STOP Stretching Your Hamstrings!

‘Tight’ hamstrings is a BIG issue for a lot of people. ‘Tight’ hamstrings can result in all sorts of symptoms from lack of flexibility at the hip joints, shoulder misalignment and lower back pain…

One of the more common symptoms to ‘tight’ hamstrings is lack of flexibility at the hips. The typical school of thought to this issue is to do hamstring stretches to ‘lengthen’ the ‘short’ hamstring muscles, almost viewing muscles like play doe that need to be reshaped and lengthened. Now this is a very old school way of dealing with muscle ‘tightness’ and to be honest a superficial and short term tactic. It’s not that stretching doesn’t have it’s place, it most defiantly does! But it’s very rare that an individual has experienced improved mobility at a joint from only stretching, especially if we’re aiming to produce a long term change.

YOUR hamstrings and the integrated system

The reason why just stretching your hamstrings is a superficial way of dealing with hamstring ‘tightness’ (and could potentially make the situation worse) is because the body is any integrated system. What does integrated system mean? Well here’s an example…

You have three hamstring muscles (semitendinosus, semimebranosus, biceps femoris) that originate from the sit bones of your pelvis (ischial tuberosity) down the back of your thigh bone (femur) and attach onto the back of your knee (posterior/medial condyle of the tibia and the head of the fibula). That’s a pretty simple explanation of the location of the hamstrings but here is where things get interesting…

Fibers of the biceps femoris (one of your hamstring muscles) continue into the sacrotuberous ligament (a ligament that connects the sit bones to the sacrum). The sacrotuberous ligament continues into the thoracolumbar fascia (lower/midback area) and the thoracolumbar fascia continues into the latissimus dorsi (big muscle across your back) which attaches onto the top of your arms (the humerus)…

Your right hamstring muscles attach all the way up into the top of your left arm (diagonal connection). This means that an issue in your shoulder for example can be felt as an issue in your lower back, hamstrings ect… Hamstring issues can be an end result of something happening somewhere else. This is why just focusing on stretching the hamstrings is a short term tactic that most likely won’t produce long term results.

Producing a long term result for your hamstrings

Commonly, the hamstrings can go into a ‘protective spasm’ when the sciatic nerve is ‘tight’. This ‘protective spasm’ can result in having a restricted range of motion when it comes to hip/lower back flexibility. Your sciatic nerve is a big nerve in your body that runs down the back of your legs. If this nerve becomes ‘tight’ your brain will instruct your hamstring muscles to go into a ‘protective spasm’ (reducing your hamstring’s ability to fully eccentrically contract) in order to lesson the likelihood of damaging the sciatic nerve. Your brain would much rather you experience hamstring ‘tightness’ and lack of mobility at the hip joint than risk damaging the sciatic nerve. What I’ve seen with a lot of my clients is when the sciatic nerve has been mobilised they gain back hamstring flexibility. Now I’m not saying that the sciatic nerve is the whole story but it’s more times than not part of the equation. Of course an individual’s lifestyle also needs to be taken into consideration.

The Take Away

I hope this blog gives you a clearer understanding on how the body is truly an integrated system. If there is an issue in the body (lack of mobility, pain ect…), it’s possible that the issue is a symptom of something else going on. Just focusing on the issue is often not enough to produce a desired result. The famous quote, ‘those who treat the site of pain are lost’ is incredibly accurate in most cases.

If you would like more information on how to improve hamstring issues, private message me on my Facebook – Movement Biomechanics (link below).

Drop me a message and let’s connect 🙂

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Tom Waldron

How To PERMANENTLY Maintain A 10/10 Mindset To MASTER Any Skill

We all want to perform at our best. Whether you’re working in business, fitness, or any type of industry, we all have a sense of what our ‘best self’ could be like and what our ‘best self’ looks like in our mind. Now I completely understand and respect that what you perceive as the ‘best version of you’ is incredibly subjective, based on your culture, up bringing and beliefs. Despite these factors I think that we can all agree that what ever we perceive as the ‘better version of ourselves’ is a more confident, authentic, grounded, happier, healthier, fitter and creative individual. Unfortunately for most people their ‘day to day self’ doesn’t necessarily fall into alignment with the image of what their ‘best self’ could be, how frustrating and disappointing right?

