Youth Athletics: Flexibility & Mobility to Prevent Injury

Sporty womanOver the years I have had the opportunity and privilege to train a number of high school and youth athletes in the context of both coaching and conditioning.  Training young athletes is a lot of fun because the kids are pumped about their sport and they are really motivated to improve.  They are excited to work together as a team but they also are hungry to beat out their fellow teammates for the top spot.  As a coach, I love kids with this type of mentality and I give just as much back in planning and learning about the needs they have for their specific sport.

Even though I love coaching young athletes, the truth is most of the time they are not with me when they train.   They usually have numerous coaches, AAU programs and school sports teams they participate in throughout the year all of whom have various levels of knowledge and understanding about strength and conditioning techniques.  With all the various perspectives being offered to the kids, I think it’s important for both them and their parents to be educated and knowledgeable in the areas of movement and injury prevention.  I decided to post the PDF of a presentation I gave at Henry Ford Hospitals Health Fair not too long ago.

This is a transcription from a talking presentation so the content is a little “dry” but I hope my young athletes and parents can still gain some helpful info from this post…and remember you can always send me your questions if something I’ve written doesn’t make sense!  Enjoy!

 

Flexibility & Mobility to Prevent Injury to the Adolescent Athlete

Cause of Injury to the Adolescent Athlete
Although the rate of injury in adolescents is similar to that of adult professionals, injuries that affect high school athletes are slightly different. This is largely because high school athletes are often still growing.  Young athletes are required to make adjustments in their movement not only to accommodate their bodies changing environment but also to that of bones, muscles and tendons exhibiting an uneven growth pattern (each tissues growing at a different rate) which makes them more susceptible to various injuries.

 

Types of Injuries
Overuse and acute injuries are the most common types of injuries seen in adolescent athletes.

Acute Injuries:  injuries caused by a sudden trauma. Examples of trauma include collisions with obstacles on the field or between players resulting in contusions (bruises), sprains (a partial or complete tear of a ligament), strains (a partial or complete tear of a muscle or tendon), and fractures.

Overuse Injuries:  occur gradually over time, when an athletic activity is repeated so often, parts of the body do not have enough time to heal between playing.  This type of injury can affect muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones, and growth plates.

 

Flexibility and Mobility Defined
Both flexibility and mobility are important components in any youth fitness training program, whether for specific to the athlete or those who want to be physically fit.

Mobility:  range of motion for a specific movement and includes muscles, tendons, ligaments & joint range of motion.
For example: spinal stabilization and hip mobility are directly related to quality and depth of a squat or lunge or moving from one position into another during a run or drill.

From IYCA.org:  “I think of mobility like this: Tissue length + neural control/stability + joint architecture = Mobility”

Flexibility:  Flexibility is often considered a component of mobility, flexibility focuses mostly on the muscle tissue and is the ability of a muscle to lengthen during passive movement and the resulting range of motion around the related joint.
For example: lengthening of the hamstrings during the sit and reach test.

 

Mobility
Use of these exercises solely with body weight are effective for developing coordination, strength, mobility, and stability in youth.

  • Lunges:  forward, backward, lateral, and other multi directional lunges
  • Push-Ups:  technically correct push ups are very challenging for the young athlete (adults too!).  For a technically correct push up, the pelvis stays neutral, the spine remains straight, and the nose nearly touches the ground.
  • Squats:  squats require specific motor patterns and mobility of the ankles, hips, and spine.  An athlete should be able squat until their thighs are parallel to the ground and then stand up without falling backward.
  • Pull-ups and horizontal Pull-Ups:  young athletes can often struggle with standard pull ups.  Using a bar fixed about 3 feet off the ground, the athlete hangs from the bar with legs straight and pulls until their chest makes contact.

The listed exercises are a brief summary of movements used to improve overall mobility in the young athlete.  Success of each movement can be achieved by coaches and parents watching closely to ensure the athlete is performing movements in a technically correct manner.

 

Flexibility
Stretching before athletic activity helps prepare the muscles for exercise. Stretching after exercise has proven to be even more important for preventing injury. For maximum benefit, young athletes should stretch each of the major lower body muscle groups before and after sporting activity.

