This “Thursday Throwback” features an article I wrote over 4 years ago that overviews what may prevent someone from squatting deeply, and an assessment you can use to check your squat depth. Over the last several years, I’ve read a ton of research on hip anatomy and progressive structural changes. In the end, it seems that structural limitations are becoming more of the norm than the exception and it is incredibly important that coaches AND athletes/lifters recognize that what was previously considered a full squat may not apply to everyone/you. Symptoms of squatting past your range can manifest in many ways, but two of the more common ones are low back pain and anterior hip pain. I’ve also seen pretty significant discomfort in the piriformis, adductor complex, and TFL as a result of this pattern.

Check out the post below, as well as the article I link to, and please feel free to post any comments or questions you have below. This is an important topic that affects just about everyone that trains (or moves)!

The Truth About Deep Squatting

About a month ago, my article “Battling Anatomy: Implications for Effective Squatting“, was published at SBCoachesCollege.com, a website I couldn’t say enough good things about.

The other day I received an excellent question from Jason Price, Founder and CEO of Athletes Equation.

“Hello Kevin,
I read you article on SB Coaches College today and really found it informative and enjoyed it very much.  I did have a few questions after reading that I was hoping you could provide me with some further information or clarification.  What I have noticed with many of the youth athletes that I am training is that their hip mobility is terrible. I too have utilized the “touch and go” method to control how much depth they can attain until they have improved their mobility.  I have found this to be a fantastic method for most athletes.  But, I was thinking after reading your article about athletes which are dependent of being in the deep squat position in their sport.  I train several weightlifters and one of them still suffers from a very similar condition as the individual in your videos.  I am wondering what suggestions you would have for me in coaching this individual.  In the sport of weightlifting as I am sure you are aware you must get into the deep squat position to effectively clean and snatch significant weight.  My athlete does not have the significant discrepancy one side to the other.  But, he does have the tuck under at the bottom of the deep squat position.  So how can I effectively train him to receive the barbell deep in the squat with this technical flaw without placing him in this potentially hazardous position?  Should he not squat deep? Do you know of any methods outside of orthopedic evaluation for anatomical abnormalities?

Again, fantastic article i really enjoyed it and felt you gave many of the readers an alternative viewpoint as to why some of these technical breakdowns happen.  I appreciate your time and any response.”

My immediate thought is to first consider that everyone is not built for deep squatting.  Despite the increasing usage of pictures of babies in a deep squat position as evidence for this ability, the hip joint and associated ligaments change as a natural/circumstantial part of development, that may result in a range of motion (ROM) limitation in some people.  Having said that, it’s always better to assess than guess.

With regards to the lifter in the article video, the side-to-side discrepancy simply indicates that only one of his hips, the right one, lacks full ROM.  In his case, I was able to recommend he see a hip specialist because he had multiple signs of CAM impingement.  Notably, he lacked internal rotation ROM on the right side compared to the left and flexion/adduction on the right side was extremely painful.

Getting more to your question about the bilateral hip tuck, the first thing you could try is to coach him to push his knees out while he’s going down and to keep his knees out while driving up.  This opens up the hips to allow for maximal hip flexion while avoiding bony contact between the trochanters of the femur and the “spines” of the hip bone.  Mark Rippetoe wrote a great article called “You Don’t Know Squat without an “Active Hip”” about this topic.

If that doesn’t clear things up, there is a pretty straight forward assessment you can use to see whether this is a soft tissue restriction or a joint anatomy restriction.  A few months ago I had the pleasure of talking to Shirley Sahrmann about this issue.  She recommended using quadruped rocking to assess their ROM.

Quadruped rocking involves putting the lifter in a quadruped position, with their knees under their hips, top of their feet flat against the floor, and hands under their shoulders.  The lifter should set up in a neutral lumbar spine position, then use their arms to push their hips back (pushing into hip flexion) so as to sit on their heels, while MAINTAINING the neutral lumbar position.  Note the angle that the hips begin to tuck.  Stop them there, have them return to the starting position and try again.  Dr. Sahrmann basically said that 8-10 repetitions of this should improve their hip ROM.  If it doesn’t, their hip joint anatomy doesn’t allow  for it and never will.  Any attempt to push beyond this point will lead to lumbar flexion, and invariably some sort of back pain.

