Rotation Strengthens End-Range Power and Proprioception

Do you want to increase muscular strength …. or improve muscular function? The resting length of your muscles is important to consider.

A muscle can generate the greatest amount of force at full length. When a muscle is lengthened past the natural end-range there are less cross-bridges to create force.

POWER. The powerful hip muscles use end-range rotation to reach full resting length. When rotation is missing from the resting length of the muscle, power is compromised.

RESTING LENGTH. It’s easy to check the resting length of the hip muscles. From a comfortable stance, rotate one leg in all four anatomical positions….. flexion, extension, abduction and adduction. You should be able to freely rotate the leg internally and externally. Each position requires an equal amount of rotation in internal versus external rotation to provide the most stability in movement. Unequal or limited rotation in one direction means the resting length is compromised.

PROPRIOCEPTION. Muscle spindles are the proprioceptors of the muscle. Spindles signal the CNS to lengthen the muscle fiber. If end-range rotation is not present, sensory signals remain silent.

Stretching the muscle is not a permanent solution since stretching takes the muscle past the resting length and into connective tissue. And ordinary muscle contractions bypass the tight muscle fiber never reaching the muscle spindle. The muscle spindle (lengthening agent) along with the co-ordinated muscle fiber must work together.

A specific approach is needed to isolate the spindle and the co-ordinating muscle fiber.

According to Lephart ….3 stages are required to improve proprioception and restore resting length:

  • Acquisition of the mechanical stimulus.
  • Conversion of the mechanical stimulus to into the neural signal.
  • Transmission of the neural signal to the CNS

Isometrics supply the mechanical stimulus for a targeted muscle contraction. But in order to increase neural signals… the muscle spindle connected with the fiber must also lengthen. Diagonal rotational patterns pull the spindles taunt and enable transmission of the neural signals to the CNS.

These diagonal PNF patterns have been long used for neuromuscular re-education. The isometric contraction plus lengthening via diagonal rotation stimulates the muscle spindle and the muscle fiber simultaneously.

Diagonal resistance on a product like StandingFirm® is a great way to bias end-range muscle fiber and increase spindle output for power and proprioception.

Muscle Spindles… the key to improving proprioception

Muscles are made up of stands of muscle fiber that contract and release sensory information to the central nervous system. In-between the strands of muscle fiber are muscle spindles that also contract and release sensory information to the central nervous system.

When the deep fiber of the spindle loses the ability to “pick up slack” and contract… the afferents (sensory signals) aren’t released to the central nervous system.

The afferents in the muscle spindle signal the muscle to lengthen… when they’re not released you feel muscle tightness. The muscle loses the end-range of motion… the rotational component. When the muscle contraction is not fully activated to the end range….force potential and proprioception are lost.

Rotation leads to the natural end-range of the hip muscles… allowing the full length of the muscle to fire.

The deeper fiber of the spindle needs a specific treatment to restore the “contract and release” ability of the spindle….a co-contraction. This treatment involves lengthening the muscle to full range using rotation and applying a voluntary isometric force.

The tight muscle is loaded with rotational force and held. After 3 to 10 seconds the rotation is increased until the full rotational length of the muscle is met… approximately 45 degrees.

The combination of length plus rotation creates a co-contraction that reaches the muscle spindle. The muscle spindle is able to release sensory afferents and the muscle is able to contract and lengthen to it’s full length.

When the muscle can contract to the full length you will have a higher recruitment of motor neurons which translates to a stronger contraction. Fully functioning muscle spindles also improve proprioceptive deficiencies since more sensory neurons are releasing information to the central nervous system.

Radically Different Way to Train Stability

Stability based on how fast we move is radically different than how we presently train stability. Currently stability training is a mixed bag of balance props, core work and motor learning strategies. But when we are in motion… jumping, landing, climbing, everything changes!

The collision of equal and opposing forces creates stability in movement. 

When the foot hits the ground in a specific direction… it’s the collision of equal and opposing force that creates stability. That collision orients from the hip muscles…. the equal and opposing force is torque i.e.. rotation.

Consider the unpredictable ways we move. Stability training must include ground force hip rotation in all planes of motion in order to successfully improve stability in high speed movement and change of direction.

The hip joint allows the femur to move in all directions and rotate. The equal and opposing force is specific muscles in a specific plane of motion.

In order for a muscle to stabilize movement the full length of the muscle must fire. That length involves a rotational component.

For example: when moving forward, rotational torque in internal rotation must equal rotational torque in external rotation to optimally stabilize flexion. Video demo.