 

Types of stretches:  this is an excerpt taken directly from “Full-Body Flexibility, Second Edition” by Jay Blahnik

  • Dynamic stretching – Dynamic stretching means a stretch is performed by moving through a challenging but comfortable range of motion repeatedly, usually 10 to 12 times. Although dynamic stretching requires more thoughtful coordination than static stretching (because of the movement involved), it is gaining favor among athletes, coaches, trainers, and physical therapists because of its apparent benefits in improving functional range of motion and mobility in sports and activities for daily living.  Beneficial for all ages and recommended for females under 12-13 and males under 14 years of age.
  • Active stretching – Active stretching means you’re stretching a muscle by actively contracting the muscle in opposition to the one you’re stretching. You do not use your body weight, a strap, leverage, gravity, another person, or a stretching device. With active stretching, you relax the muscle you’re trying to stretch and rely on the opposing muscle to initiate the stretch.
  • Passive (or relaxed) stretching – Passive stretching means you’re using some sort of outside assistance to help you achieve a stretch. This assistance could be your body weight, a strap, leverage, gravity, another person, or a stretching device. With passive stretching, you relax the muscle you’re trying to stretch and rely on the external force to hold you in place
  • Static stretching: Static stretching means a stretch is held in a challenging but comfortable position for a period of time, usually somewhere between 10 to 30 seconds. Static stretching is the most common form of stretching found in general fitness and is considered safe and effective for improving overall flexibility.  Recommended for females over 12-13 and males over 13-14.

You might hear or read about other techniques and terms used in stretching (especially by coaches and athletes), such as proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching or active isolated stretching. These techniques are all simply variations of these four types of stretches.


FOR YOUNGER ATHLETES
:  The IYCA recommends use of dynamic stretching and as the main method of developing flexibility with most of young athletes from as young as 6 years old and integrating other forms of stretching after the age of 12-13 in females and 13-14 in males.

In the last part of the demonstration I included a basic flexibility program for young athletes to use at home.  The following pdf includes basic sketches of these stretches along with the explanations listed below.  If the written descriptions are not enough you can access the sketch descriptions by clicking on the link and scrolling to the end of the presentation you will find 8-10 stretches with a descriptive sketch.

Click here for sketches: Basic Flexibility Program

Basic Flexibility Program

Helpful Tips:

  • Warm up before doing any of these stretches
  • Perform the stretches carefully without rushing.  Allow your natural range of motion to determine how far you stretch.  
  • Do not bounce a stretch as it can lead to muscle strains and other injuries.

Forward Lunges

  • Kneel on the left leg, placing the right leg forward at a right angle. Lunge forward, keeping the back straight. Stretch should be felt on the left groin.
  • Hold for 10-60 seconds
  • Repeat on opposite leg.

Side Lunges

  • Stand with legs apart, bending the left knee while leaning toward the left. Keep the back straight and the right leg straight.
  • Hold for 10-60 seconds
  • Repeat on opposite leg.

Cross-Over

  • Stand with legs crossed, keeping the feet close together and the legs straight. Try to touch the toes.
  • Hold for 10-60 seconds
  • Repeat with the opposite leg.

Standing Quad Stretch

  • Stand supported by holding onto a wall or chair. Pull the foot behind to the buttocks. Try to keep knees close together.
  • Hold for 10-60 seconds
  • Repeat with the opposite leg

 Seat Straddle Lotus

  • Sit down, placing the soles of the feet together and drop the knees toward floor. Place the forearms on the inside of the knees and push the knees toward the ground. Lean forward from the hips.
  • Hold for 10-60 seconds

Seat Side Straddle

  • Sit with legs spread, placing both hands on the same shin or ankle. Bring the chin toward the knee, keeping the leg straight.
  • Hold for 10-60 seconds
  • Repeat exercise on the opposite leg.

Seat Stretch

  • Sit with the legs together, feet flexed, and hands on the shins or ankles. Bring the chin toward the knees.
  • Hold for 10-60 seconds

Knees to Chest

  • Lie on the back with knees bent. Grasp the tops of knees and bring them out toward the armpits, rocking gently.
  • Hold for 10-60 seconds
  • Repeat three to five times.

 

Prevention
Many high school sports injuries can be prevented through proper conditioning, training, and equipment.  Implementing a regular and effective flexibility program while also analyzing and working to improve each athletes mobility together with an appropriate conditioning program that begins prior to the formal sports season is the best approach to reducing the rate of injury in young athletes.

Observation and correction of the following aresome key points coaches and parents can focus on when developing injury prevention strategies:

  • Overall mobility
  • Flexibility
  • Posture
  • Running gait
  • Knee tracking

 

Sources
http://orthoinfo.aaos.org
http://pvpost.com/2013/06/18/active-injury-free-youth-sports-injuries-are-on-the-rise-heres-why-19171
http://iyca.org/flexibility-training-for-young-athletes/
http://iyca.org/flexibility-versus-mobility/
https://www.todddurkin.com/the-best-exercises-for-youth-athletes/
http://www.humankinetics.com/excerpts/excerpts/types-of-stretches

Presenter
Jes Reynolds is a personal trainer in the Ann Arbor area who has been working with individuals age 13-89 for over 15 years.  Over the course of that time, Jes has worked with numerous middle and high school athletes both as a coach and strength coach.  Jes holds a B.S. in Kinesiology from Michigan State University.  In addition, she is a Certified Personal Trainer through the NSCA (NSCA-cpt) and a CrossFit level 1 trainer (CF-L1). Previous to attaining her degree, Jes worked with youth swimmers ranging in age from 6 months – 10 years old as a swim teacher and lifeguard.