I’ve found this assessment to be incredibly useful.  In less than 30 seconds I’m able to see what kind of hip flexion ROM someone has.  If their hips start to tuck at 90 degrees every time, and it doesn’t improve with more repetitions, I know that’s the extent of their ROM and stop them at that point during all exercises (squats, lunges, etc.).  Depending on the severity of the restriction, this may also mean that they can’t perform a deadlift off the floor, in which case I’d move them to a rack pull from a height slightly above their end range.

Ask your athlete where they feel the restriction while quadruped rocking.  If they feel like they’re tight on the back side, some mobility work may clear that up, but it’s also likely that quadruped rocking will clear that up.  If they feel restricted in the front or any type of grinding in or around their “groin” area, it’s likely a hip joint limitation.  I don’t recommend forcing lifters through positions their hip joints don’t allow for.  That is, unless they’re looking for low back pain and a hip labral tear.  Hope this helps.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld
OptimizingMovement.com
UltimateHockeyTraining.com

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Although I tend to wear several hats, from an athletic development standpoint, my job essentially boils down to two primary responsibilities:

  1. Make sure athletes don’t get hurt
  2. Improve their performance

Foundational to both of these goals is an understanding of regional interdependence. Regional interdependence  can be crudely defined as a phenomenon whereby one segment or system of the body influences another, sometimes remote, segment or system. The manners through which these interactions take place can be incredibly complex, but for our purposes, a more general view of these interactions can be relatively easily described.

Before we get to that, it’s worth pointing out that understanding this concept is incredibly important both in recognizing how seemingly unrelated areas can be the cause of (or at least very much related to) injury or inefficiencies in other areas. In other words, it helps explain how we function, and understanding function is requisite to maximizing it.

Although I used slightly differently terminology, this idea of regional interdependence was one of the first topics I covered in my book Ultimate Hockey Training.

Traditionally regional interdependence is thought of from a mechanical standpoint from both a local and global perspective, but there are also what I think of as more “functional” applications of the concept. To be clear, there is no isolation or segregation between mechanical and functional concepts so please don’t be misled by the terminology. I tend to think of regional interdependence within these 5 paradigms, some or all of which may be familiar to you already.

  1. Tensegrity
  2. Synergistic Dominance
  3. Anatomy Trains
  4. Joint by Joint Approach
  5. Functional Outcome Prioritization

Tensegrity
Tensegrity is the concept that mechanical stresses placed on or across any given structure can be transmitted to adjacent structures, with an intensity that diminishes as the distance from the original stress increases. For example, if a hockey player takes a puck to the anterior thigh, that stress spreads through the skin, underlying muscle, deeper muscle, and adjacent muscles and soft tissue structures much like water ripples when a rock is thrown in it. Stress to an area is co-absorbed by surrounding tissues. The same is true when a muscle contracts; some of the stress of that contraction spreads to surrounding tissues. In this way, the stress response and force outputs in any given movement are dependent upon the capacity and integrity not just of  the “target” tissue, but also of those surrounding it. This is regional dependence through mechanical load sharing.

Synergistic Dominance
This is a concept Dr. Shirley Sahrmann identifies in her book “Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes” which explains why sometimes the muscle that is doing everything right is the one that gets injured. As an example relevant to hockey players, if a certain degree of hip flexion force is needed and one or more of the hip flexors is weak, than one or more of the remaining hip flexors will need to pick up the slack. Over a single repetition (one stride recovery), this may not be injurious. But over time with thousands and thousands of repetitions (not uncommon for a single week of practice), the hip flexors that are picking up the slack can become overworked and break down. This is regional dependence through synergistic movement production.

Anatomy Trains
Anatomy trains is a term that was coined by Thomas Myers to describe the the myofascial (or connective tissue) connections within the body. As one example, Myers describes the “Superficial Back Line” as originating on the plantar surface of the foot, traveling around the achilles tendon and gastrocnemius, up through the hamstrings, connecting to the pelvis via the sacrotuberous ligament, continuing up the erector spinae and up around the back of the head to the brow of the forehead via the galea aponeuroses and scalp fascia. In other words, there is a continuous structural link from the bottom of the foot to the forehead.

Superficial Back Line

This helps explain why someone that has trouble touching their toes can make significant progress in this range of motion by simply rolling their plantar fascia with a tennis ball. Even more abstract, this explains one mechanism why someone with restrictions through their calves may have neck pain. This is just one illustration of an anatomical network; these exist everywhere throughout our body and provide direct anatomical links for why restrictions in one area can have a significant impact on seemingly remote areas. This is regional interdependence through anatomical connection via connective tissue, which is also naturally affected by tensegrity.

