Client Review: Moving Pain-Free

“After struggling with knee pain for quite some time I had found squats were a complete no-go zone and deadlifting anything over 200kg, was starting to put the same strain on them, which was a huge set back for me in my usual training plan.

After a brief discussion and 30 minutes in a rack and working on mobility, Juliette had isolated my key weak points, corrected my form slightly and helped put a strategy in place to keep the problem areas free and mobile.

I left the session with a positive outlook and a plan to ensure I could start to build and maintain knee strength again.”

The advantages working with a professional can have on your training:

James was in Melbourne over the weekend from interstate and came to me with a few concerns. This session was just a one-off, to focus on altering a few technical and mechanical aspects of his training.  My focus was to get James performing movements pain-free.  Although this can’t always be accomplished in one session alone, we thankfully did have really good success.

James has been struggling with a few (common) training aches and pains. He also has some functional-postural anomalies which we took into consideration

Focal problematic exercises James presented with, which we addressed in our session:

  • Excessive lower-back recruitment during lying leg curls
  • Patella pain during and post squatting

First we looked at James’ leg curl – its super common for people to over-compensate through lower back with this movement.  Naturally when this moment gets hard, people anteriorly tilt their pelvis and use lower back erectors, to assist. This is awesome if you want a lower back pump.  Top tips for isolating hamstrings and taking lower back out of the movement:

  • Stretching antagonist muscle
  • Lock pelvis down

Between sets, stretch your antagonist muscle, which in this case is Quads. This will help to open up through hips and Quads, allowing for greater range of motion in knee flexion.

Squeeze Glutes and drive hips down hard into the padding under you, as this will shorten and contract your Hamstrings even further.  You may find this shortens your range of motion, but at least your Hamstrings will be doing the work. As soon as you feel your lower back arching and assisting, drive your hips down hard and don’t pull your feet up as high.

Second we looked at James’ squats – before even looking at what he had previously been doing, I could guarantee a few things which would need to be addressed.  Squats can be done a multitude of ways so the mains things I initially wanted to look at, were:

  • Emphasised hip flexion, over knee flexion (with Glute recruitment)
  • Ensured correct tracking and alignment of hips, knees and ankles

Firstly we changed James’ squat from a high bar squat, which replies on a lot of knee flexion and load through the patella, to a low bar box squat.  A low bar squat relies on a lot more hip flexion, meaning less load and tension through the front of the patella (knee), where he’d previously been getting pain/discomfort.  Placing the box behind James also creates a greater level of proprioception for hip placement and squat depth.

We also changed the bar from a straight Olympic bar, to a Buffalo bar.  This can assist with hand position in restricted or injured shoulders.

With these changes, there were a few basic cues we focused on to alter the bar path James had been use to. New cues; hips back, knees out, ribs down.

Driving hips back and turning the movement into more of a hip hinge, than squat down, is a great way to change your squat into a more posterior dominant movement. Increasing Glute, Hamstring and Ab/Adductors recruitment and overall tension posteriorly, while also putting less demand through the quads.

Foot stance was also changed to little wider and slightly turned out, meaning knees need to follow this tracking and stay driving out in line with middle toes. Knees collapsing inwards places a lot of load through the joints, along with loss of tension in the overall lift. Cue; rip the floor apart with your heels.

With James also being fairly Lordotic (excessive curvature in the Lumbar Spine), we altered James’ set position at the top to decrease pressure through Lumbar spine. Instead of body up/chest up, we focused on getting James to lock his rib cage down as he braced, then focus on hinging body over to counter-balance hinge at the hip.  This made a massive difference to his spine and eliminated the pump he’d often experience in his lower back erectors.

Perfect practice makes perfect – we didn’t focus on loading the bar too much with these, instead with the intent to execute consistency in reps and sets.  Reps are what allow you to become technically confident and almost autonomous  in your lifts. When squatting we should be able to perform identical reps. The only change between a 10RM and 1RM, will (in a perfect world) be bar speed.

I also showed James Self-Myofascial Release on his IT Band with the foam roller.  Tightness through the IT Band can cause pulling and restriction, altering Patella tracking, causing pain.

James’ finished product:

Consistency in depth and reps, with more tension throughout entire body, increased glute/hamstring recruitment, neutral spine with less loading on Lumbar and PAIN FREE. Oh, and a happy client.

Mission accomplished!

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