To learn more about Jes, you can visit her website: www.jesreynolds.com
To contact Jes via email: jes@jesreynolds.com


Travel Workout Video 2

This video starts off a little confusing but you’ll get the point!

Equipment needed: Treadmill (or the outdoor equivalent of a steep hill), exercise mat, dumbbells

Summary: This is a continued response to the frequent requests I get for workouts and ideas for my clients who do a significant amount of business travel. Typically work travel means limited time and limited equipment. This video gives a demo and summary of a 15 minute travel workout that you can do while on the road and more proof that I do workout!

PS- I’m still learning how to act on video so you can laugh if you want! I always laugh when I watch myself!


Achieving Fitness Goals In 2015: Part 1


It’s the start of 2015 and I want to see each one of you reach your goals and beyond. I want you to set goals that push you to your limits and create a plan that will allow you to reach what you’ve envisioned. Over the last year I’ve learned some new things about reaching goals and I’d like to share this new information combined with some of the concepts I’ve shared in the past to hopefully empower you in a new way!

Setting Goals That Make Sense
Because of the huge influence the media has on the fitness industry, many people set goals based on what I call ‘fantasy’ promises that are advertised to sell magazines, books, DVD’s and other fitness products. One example that comes to mind is “30 Day Shred” by Jillian Michaels. If you read the book, it is informative and offers some challenging fitness regimens as part of a comprehensive plan to get “shredded” in 30 Days. The information itself isn’t bad, but, with a title like “30 Day Shred” it leads one to believe that they it’s possible to achieve a very elite physique in just one month. I personally don’t know of anyone, including elite athletes & fitness models, that gets “shredded” in 30 days unless they were “almost shredded” when they started the 30-day program. And I really doubt Jillian Michaels did either.

The fact is the media does not present 100% truthful information when advertising fitness products. I think most of us realize this on some level but there is a part of our brain that wants to believe the quick fix ads are true. The ads appeal to our most basic desires and often cause us to set unrealistic for ourselves. When these goals are not achieved people become discouraged and give up.

If you’ve fallen prey to those types of products, don’t feel stupid about it! You are not alone! I’ve had successful CEO’s ask me how they can get an ‘8 pack’ in 3 weeks, college coaches ask me why they don’t lose weight when they repeat the same habits expecting a new result and educated people in the medical field expect a 6 pack in 1 month! These are smart, successful people! Their questions prove that even those of us who are logical and educated question our rational thinking mind because of the massive amount of messages we are exposed to on a daily basis.

When you set your goals for 2015, don’t use messages from the media to decide the parameters of your goals.  You can be aggressive and idealistic and push yourself to the max, but make sure your goal is achievable in the timeframe you define. One thing my clients found really helpful last year was the concept of setting SMART goals combined with a daily focus on the system or plan created to reach those goals.

What is a goal?
The definition of a goal that I use with clients is YOUR journey from point 1 to point 2. To set a SMART goal, you must understand where you are now (point 1) and create a system to follow that takes you incrementally to your goal (point 2).

What is a SMART goal?go30b
Step one to achieving your 2015 fitness goals is to use the SMART acronym (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time bound) as a guideline for defining what you want to accomplish with your fitness program. Do you want to build muscle, lose weight, improve cardiovascular conditioning, run a marathon, lose fat, or a combination of the above? Take a minute to write down what you would like to accomplish in 2015 and glance over your goals. To improve your likelihood of success and make sure you have set SMART goals, ask yourself some of these questions:

  • Have I set conflicting goals and if so, is there a way to achieve both this year?
  • Are these goals realistic for the time frame I’ve allotted? (a good way to answer this is to ask others who have achieved this goal how long it took them to do so)
  • Are these goals based in reality or fantasy? (If you are unsure, ask yourself “Do I know anyone who has achieved this goal”)
  • Are these goals specific and measurable?
  • Do I have the patience necessary to follow a plan that is proven to work?
  • Do I have the time and lifestyle management practices in place that will allow me to achieve these goals on my own…if not, do I know someone who can help me?

Once you have scrutinized your goal(s) you then need to develop a system of daily habits that when done repeatedly will result in the achievement of your goal. For example, if your goal were to run a marathon, your system would include a running calendar and a proper nutrition plan for giving your body the fuel it needs. If your goal were to lose 100lbs, your system would include a combination of nutrition, exercise & stress management techniques.