Joint by Joint Approach
The “Joint by Joint Approach” was a phrase coined by Mike Boyle and Gray cook to describe a system of alternating joint function as you progress from foot to head. In reality, every joint needs a specific balance of mobility and stability based on its structure, but the JBJA system helps us understand the mechanism underlying a lot of common injuries. To be overly simplistic, if a joint in the mobility column has sub-optimal mobility (or range of motion), an adjacent joint will need to “fill in the gap” by providing the additional range of motion. Usually this “compensatory movement” occurs at the next joint up. Following this idea, you can refer to the table and see that mobility restrictions in the left column lead to compensatory movements (and consequent injuries) to the joints in the right column.

Much like the “Anatomy Trains” concept, this has tensegrity implications for load sharing as well, but adds to the regional interdependence idea by illustrating how deficiencies in joint range of motion (mobility) and/or control of that range of motion (stability) can affect neighboring joints.

If you’re interested, I wrote more about this concept here: Mobility-Stability Continuum

Functional Outcome Prioritization
Finally, segments with NO (or at least minimal) direct anatomical or biomechanical influence on each other can still have profound impacts on one another via this idea of functional outcome prioritization. Simply, this refers to the almost infinite degrees of freedom your body has in creating a movement that leads to a desired outcome. For example, if you need to raise your arm overhead to open a cabinet, you have options of reaching as high as you can with a relatively neutral trunk and lower body, you can side bend your trunk to get your arm higher, you can stand on your toes to get your arm higher, etc. It doesn’t matter, so long as your hand reaches the handle. THAT is the functional outcome.

More relevant to hockey players, in opening up to receive a pass and take a shot from the point, you will need to follow through with your stick directed toward the goal. If you’re positioned in the middle of the ice by the blue line, this is roughly a 180 degree rotation from a full wind-up to a full follow through. In achieving this, you can divide that rotation up amongst the joints in the body so that your feet rotate on the ice, your hips rotate, and your upper spine rotates. If rotation range of motion is lacking in any of these segments, it will need to be made up for somewhere else. Locally, this could mean that a lack of hip rotation causes excessive lumbar rotation (Joint by Joint Approach), but it could also mean that your shoulder blades and shoulders need to rotate and translate more than would otherwise be desirable. Similarly, a certain degree of rotation is required to position the skate at a 45 degree angle during a forward skating stride. A lack of hip rotation could cause compensatory rotation at the other hip, knee, or ankle, and/or changes through the lumbar spine. In this way, the body can choose a strategy to achieve a specific functional outcome, which may or may not be the optimal strategy based on sound biomechanics. This is regional interdependence through functional outcome prioritization.

Taken together, these illustrations of regional interdependence underline the importance of assessing and training the whole body, even when a more local goal is desired (e.g. ACL tear rehabilitation and/or increase in upper body strength). To maximize function, balance in range of motion, stiffness, strength, and control must be achieved throughout the body, within, across, between, and among joints.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. If you want a comprehensive step-by-step hockey training system based on these principles, check out my new book Ultimate Hockey Training

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What a week. Things have been really chaotic as I get ready to launch my new hockey training project and as our Tier I youth and Junior players return back to Endeavor for their off-season training.

I wanted to let you know about a special opportunity I just found out about. In January I mentioned that my friend Joe Heiler from SportsRehabExpert.com was putting together a “Sports Rehab to Sports Performance Teleseminar”. If you missed that post, you can check out it here: Sports Rehab to Sports Performance

In a nutshell, Joe compiled an absurdly prestigious list of the top physical therapists, athletic trainers, and strength and conditioning coaches in the world and interrogated them for their best information.

Contributors included:

Gray Cook and Shirley Sahrmann
Robert Panariello
Stuart McGill (bonus interview with Chris Poirier from Perform Better)
Craig Liebenson and Clare Frank
Mike Reinold
Greg Rose
Mike Boyle
Gary Gray
Eric Cressey

The interviews were done so well that I actually emailed Joe afterward and (politely and respectfully) asked him what he was thinking giving them away for free. If you didn’t register for the teleseminar, you really missed out on an incredible opportunity to here some of the most brilliant people in human performance history speak.

Luckily, Joe has put together all of the presentations (including bonus presentations by Nick Tumminello and Charlie Weingroff) into one great package for a more than reasonable investment.

