Getting the kinetic chain to operate with optimal efficiency is predicated on the ability to design a proper program. Proper program design is built upon the compilation of key components.
These components include:
- Kinetic Chain Profile
- Flexibility Training
- Core Stabilization Training
- Balance Training (Neuromuscular Stabilization Training)
- Power Training (Reactive Neuromuscular Training)
- Strength Training
To ensure optimal neuromuscular efficiency throughout the entire kinetic chain, all of these components must be trained in an orderly systematic fashion. Each one of these components will be addressed with regards to the GM.
Kinetic Chain Profile
In order to design a proper program with a specific purpose, it is necessary to gather essential information. A Kinetic Chain Profile provides the blueprint and foundation for precise program design. By using a variety of observations, decisions and judgements can be made more readily concerning the client. Some of the profiles used include:
- General and Medical History Profile
- Dynamic Movements Profile
General and Medical History Profile
A General and Medical History Profile can be of extreme value to a personal trainer who understands common kinetic chain principles. Reviewing the information from the "Common Causes" section of this article, questions that reveal the client’s medical history should trigger an awareness of possible GM weakness/inhibition. Medical history question should illuminate things such as:
- Injuries or pain in the big toe (turf toe), ankle, knee and low back
- Reoccurring hamstring and/or groin strains
Also, looking at the client’s common movement patterns should indicate the possibility of GM weakness/inhibition as well. General history questions should evaluate things such as:
- Repetitive sitting, running and/or bicycling
- Sleeping positions
Once general and medical history information has been gathered, it can be correlated to different dynamic movement observations. Two easily performed dynamic movement profiles are the overhead squat and the single leg squat. The overhead squat looks at total kinetic chain neuromuscular efficiency and functional strength as well as dynamic flexibility, while the single leg squat magnifies lower extremity neuromuscular efficiency, functional strength and dynamic flexibility.
Dynamic Movements Profile
Each one of these dynamic movements will give you very similar information. The reason to perform both movements is to look for asymmetrical differences between each side of the body in the single leg squat that may not be as readily observed in the bilateral stance of the overhead squat.
To perform the overhead squat:
- Have clients hold a wooden dowel rod in their hands and place it above the head.
- Have them place their feet about shoulder width apart and make sure their feet are facing straight ahead.
- Have them begin to squat at a comfortable tempo.
To perform the single leg squat:
- Have the client lift one foot slightly but completely off the ground, holding it right next to the stance foot far enough away from the other leg so they do not touch one another.
- Make sure the foot on the ground is facing straight ahead.
- Have them begin to squat at a comfortable tempo.
When viewing clients with either of these movements, the same format and responses may be used. Begin by watching their feet and move up to the next joint every couple of repetitions.
What to watch for:
- Do the feet flatten and/or tend to externally rotate (toes peel outward)?
- This may indicate tightness in the calves (gastrocnemius and/or soleus).
- Tight calves do not allow the ankle to move properly in the sagittal plane and cause the heel to lift and the knee and hip to flex prematurely. In turn, this makes the iliopsoas work harder and more often than usual during walking and running.
- Do the knees cave inward (knocked kneed)?
- This may indicate tightness in the calves, adductors and iliotibial band (IT band).
- This may also indicate weakness in the GM and gluteus medius as well.
- Tightness in the calves has been addressed above. Tightness in the adductors and IT band increases stress placed upon the knee and low back and allow for decreased neural drive to the gluteal muscles, which in turn perpetuates the problem.
- Does the low back hyperextend (extreme arching)?
- This may indicate tightness in the erector spinae, iliopsoas and latissimus dorsi.
- This may also indicate weakness in the core (deep stabilizing muscles of the spine).
- Tightness in the erector spinae, iliopsoas and latissimus dorsi can create an anterior pelvic tilt and place increased stress on the low back and allows for decreased neural drive to the GM.
- Do the arms fall forward (overhead squat only)?
- This may indicate tightness in the latissimus dorsi.
If in fact our profiling process has uncovered the possibility of decreased range of motion in structures surrounding the low back, hip and pelvis region, it has already been determined that this can effect the firing of the GM. By performing the necessary flexibility exercises, we can increase the mechanical range of motion of the antagonist (iliopsoas) as well as increase the neural drive to the GM.
Efficient forms of flexibility that can be easily administered to the client for these specific structures include self-myofascial release with a foam roller and some static, active and dynamic stretching. The foam roll should be used prior to the stretching and/or warm ups.
Foam roll and stretching should include:
- Rectus femoris
- Latissimus dorsi
- IT band
Core Stabilization Training
It is essential to maintain neuromuscular efficiency through the entire kinetic chain. However, this may be most important throughout the core. The core is the origin of all movement. As such, it sets up the rest of the body for optimal force absorption, distribution and production and ensures neuromuscular efficiency.
As an integral component of the core, the GM must be re-educated to work synergistically with all other components of the core. Some pertinent core exercises include:
- Bridging (Floor & Ball; 2 leg & 1 leg)
- Opposite arm and leg raise (Floor & Ball)
- Ball prone cobra
- Reverse hyperextension (ball and/or bench)
Balance Training (Neuromuscular Stabilization)
Balance training is training that places a high demand on the proprioceptive systems of the body. Following a proper flexibility protocol, the kinetic chain is presented with a new range of motion. However, without re-educating the nervous system on how to use and control this new range of motion, the body will return to a sub-optimal state. This has been demonstrated in follow-up studies of patients who were conservatively treated for instability of the ankle. It was shown that 18 to 23 years later, 32 of 49 ankles still showed instability.
Whether a client has suffered an ankle injury, toe injury or muscle imbalances that create reciprocal inhibition, the nervous has been altered and must be re-trained. Neuromuscular stabilization training is training for the nervous system much like resistance training is perceived for the muscular system.
Balance training exercise include:
- Single-leg Balance Reach with Upper and Lower Extremities
- Single-leg Standing Exercises
- Chest Press
- Shoulder Press
- Bicep Curls
- Tricep Extensions
- Single-leg Squat
- Single-leg Romanian Deadlift
Power Training (Reactive Neuromuscular Training)
Power training is a progression that necessitates proper levels of flexibility, core and balance. It is essential for everyday functional activities as it prepares the body to move at functionally applicable speeds. Think of your everyday movements. How many of them actually occur at a slow controlled tempo? Very few. As such, we must prepare the nervous system to operate at speeds necessary for proper movement patterns.
Power training exercise include:
- Multiplanar Hops with Stabilization
- Multiplanar Jump Up and Jump Down with Stabilization
- Squat Jumps
- Power Step-ups
By addressing flexibility, core, balance and power, we have set the body up to more maximally utilize and recruit muscles and motor units. Now we can get more effective results from our strength training. The biggest misconception we fall into is that in order to alter the appearance of muscles, we must work them harder and harder. The fact is we need to work them smarter. By changing the plane of motion, stabilization requirements (stable to unstable), range of motion, speed of repetition (tempo), resistance, angle of resistance and volume (total amount of work) of our workouts from day to day, we increase the need for recruitment of our muscles. This means getting out the habitual training routines that we’ve been stuck in for years and designing programs that reflect how the physiology of the human body works.
Strength training exercise include:
- Single Leg Squats
- Multiplanar Lunges
- Walking Lunges
- Multiplanar Step Ups
If you're currently training clients and not really getting the results you were expecting, perhaps it’s time to change. Remember, a properly designed program includes all of the mentioned components (Flexibility, Core, Balance, Power and Strength).
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