by Joy Kamani
By Claudia "Sparky" Chapel
Presented at the Nike Indoor Nationals 2009
Claudia Terlizzi Chapel, known to most people as Sparky, is an athlete and former dancer who has been a muscular therapist in private practice for over 17 years. Drawing upon a lifetime in competitive athletics and theater, she combines muscular therapy, strength and conditioning, motivational coaching and nutrition to help her clients tap into their inner champion. Working in youth athletics she developed her system of I AM A CHAMPION. This system promotes accessing inner strength and has garnered tremendous results. Through a series of talks at the Nike National Indoor Championships Claudia introduces the concepts of fitness from the inside out and addresses all the stressors in an athlete's life, including maintaining grades, personal discipline and responsibility for all outcomes, and peer pressure. I AM A CHAMPION makes self-discovery fun and goal -setting with immediate results an exhilarating experience.
For more information on Sparky please visit her website at http://www.themusculartherapycenter.com
Anatomy of the Hamstrings (Hand-out and crayons)
The Core and Medial Quads and their relationship to the Hamstrings
Fascia, the superficial front and back fascial lines and their affect on the flexibility and strength of the hamstrings and the core
The Sacrotuberous Ligament
Locked Long/ Locked Short
Golf ball test to understand fascial relationship to flexibility of the hamstrings and low-back/core (Hand out with golf balls)
Warm up and flexibility exercises
Your Hamstrings: What do they do, where do they begin and end, why are they so often injured? What can one do to prevent injury and prepare for a lifetime of activity? It all boils down to taking personal responsibility for preparation and success. How one incorporates mind/body/spirit in a daily regimen is directly proportionate to one's outcome.
What are the Hamstrings?
Biceps Femoris (lateral and two-headed), Semimembranosis (most medial), Semitendinosis(medial). They all originate on the ischial tuberosity and end on the back of the thigh bone (femur) or at the knee. Biceps femoris lands on both the femur and the fibula (on the outside of the knee), while the other two end up on the medial side-one on the shaft of the femur and one on the medial condyle of the tibia.
They are the muscles of the posterior thigh and are equally effective at both EXTENSION of the hip joint and FLEXION of the knee joint. The probable cause of most hamstring injuries occurs when they switch from stabilizing to activity.
Unlike the hip extensor (gluteus maximus) the hamstrings are ACTIVE in normal walking. They are INACTIVE in relaxed standing. In knee flexion, the hamstrings act in concert with the sartorius, gracillus (quads), and gastrocnemius (calf).
"TIGHT HAMSTRINGS" or reduced hamstring stretch, limits hip FLEXION with the knee in extension. Tight hamstrings pull the pelvis down (at the ischial origin) lengthening the back muscles (erector spinae), flattening the natural curve (lordosis) potentially contributing to limitation in low back (lumbar) movement and back pain.
There is another cause for the shortness in the hamstrings and that is the fascial continuity that the lateral hamstring shares with Adductor Magnus. This adductor is often called the "fourth" hamstring because it attaches right in front of (directly anterior) the lateral hamstring (biceps femoris). Since the short head of the biceps femoris may be overactive in a chronically flexed knee, the adductor may contribute to a posterior tipped pelvis or the inability of the hip joints to flex properly.
Bringing up the MEDIAL THIGH MUSCLES in terms of the hamstrings is crucial to understanding Core Strength and Pelvic stability. When the hamstrings are tight and the medial quads are weak, the pelvis is unstable and it doesn't take much to injure oneself from there. The interdependency between the Medial Quads, Hamstrings, Psoas, and QL muscles is the key to preventing injury.
ILIOPSOAS, QUADRATUS LUMBORUM, DIAPHRAGM round out the CORE group because they are posterior abdominal wall muscles. What this means is that they are working back to front. When we talk about groin pain or injury we are usually referring to the PSOAS. The tendons of the Ilio-psoas are a major FLEXOR of the hip joint and these tendons attach on the lesser trochanter of the femur in the GROIN. The QL is an EXTENSOR and LATERAL FLEXOR of the lumbar vertebrae and it also functions in respiration. A weak Psoas may contribute to low back pain.
The connection between the Psoas and the Diaphragm is a critical point of both support and function of the Human Body. It joins breathing to walking and it connects the top with the bottom.
The Sacrotuberous Ligament
The Sacrotuberous ligament is a continuation of the lateral hamstring (biceps femoris) and it passes across outer edge of the sacrum, just above the tailbone.
It often seems like the hamstring is injured when in fact there has been a spraining of the sacrotuberous ligament. The gluteus maximus and biceps femoris are partly attached (the biceps femoris especially in females).
