The Two Lower Body Exercises to Stop Right Now

Injury

Last month I detailed the 1 Upper Body Exercise to Stop Right Now, and now its time to stop the insanity with the legs as well.  This time I am giving you two exercises.  Now, let me preface this with one detail:  If you have ever competed in  bodybuilding or have already paid your entrance fee to compete, then you get a pass.  I understand the need to isolate muscles for a competition.  This list is simply for the person working out to get in shape, get stronger, or just to be healthy.  Alright, let’s get started.

#1:  The Knee Extension Machine

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This is the reason I am giving you two, because this one showed up as an example during my previous post.  This machine is great for my career as a physical therapist, not great for your knees.

Muscles:  Quadriceps

quadriceps

Mechanism:  Works in an open-chain environment, which in this case means you are not bearing weight through the foot.  When you work the quads in open-chain the quad tendon and patellar tendon work as a pulley over your patella (knee cap).  During the knee extension exercise research shows a significant increase in joint reaction force and joint stress.

Advantages:  Hypertrophy?  Not really, research does show increased rectus femoris activity with knee extensions, the squat showed better recruitment of hamstrings, overall quads, glutes, and a better functional carryover with steps.

Disadvantages:  Imagine you are Eazy E crusin’ down the street in your 6-4, then over time your tires, wheels, and axles fall off the car.  Do you hear that screeching, grinding sound?  Yeah, that’s what the back of your kneecap sounds like during the knee extension machine.

You can hear his voice, can't you?

You can hear his voice, can’t you?

Reason to use: Can’t think of a great one.

#2  Seated Calf (soleus) raises

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Muscle:  Mostly Soleus

Soleus

Mechanism:  By bending the knee you reduce the force the gastrocnemius can generate. The gastrocnemius is a two-joint muscle which means it crosses two joint lines:  Knee and Ankle.  The soleus on the other hand crosses only one joint the ankle therefore with the knee eliminated, the soleus is left to take the brunt of the force.

Advantages:  Isolating the soleus can be advantageous for overall calf development.  Research has shown that the soleus contains significantly more slow twitch muscles fibers than the gastrocnemius.  Therefore, with the distance running population, it can be theorized that development of the soleus can help.

Disadvantages:  The isolation, while good for distance runners in theory can also create a significant reduction in ankle dorsiflexion (see picture).

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A reduction of dorsiflexion can create a loss of efficiency with step length and force absorption in walking and running.  Over time this can cause a breakdown in the feet, knees, and hips.  In addition, trigger points in the soleus can mimic Achilles tendonitis pain.

In both cases there are better exercises to do for functional gain, and the increased risk of injury isn’t worth the effort.

The 1 Exercise to Add for More Power

Exercise of the Day

golfing_golfer_man

Last week I wrote about the exercise you should stop. This week, let’s discuss an exercise you should add for an immediate increase in power.

If you want:

  • More distance from the tees
  • Better power in your stride
  • To get past the sticking point in your squat

Here is your exercise:

Kettlebell Swings

KB swing

Technique:

  1. First, be sure you can do a proper hip hinge, and choose an appropriate weight (don’t go overboard, technique is important)
  2. This is not a squat, you must hinge at your hips and stick your butt back
  3. Address and grasp the KB
  4. The first movement is to swing under your legs
  5. Then explode through your hips driving the KB up into the swing, clinching your glutes at the end
  6. Do not use your arms, this is not a shoulder exercise

Try these in addition to your normal routine 2 sets of 20 reps

Muscles Used (According to Bret Contreras)

Peak-EMG-KB-Swing

Here is Ann Wendel, PT, ATC, CMTPT with a great explanation.

The Kettlebell Swing

Good luck, enjoy.