hip are functioning properly (contracting at the right time and with adequate strength) the femur (upper leg) is able to stay in optimal position which allows the knee to stay aligned. Optimal position results in the most efficient energy transfer which provides maximal performance and decreased injury risk.

When the glutes are not functioning properly, the upper leg is allowed to fall inward which produces a “caving in” of the knee (valgus). The caving in of the knee results in poorly directed forces being placed upon the knee (and supporting structures such as the ACL and MCL) and all too often results in significant injury. And even if an injury is not suffered, the energy transfer to the foot and ground will be reduced, due to improper direction of force production, resulting in decreased speed (or quickness, agility, etc depending on the intent of movement).

Notice how the force is directed in on the knee…no good for the surrounding ligaments and other structures (ACL, MCL, etc)

Other examples of the detrimental effects of a “caving knee” as a result of improper / insufficient training include, but are not limited to:

1)      Poor jumping / landing mechanics: Often observed in basketball or volleyball players

2)      Poor cutting mechanics: Often observed in basketball / football / soccer players

3)      Poor hip and leg drive: Often observed in baseball / golf / tennis players

4)      Poor lifting mechanics: Often observed in individuals who are training either for sport or recreational purposes.

In each situation there is an energy leak that can be addressed through proper training that would allow the individual to enhance overall performance (vertical leap, change of direction quickness, pitching and batting velocity, weight lifted, etc) as well as stave off serious injuries that will result in an overnight visit to the Emergency Room and ensuing nap on the surgery table.

The training would target the supporting structures at the hip (glutes, deep lateral rotators, etc) depending on the individuals unique movement faults / energy leaks. Proper activation and strengthening is a must and cannot be passed over (although some of the “corrective” exercises may seem too low level and not important to some…dead wrong!). If the time is not taken to establish efficient movement, activation and specific strength of the stabilizing musculature, there is a great risk for performance decrease and injury.

Some exercises to address glute weakness include the side lying clam, glute bridge and wall glute iso march…all of which are critical to perfecting and understanding how to perform correctly.

 

 

If you are leaking, your performance will suffer, pain will surface and in the worst case scenario (which is becoming all too prevalent especially among our youth athletes), significant injuries will occur…

In part 2 learn about the other common energy leaks that are plaguing our athletic as well as general population.  Fix these and experience enhanced performance, health and fitness while drastically reducing your risk of the ever increasing, and absolutely unnecessary injuries.

What are your thoughts?…leave them below.

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