Fascia is the third communicating network in the human system after the neural and vascular, and is comprised of mostly collagen, with some added elastin and reticulin. Every muscle is sheathed in it and infused with a sort of cotton candy net surrounding each muscle cell and bundle of cells. Each of these networks is linked from top to toe. It is part of every cell. Without it's support the body would melt and flow into itself. It has always been thought of as sort of fibrous and "dead" but new images of fascia have shown it to be very much "alive" and we are spending more time understanding how it affects performance because we now know that it is communicating complex information throughout the muscular system.
The Superficial Back line
Strain, tension-good and bad, trauma, and movement are passed through this line.
The SBL either limits forward (flexion) movement or exaggerates backward movement (extension).
The overall function is to create extension and hyperextension. The overall postural function is to support the body in full extension and to prevent the tendency to curl over into flexion. It starts with the plantar fascia and continues up the back all the way over the head.
As regards to the plantar fascia, it is easy to assume that it ends with the foot but that isn't the case. It actually attaches to the "plastic wrap" (periosteum) surrounding the bone that surrounds the heel making it continuous with anything else that attaches to the heel. Thus, if we follow it around we find ourselves at the Achilles tendon.
Looking at the Fascia in this way makes it easy to see that where one feels pain or tension isn't always where the problem is. Or it can be the first sign of trouble further down or up the line.
What is actually tight is usually a restriction in the fascial net and therefore must be addressed by stretching and adjusting the fascial network in order to create more movement, read flexibility, read strength, in the muscles. More on this later.
The Superficial Front line
The SFL, along with the SBL mediates movement in the sagittal plane. When it malfunctions it acts to create forward movement or restrict backward movement.
The overall function is to create flexion of the trunk and hips, extension at the knee, and dorsiflexion of the foot.
A SIMPLE TEST to demonstrate the SBL of the Fascia
Do a Forward Bend- touching the toes with the knees straight.
Note the Bi-lateral contour of the back and the resting position of the hands.
Roll a golf ball deeply into the plantar fascia of 1 foot only, slow and thorough.
Do the Forward Bend again and note the difference in the back contour and the position of the hands. See how much one small part of this line can affect the functioning of the whole.
Repeat on the other side!
LOCKED LONG AND LOCKED SHORT
The locked long muscles are usually the ones that make all the noise, begging for attention but the locked short muscles, often silent, are the ones needing attention. They should be opened up and stretched in order for a permanent change to occur.
What does a muscle that is locked long look like? It has everything to do with posture so think of someone who stands round shouldered. They usually feel their pain across the traps and their heads are positioned forward. What they don't feel is pain in their pectorals. In order for any change to take place, they need to stretch and strengthen their pecs in order to release their traps. In other words, stand up straight!
OK a couple of words about YOGA. Yoga can be one of the most effective methods of strengthening while gaining flexibility. Not only does it do both of these things at the same time, it educates the system to utilize the most efficient breathing while doing each pose; creating balance. Each Yoga pose works at both ends of the physical structure. For example, in Stick Pose, one stretches forward while stretching back in order to achieve balance. The focus on breathing and control while holding a balance demonstrates the major role of strength and flexibility.
A flexible muscle is a strong muscle and when muscles are strong and flexible, the structure is stable.
A SIMPLE TEST to demonstrate Core Strength and/or Weak Ankles
Stand with feet hip distance apart (approx. six inches) feet facing forward with the heel hidden behind the forefoot (toes pointing forward).
Extend arms up until they are parallel with the floor.
Rising up on the toes as high as you can get. Slowly on the count of 6, bend your knees, keeping your back straight and your arms extended in front of you.
You should have about 6 inches between your butt and your calves.
Slowly rise up to a count of 6, keeping on your toes.
DEEP PSOAS STRETCH
LUNGE, keeping the lumbar spine from falling too far forward and keeping the pelvis square to the leg in front.
To engage the outer Psaos, Quadratus, knee of extended leg turns IN toward the body, letting the heel fall out.
Moving the ribs away from the hip on the same side emphasizes the stretch.
For the inner Pectineus and deeper psoas, let the extended leg turn OUT, with the heel going IN and the weight coming onto the inner big toe.
Drop the hip toward the floor a little.
Repeat to the other side.