What you already know

If you’re into self development it’s no secret that your daily habits and rituals, regardless of how insignificant they may appear, is what determines your beliefs, mindset, behaviour, actions and over all success in life. Your behaviour shapes your mind.good_bad_habits_large

So there are life coaches all over the world who give the best information on nutrition, fitness, marketing, business and mindset. All with the intention to help you in the process of achieving your goals and reaching the top of the mountain. Personally I think that’s fricken awesome! All the best  information is at your finger tips and all you have to do is study the information and then implement it… Simple right?

Despite having the best teachers and coaches available 24/7 with the most premium knowledge and advice to attain success in any area, most people fail to produce the results they want. What’s going wrong here?

Well as a lot of people will confess, the development of one’s self is not the easiest path to follow. It’s an incredibly narrow path and as your success and responsibilities increase, your margin for error becomes increasingly smaller and smaller. Requiring even more mental focus, vision and discipline. This path becomes even harder as the world around you (tv, facebook, twitter, advertisements, trolls, even friends and family), are more times than not, encouraging you to stay the same and to not change. Humans inherently view change as negative and it’s this mental function that we need to re-program in order to create change in it’s deepest, most purest form. goals

‘So what’s your solution to creating positive change so I can achieve my goals?’

I’m glad you ask!!!

How to reinforce ANYTHING you want into your neurology

As I said earlier it’s your habits that reinforce everything. Your habits reinforce your behaviour and your behaviour is what determines how your brain is wired. Science is now finding that even our genes respond to our behaviour!!!

Behaviour reinforces neural pathways. A human being has some where between 60,000 and 80,000 thoughts a day. 99% of the thoughts you’re having today are the same thoughts you had yesterday…

I believe that if you can train your brain to automatically produce and replay thoughts that are congruent to the behaviours and beliefs systems you want to adopt, that is how you can be successful in any endeavour. Having your ‘inner cheerleaders’ on your side. Eliminating unnecessary thoughts. Sounds too idealistic? Let me give you a step by step process to bring about this transformation.

Rewire your brain

Studies have shown that the average person retains only 10% of the major themes of a book seven days after reading it. However if you teach what you’ve learned, you retain 90%. Teaching or explaining useful topics from your favourite business or self development books, podcasts and seminars reinforces to your brain that, ‘what I’m spending time and energy is important.’ neuroplasticity

Your brain will only spend energy on building neural pathways to what it perceives to be important. Why? Because enforcing new patterns requires time and energy and your DNA is always trying to preserve time and energy to maintain efficiency. An incredibly effective way to enforce a new pattern is to teach what you want to cement into your own neurology.

Now I’m no self help guru/coach and I’m not trying to be one. I’m an educator who is an anatomy geek and I’m fascinated by how the brain produces change. I’m speaking from experience, I’ve taught the principles about how the brain produces change nearly everyday for the past 2 and half years (literally). Over this time I’ve noticed how my own day to day auto pilot thought processes have slowly changed, due to the fact that my mind continuously emphasised the processes on how to build new neural pathways. I’m not perfect by any means but my thoughts and behaviours are 10 times better in terms of what I want to get out of life than they were before I started teaching. I believe this is down to what I’ve been emphasising in my 1-1 sessions with clients for the past 2 and a half years, how to produce real long lasting change in your mind and body. My intention behind this was to improve posture and movement patterns, but you can do this for any goal.

If you don’t have the platform to teach that’s absolutely fine. Start surrounding yourself with like minded individuals who are on the same path you’re on. You can teach each other the main take away points from amazing books like ‘The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People’ or the latest podcast episode from ‘Level 10 Living”. As cheesy as it sounds you can even do a weekly book club. Having people who share the same values as you hold you accountable and keep you on track. If you don’t have people in your life right now who want to listen to this sort of stuff, get a video camera and record yourself teaching the main topics from the latest book or podcast you’ve been digesting. Find opportunities in social situations (with out being too over bearing) where you can share these ideas and teachings. The process to reaching your goals has to become part of your daily vocabulary. Remember the intention is to reinforce a new paradigm of thought and behaviour.