Which direction are you moving in? Forward, backward or side to side movement activates specific muscles … each direction involves a major muscle group.

The four muscle groups of the hip are the flexors, the extensors, the abductors and the adductors. To check if hip muscles are fully functioning and able to stabilize movement, a simple rotation test can be preformed. Equal and opposing rotation in a specific position creates stability in that particular muscle group.

Power is also created from stability. Equal and opposing force also allows for power production via the winding up and winding down for safe, powerful loading and unloading of torque.

Whether your movement goal is stability, precision, speed, or power… equal and opposing rotation is the way to train and condition the engine of your body… the hip muscles.

Hip Mobility is about Rotation

Hip MOBILITY is about ROTATION. All the muscles that act on the hip create rotation. We move using rotation. When hip muscles get tight, the first thing lost is rotation. To improve hip mobility you must restore lost rotation.

Muscle fibers that contribute to rotation are diagonally oriented. Diagonal force is needed to affect diagonal fibers. Body weight exercises and free weights rely on the pull of gravity (straight down) which bypass tight diagonal muscle fiber. With the easy built-in application of Standing Firm® simply line the foot up with the corner and rotate the weighted plate.

The diagonal force angle is automatically lined up with the tight diagonal muscle fiber. Diagonal isometrics jump start tight muscle fiber restoring rotation to improve hip mobility. You’ll see immediate results.

Diagonal Isometric Force. Functional. Standing. Neutral Alignment. 

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Functional bodyweight exercises on Standing Firm not only strengthen with gravitational force but also rotational torque… involving the hip muscles to their fullest ability.

Improve mobility… restore rotation of the powerful hip muscles.

Turn on the Full Power of the Hips

Turning on the full power of the hips takes the full range of motion in the muscle…  including rotational range.

Range of motion is commonly defined as a linear or angular measurement. As such… the tools to measure range of motion resemble rulers. These measuring devices work well for measuring the extension/flexion of a hinge joint but fail to capture the essence of a rotational joint like the hip.

The design of the hip joint allows femur mobility in all planes of motion… front to back and side to side.  To evaluate whether full hip power is available for movement… check femur rotation in all hip positions.

The range of internal to external femur rotation in a specific hip position is called the Mobility Zone.

The Mobility Zone is active, full range of femur motion in … adduction, abduction, extension or flexion. Typically 45 degrees of rotation in each direction…internal rotation to external rotation.

This powerful rotational motion is either handled by hip muscles that provide opposing rotation …  or by the same muscle like the gluteus medius that has muscle fiber directions creating both internal and external rotation.

When a hip muscle gets tight it loses end-range of motion and dysfunction begins. The end-range of muscle involves rotation… winding up, winding down. The greater the wind-up, the greater the wind-down necessary for stability and injury-free power.

In sports like golf that require greater degrees of rotation…  accuracy is also on the line. Accurate movement requires full rotational range… the ability to load and unload in equal amounts. Active strength through entire range means precision and power in your golf swing.

Recruit the full Mobility Zone for each position with Standing Firm®… line up your foot in one corner and rotate past neutral to the opposite corner. This gives you forty-five degrees of resisted range of motion in both internal and external rotation.

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Pulse at end-range of motion to restore contractility of muscle fiber and condition it for greater rotation. The more muscle fiber that fires… the greater explosive potential in movement.

Quicker muscle response. Better muscle fiber recruitment. Greater muscle firing.

The most powerful force the body can generate is rotation. Train the hips with rotation… employ the full power of hip muscles.

 

Symmetry Improves Stability

hip-stabilityIt’s the great paradox in athletic training… in order to improve movement you must improve stability. Movement is really about stability.

Control. Stability…the state of being stable. Equal parts around an axis.

Just like a car that’s out of alignment, wear and tear on the body is accelerated when it’s out of balance. The only caveat is … it’s easy to fix a car that’s out of balance, the body on the other hand remains a mystery.. until now.

The rotational hip joint is designed for movement. For stable movement…  simply look to rotational equality….symmetry in hip joint rotation.

How do you measure stability? …understand mechanical design. The more equal the rotation of internal to external in a particular position… the more stable the position.

Introducing Symmetry Screens. Four hip positions that cover the four major muscle groups of the hip.

Using a weighted rotational plate, stability is measured by rotating the leg. Since four different muscle groups act on the hip…4 different positions are used to evaluate symmetry.