WARM UP AND FLEXIBILITY
There are many tools to use that will help you stay flexible and stretched out; some of the most effective being the Stability Ball, the Foam Roller, and the Medicine Ball. There is controversy and confusion about whether to stretch or warm-up, or stretch at all. What is most necessary is flexibility, how one attains that flexibility is where the controversy lies. Stretching the tendons of muscles that are used to support the structure can lead to serious injury. An example of this is the hurdler's stretch or the quad stretch in which one leans back onto flexed knees with the feet splayed out to the sides. Done properly this can be a very effective strengthening exercise but most often it is done poorly creating far too much torque on the knee joint.
To attain flexibility, a warm-up prior to exercise is essential and a warm-down after exercise is also in the best interest of performance. Here are some exercises that warm up the core, legs, and low back while creating a stronger and more flexible body.
REMEMBER! FORM IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT OF EACH EXERCISE
(hamstrings and glutes)
Kick one leg out in front of you, with your toes flexed toward the sky. Reach your opposite arm to the upturned toes. Drop the leg and repeat with the opposite leg. Continue the sequence for at least 6-7 reps.
What one must be careful of is the position of the hips and whether or not the opposite foot is stable and facing forward or if the toes on the opposite foot are turning in or out.
(low-back, hip flexors, and glutes)
Lie on your stomach, with your arms outstretched and your feet flexed so that only your toes are touching the ground. Kick your right foot toward your left arm then kick your left foot toward your right arm. Begin slowly and build up to 12 times per side.
Form is critical in this exercise. Be precise with the kick. Engage the upper abs to insure that the chest stays on the floor and the opposite leg remains with the knee down and the foot flexed.
(shoulders, core muscles and hamstrings)
Stand straight with your legs together. Bend over until both hands are flat on the ground. Walk with your hands forward until your back is almost extended. Keeping your legs straight, inch your feet toward your hands, then walk your hands forward again. Repeat 5-6 times.
Use your low abs to insure that the back remains straight throughout.
Get down on all fours and crawl like Spiderman up a wall.
This is the most dynamic of all stretches and is a phenomenal warm-up! This exercise warms up the hips offering another key to Core strength and stability.
Place stability ball against a wall. Get into a lunge position with the left hip bone pressing against the ball and your hands on the ball. The ball will help the torso to lift upward.
2. Exhale and press into the ball with the hip of the leg that is extended backward, keeping both hips square.
Keep the torso lifted upward and pull the abs in toward the spine as you gently lean back into extension.
Continue to press into the ball with your hip as you slightly move your torso left and right to get different angles of stretch. To increase the stretch, bend back into deeper extension and slide the back leg farther out.
QUADRATUS LUMBORUM AND ILIOTIBIAL BAND
Place the stability ball against a wall and lean one side of the torso and hip against the ball. Cross one leg over the other.
Slide the bottom leg away from the ball as you lean into ball with the hips and rib cage.
Continue leaning into the ball as you lift the torso upward and back toward the bottom leg.
Exhale and let the hip on the ball sink downward as you gently rotate the pelvis backward and forward.
To increase the stretch, lift the torso upward off the ball and toward the extended leg on the ground.
Chest Throws and Overhead Throws — Develop Trunk Flexors
Rotational Throws- Develop Core Power, linking hip to hand
Ultimately Power is MORE important than Strength.
Like the Stability Ball helps an athlete develop balance and stability by using the 3 control systems for proprioception: eyes, ears, and nervous system.
One of the most important discoveries that have been made in neuroscience is the discovery that the brain is flexible and plastic. In other words our brains are not hard-wired but are constantly being re-wired. The more one uses the brain the more flexible it becomes. Exercise optimizes brain function. There is a direct biological connection between movement and cognitive function.
One prominent feature of exercise is an improvement in the RATE of learning!!
Better Fitness=Better Attention=Better Results
BIBLIOGRAPHY AND READING LIST
In preparation for this talk I used many sources, some that I have gathered over a lifetime in movement and some more directly. I hope that this list furnishes you with some sources you can add to your library.
Myers, Thomas W., Anatomy Trains; Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists Harcourt Publishers Limited, 2001
Kapit, Wynn, The Anatomy Coloring Book,Harcourt Publishers, 1993
Frederick, Chris and Ann, Stretch to Win,Human Kinetics, 2006
Benjamin, Ben E.,Ph.D.,Listen To Your Pain,The Active Person's Guide to Understanding, Identifying, and Treating Pain and Injury,Penguin Books, 1984
Delavier,Frederic, Strength Training Anatomy, Human Kinetics, 2003
Walker, Brad, The Anatomy of Stretching,Lotus Publishing, 2007
Ombregt, Ludwig, MD, A System of Orthopaedic Medicine, WB Saunders Company Ltd, 1995
Ratey, John J., MD, SPARK,The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain,Little,Brown and Company, 2008