Click here for more information: Sports Rehab to Sports Performance

Let me take a second to say that this is NOT for everyone. I know a lot of the people that read my site are youth hockey players or coaches that have no interest in this aspect of things. If this includes you, then do NOT buy this. A lot of the science talk will be over your head and you won’t get a ton out of it.

If you ARE a physical therapist, athletic trainer, or strength and conditioning coach, this is definitely information you should hear. It’s unlikely that you’ll ever get this type of line up again, and you really can’t beat the price tag: $29.99. Think about the travel, food (for me this would probably exceed $100 itself…but I eat a lot), hotel and admission costs associated with attending a weekend seminar to get this SAME information. I still think Joe is crazy for giving this away at this price, but he’s really dedicated to making quality information easily accessible, and I have a ton of respect for that!

Click here for more information: Sports Rehab to Sports Performance

To your continued success,

Kevin Neeld

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Last night I surprised Emily by picking her up at the airport (she was expecting a friend from work). Her flight was delayed, so I’m a little tired today!

I’m always curious what resources other Strength and Conditioning Coaches go to for new/unique training information. There are a ton of great books, websites, audio programs, and DVDs out there, all of which cost money.

Below is a list of my the Top 10 FREE Newsletters that I think all Strength and Conditioning Coaches should subscribe to.

Everyone will benefit from all of these, but you may find some speak to you more than others so I don’t think it’s fair to rank them (that’s why they’re all labeled “1”).

1) Eric Cressey’s Newsletter

1) Michael Boyle’s Functional Strength Coach Newsletter

1) Nick Tumminello’s Newsletter and Video Course

1) Mike Robertson’s Newsletter

1) SBCoachesCollege.com Newsletter

1) Brian Tracy’s Newsletters (I love the “Quote of the Day newsletter)

1) Mike Geary’s Newsletter (Great Nutrition and fat loss tips)

1) John Berardi’s/Precision Nutrition Newsletter

1) Kevin Neeld’s Newsletter (Had to throw that one in there)

1) Kim McCullough’s Hockey Newsletter (This is a must-subscribe for both male AND female hockey players and coaches)

These are the newsletters I read on a daily basis. If you know of other great newsletters please post them below so we can all benefit from them!

Keep learning. Keep training smart.

-Kevin Neeld

P.S. Don’t forget to register for this FREE teleseminar with guest speakers like Mike Boyle, Eric Cressey, Gray Cook, Shirley Sahrmann, and Stu McGill: Sports Rehab to Sports Performance Teleseminar

P.P.S. I’m really excited that my Ultimate Ice Hockey Training Facebook Group has broken the 1,000 fan barrier. Help spread the word to other motivated hockey players and coaches!

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My friend Joe Heiler, the brilliant Physical Therapist behind SportsRehabExpert.com, just sent me an email announcing the final line-up to his FREE “Sports Rehab to Sports Performance Teleseminar.”

Check out this list of presenters!

Gray Cook and Shirley Sahrmann
Robert Panariello
Stuart McGill (bonus interview with Chris Poirier from Perform Better)
Craig Liebenson and Clare Frank
Mike Reinold
Greg Rose
Mike Boyle
Gary Gray
Eric Cressey

I don’t know how he managed to get those names to join forces for this (or why he’s offering this seminar for free), but I’m really excited for the seminar. This list includes the most influential Physical Therapists, Strength Coaches, Chiropractors, and Athletic Trainers in the industry, and they ALWAYS deliver unbelievable content.

Gray Cook, Shirley Sahrmann, Stuart McGill, Mike Boyle, and Eric Cressey have all had a profound impact on the way I train my athletes. In fact, from my desk at Endeavor I can see at least one book from each one of them!

The presentations will begin on January 27th and run every Wednesday night at 8 pm. Joe mentioned that he knew that time may not work for everyone so he’s making all the presentation recordings available for up to 48 hours afterward.

This is one of the few presentations/seminars every year that you MUST be a part of. Last year’s was incredible and the line-up is even better this year! Since it’s free…and you have two days to listen to each presentation, you really don’t have an excuse not to.

Click the link below for more information or to register:

Sports Rehab to Sports Performance Teleseminar

To your continued success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. Remember that this is a FREE teleseminar! At the risk of offending you, you’d have to be stupid not to register: Sports Rehab to Sports Performance Teleseminar

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