Symmetry in joint rotation means that specific hip muscles are balanced and able to stabilize movement in that plane of motion.

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Take the mystery out of stability training with Standing Firm®. Screen Rotational Symmetry. Address specific muscles.

Finally a numeric value to measure and compare…stability, injury risk, recovery.

 

Got Core Stability

The Rectus Abdominis aka.. the abs, is the most well-known muscle of the core. It’s the muscle that gets a lot of attention when training for core stability. But it’s the Rectus Femoris  .. a quadricep muscle and hip flexer that can make or break your ability to stabilize your core.

Before you do another plank or curl, consider this…. tight hip flexors pull the pelvis into an anterior tilt. When the pelvis is pulled out of neutral alignment… core stability in movement is compromised. A six-pack does you no good here.

An anterior pelvic tilt limits internal rotation of the leg and sets off a chain reaction of movement dysfunction and instability. Research confirms …when the foot strikes the ground, the ability to use ground force is altered, there is less ability to extend the leg back and compensation in stride length occurs… both in walking and in running.

Tight hip flexors that create force production problems also create core stability problems.

Fixing the pelvis so that the hips bones are level will get you out of an anterior pelvic tilt… this is a postural fault that many of us have because of all the sitting we do. The key to leveling the pelvis is unlocking the tight muscles to the front… thereby balancing the front to back musculature.

If you fix the pelvis …. level the hip bones… everything will start to work as designed. Core stability will be at it’s greatest potential. THIS SHOULD BE DONE BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE IN THE GYM….. it’s that important.

Screen the Hip Flexors.
Check to see if you have limited internal rotation ….position one leg in front of you… rotate only the leg…keep the hips still.

Rotate the whole leg toward your midline (middle of your body) and in the opposite direction away from midline (away from your body). Each direction should be about equal.

HINT:  45 degrees (corner to corner) in each direction is ideal.

Work the Problem.

Lack of internal rotation is common… the hip muscle responsible for internal rotation in hip flexion is the rectus femoris. Standing Firm uses resisted rotation to unlock the rectus femoris.

  1. Position the leg in front of your body…line your foot with the corner opposite the intended rotation. For example;  to load internal rotation… line foot with 45 degree external rotation corner. Rotate to neutral.
  2. Hold neutral (force is internal rotation) diagonal isometric.
  3. Feel the quadricep muscle engage, hold for 6 seconds, release and do it again, repeat for a 3rd set.
  4. Retest. Remove resistance and check to see if rotation is equal in each direction.

When you unlock the restriction of internal rotation, the leg will rotate like a hot knife through butter. The pelvis will level out… you will have more power and greater core stability.

Missing in Action

Torque Force MISSING ACTION

The most popular exercise of all time, hands down… the squat. But could your muscles be missing the torque action needed for a powerful squat. A Study confirms the glute muscle is divided into three parts… each part specializing in a particular action.

glute-powerThis fan shaped muscle creates amazing power with the muscle fiber direction following the curve of the hip bone. The muscle fiber angled back promotes external rotation (shown in purple) and the fiber toward the front promotes internal rotation (shown in green). A powerful squat needs both internal and external rotation.

It’s not obvious to know if you are missing muscle action. The fibers that contribute to internal and external rotation are in the same muscle… so if the internal rotation fibers are not contributing, the body will go around the missing action and use whatever muscle it can. This sounds like a great idea… problem is, it creates imbalances plus less than optimal performance.

So how do you know if you’re missing muscle action… fortunately the body will give you clues… muscle tightness is a clue! Stretching can bring the missing action back but sometimes it takes more than a simple stretch.

A bigger problem is neuromuscular tightness…. involving sensory issues and muscular issues. The reason for the tightness is twofold..the muscle fiber has lost the ability to:

1. detect muscle length (a sensory issue…neuro)                                                                 2. the muscle fiber is weak (a muscular issue…muscular).

The solution…. hit the muscle with both length and force. In other words; stretch the muscle fiber and apply a counterforce i.e., isometrics.

Locating the missing fiber action in the gluteus medius…

 

When pinpointing tight fiber in the glute med… the stance is shoulder width with rotation occurring at the hip. An equal amount of internal to external rotation is the goal.

A  45 degree “Mobility Zone” or corner to corner is perfect to get the job done… but if you fall short, symmetry in rotation is better than big but uneven range.

 

 

If you have a tight corner (external rotation)…. start in the opposite corner (internal rotation).