Focusing on a daily system as a means of successful steps toward your goal seems like an inconsequential detail, but it is actually a crucial shift of focus that could be the difference between success and failure. This is because, as many psychologists will tell you, most of our actions are taken out of habit. Habits are formed because they are psychologically comfortable and not because they are healthy or good for us. Even when a habit leads us to a result we do not want, the fact that we have the habit then within our mental climate makes it seem like the best course of action and unfortunately we don’t realize that we are setting ourselves up to make the same choices over and over again.

When you focus on successfully executing a system designed to create the outcome you desire, measuring your outcomes, making the necessary adjustments to your system and recognize your successes you are retraining yourself to develop new habits and actions that lead you towards your desired outcome instead of leading you toward the same outcome over and over again.

You’ll find out more about creating a system that will help you achieve your 2015 goals in Part 2 of this article!


Travel Workout Ideas: Video 1

Equipment needed: Treadmill (or the outdoor equivalent of 1 mile)

Some of the most frequent requests I get are for workout plans and ideas for my clients who do a significant amount of business travel. Since I am asked this question all the time, I thought I would try creating a series of videos people can refer to when they are on the road.

Typically work travel means limited time and limited equipment so the workouts will be short and intense and equipment will be minimal. This two and a half minute video gives a brief demo and summary of a 15 minute travel workout that you can do while on the road and it also gives proof that I do actually workout!

PS – I would love to get your feedback on whether or not this type of video helpful, so let me know via email, comments below, or facebook! Thanks!


Testimonial: Nick Giardino

072114_nick_giardino_pr_07When I started training with Jes four years ago I was in the worst shape in my life and decided that I needed to change course. Now, at age 50, I am in the best shape ever. I run, play soccer and tennis, climb mountains, and can tackle any job around the house or yard without fear of injury. Pretty much anything I want to do, I can now do. I feel physically fit, steady, strong, capable and confident.

Jes is an amazing trainer. She is extremely knowledgeable and has a deep understanding of anatomy, physiology and kinesiology. Jes works on whole-body fitness: strength, stability, flexibility and endurance. She also understands the psychological aspects of fitness training. Jes is always positive and motivating. No matter what kind of mood I arrive in for my sessions, Jes’ attitude gets me ready to work hard. And even though she kicks my butt, I enjoy our training sessions and always leave feeling better than when I arrived.

I really don’t know where I’d be without Jes. She has helped change my life. Thank you, Jes!


Testimonial: Dana Nelson

IMG_1516I have trained with Jessica for approximately five years. I find her to be very confident, thorough, and I enjoy her company. At 68 years old, seeking out her expertise is one of the best decisions I have made. Jessica has helped me get into fantastic shape. The best complement I can give her is that she taught me how to manage my threshold of pain allowing me to breakthrough to another level of endurance. I really appreciate all she does for me.


Recovery and Mobility Tips: Foam Roller Techniques

ITBand2
If you are anything like me, it’s your goal to stay in the best shape possible and find ways to challenge yourself year after year. When we start out in our twenties, avoiding injury for the sake of acheiving a goal barely crossed our minds…Even jumping off a roof was somehow seemed doable with minimal risk involved…almost nothing hurts us! All we had to do was figure out some type of creative dive roll landing and most likely we would walk away without getting hurt or injured!

If you’ve said goodbye to 20, 30, 40, 50, 60…etc you’ve probably learned through trial and error that the days of physical invincibility bordering on recklessness are over. Now, implementing strategies that help you remain flexible, mobile & injury free so you can continue to compete, challenge yourself & stay active is just as important as the workouts themselves.

The foam roller is a great tool for improving mobility & reducing risk of injury and it’s something you can easily learn to use on your own. In the following article I’ll give you a glimpse of what it is, why it’s helpful, and how to use it. Never heard of a foam roller? No problem, I’ll explain everything in the following paragraphs and give you a series of photo demonstrations on how to use the roller at the end of this article!

What is a foam roller

The foam roller is a foam cylinder (think pool noodle, but shorter and more dense) that allows you to use your own bodyweight to apply pressure to trigger points and sore, knotted muscles. It’s inexpensive, versatile and portable. The roller comes in a variety of forms, long, short, bumpy, soft, hard, and super hard.

This sounds odd I know, but determining which roller is right for you is often based on the amount of pain you feel during use. If the pain is excruciating, you need a softer and possibly smaller roller. If you feel nothing at all, then you should choose a roller that is more dense and firm.

Why use a foam roller

The foam roller allows the individual to perform SMR (self myofascial release). The (myo)facia is a thin sheath of fibrous connective tissue that encloses the muscles (picture tightly wrapped plastic wrap surrounding the muscle) and plays an important role in flexibility and mobility.
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