Shoulder width stance…rotate into a neutral hip position. A neutral position places a diagonal isometric force on the glute medius posterior fibers via the resistance band.

Work your way into rotation… past neutral. The glute med muscle fiber is lengthened with rotation. The length plus the isometric force improve fiber contractibility.

Your hips will open up and release tightness.

A rotational plate is often used with resistance bands to supply the diagonal force. Rotating further into internal or external rotation provides fiber length… addressing the sensory issues.

If you don’t have the equipment..simply understanding the process will help you set up the counterforce and subsequent rotational stretching. Retest your rotational range of motion… you’ll be amazed at the result.. active, balanced rotational strength. Your torque force is ready for action.

Rotation makes for stronger kettle bell swings

Rotation is in everything you do. … take kettle bell swings for instance. As you swing the weight between your legs, the gluteus maximus absorbs the weight by lengthening the muscle fibers and by rotating the femur, providing internal rotation (toward midline) to load the glutes eccentrically.

The action actually starts at the feet, with the kinetic chain… the arch flattens and the femur rotates toward midline, loading the diagonally-oriented muscle fiber in the glutes, located close to the tailbone.

logo-glute-maxAs the weight swings upward the chain “re girds” itself and moves from internal rotation to external rotation with the same powerful glute muscle.

At the top of the swing external rotation is provided by the glute fiber oriented higher on the hip. Shown in purple.

The interplay that creates internal and external rotation is commonly known as torque force.

Torque is the most powerful force the body can produce. But if the muscle fiber that provides rotation is tight, the body will adjust in order to load the weight. Tight muscle fiber doesn’t load with movement.

Tight muscle fiber not only limits range, but fiber tightness in a muscle can throw off form and lead to injury.

It’s important to have symmetry of internal to external rotation for movement loading and unloading to be safe and powerful.

Checking the ability of the femur to rotate properly through internal and external rotation is pretty simple. The mobility zone for rotation in the hip joint is approximately 45 degrees in each direction.

NOTE: The position of the body changes which hip muscles provide the rotation. For the gluteus maximus the hip position is the hinge or “good morning” position.

If you’re tight in one direction …. work it out with diagonal isometrics (shown using a rotation plate and resistance bands)…..rotate to a neutral hip.

Perform loaded hip hinges while maintaining a neutral hip.The diagonal isometric activates glute muscle fiber shown in purple.

Rotate further into external rotation (corner) to lengthen tight fiber and improve muscle fiber contractibility.

Rotational mobility will be restored and the power to load and lengthen muscle fiber in the gluteus maximus will improve your swing.

The Difference between Core Stability and Hip Stability

By Donna Snow

The pelvis is the center of stability in the body… a starting block for movement.

Core stability…is about holding your spine upright and controlling rotational motion of the pelvis.

Hip stability… is about moving your leg freely and driving off of a stable pelvis.

The abdominal muscles, namely the obliques work to resist motion of the pelvis. But the main reason you lose stability is not the fault of the abdominals… it’s the fault of the hips… weakness in glute muscle fiber alters the position of the pelvis and creates instability.

Weakness in the diagonal glute muscle fiber creates instability in movement.

The glute muscles fan across the surface of the pelvis creating stability for leg movement. Weakness in the glute muscles is common because of the fiber direction… think of a fan with all angles meeting at the same point. The dominant muscle fibers are closer to vertical. Gravity and most gym equipment favor vertical muscle fiber. The diagonal fibers in the glute muscle are often overlooked and underworked…. setting up an imbalance in the muscle.

An imbalance in the glute muscle fiber creates an uneven pull on the pelvis… in other words, instability.

Do you have glute muscle imbalances that create instability? It’s easy to check and see. A simple rotation test will identify weak/inhibited glute muscle. If there is tightness in one direction… the muscle fibers that produce that motion are inhibited and need addressed.

Muscle tightness is a sign of imbalance and creates instability… rotation identifies the problem.

Work in the mobility zone to strengthen across all the fibers of the glute musculature. The mobility zone is rotational motion that spans from approximately 45 degrees of internal rotation to 45 degrees of external rotation. Working corner to corner.

Each hip position has a mobility zone of internal and external rotation. Changing position of the hip changes which hip muscle you’re working. When your stance is shoulder width like a squat the glute med is activated… when you hinge forward at the hips like a deadlift the glute max is activated.

A balanced glute muscle has an equal amount of internal and external rotational motion.

Once you improve the mobility of the powerful hip muscles the transfer to strong, stable movement will be amazing.