When your conscious mind is continuously focusing and re-focusing on certain ideas and values, this will over time trickle down into the sub conscious mind. Once your sub conscious mind has adopted a new pattern, that pattern is very hard to get rid of… It is there to stay.

So to conclude, redirect your conversations with people away from trivial topics. Be mindful of the 60,000 thoughts you’re producing daily. If you have a platform where you are teaching/educating, use that platform to reinforce to yourself what you’re are working to embody, be aware of the type of language you’re using. If you don’t have that platform, find ways to recycle the wisdom and knowledge from your favourite coaches and teachers daily.

Remember, what ever action you take (or don’t take), you’re reinforcing a belief system.

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Tom Waldrom
Tom Waldron

STOP Training Your CORE!!!

As a pilates instructor and biomechanics coach, a big thing I get told a lot by new clients during initial consultations are, ‘I need to strengthen my core muscles’.

Normally they have been told this by a physical therapist (more likely a miss-interpretation of what the therapist was actually saying), or they have done a bit of casual googleing on the internet which has led them to the conclusion that their ‘core’ is ‘weak’ and it needs to be ‘strengthened’.core-energy

Stating that a muscle or a group of muscles are ‘weak’ is an over simplification to say the least. How do you know a muscle is ‘weak’ and not just inhibited or in spasm? If a muscle is inhibited or in spasm, the last thing you want to do is ‘strengthen’ the muscle with exercises. Surely that will just reinforce the underlying issue instead of addressing the causes behind why the muscle appears to be ‘weak’ in the first place?

Following this paradigm that there are ‘weak’ muscles and ‘strong’ muscles can eventually lead to injury as the inner mechanics of the body have been ignored. If we want our outer form to be strong, we need to develop inner structural integrity.

But training my core helps my lower back

A common reason to training the core muscles (besides the aesthetics) is to improve the stability of the spine. If someone is suffering from lower back pain, it is a popular belief that the spine is ‘unstable’ and so it needs to be ‘stabilised’ by the muscles that help with stability of the spine = the core muscles… Makes sense right?

Unfortunately the human body is not that simple. Having ‘strong’ core muscles doesn’t automatically result in a pain free lower back or greater spine stability. As a biomechanics coach, before I start working with a client I give them a full head to toe screening. Assessing for any dysfunctions (from a biomechanical perspective) up and down the body. One thing I almost always comes across in these initial screenings are pelvic asymmetry, muscle spasms (muscles around the pelvis), tight nerves (sciatic nerve) and a lacking in appropriate mobility at certain areas of the spine (mainly lower back and mid back). pelvic-asymm-tfl-stand-col-resize

Taking into consideration the person’s current inner mechanics. If I start straight away with exercising the core muscles, all that person will be doing is reinforcing all those dysfunctions.

‘Why?’

By ‘strengthening’ the core muscles, all those issues will be further ‘glued’ together, adding on top of the already existing issues. It’s like building a good looking house under poor, uneven foundations. At some point the structural integrity of the house will run into some issues. When exercising you want to also be taking into consideration your intrinsic biomechanics for the same reasons.

In fact if those issues were dealt with first, the core may be absolutely fine as a result! The disengagement of certain core muscles may have been an end result caused by the mis-alignment of the pelvis and the ‘tightness’ of certain nerves in the first place.

So should I be training my core?

It depends…Even if the pelvis is in good alignment, there are no muscle spasms, no ‘tight nerves’ and the spine can move with healthy range, the core muscles may still need to be looked at. In most cases, it’s more about improving the feedback loop from the nervous system to the core muscles (proprioception), instead of exercising the core in the traditional sense. From there it’s up to YOU how much you train your core and that is down to your health and fitness goals.

abs-of-steelI have zero issue with someone wanting to exercise their core muscles. It’s your body and how ever you want to train it (or not train it) is your choice and it’s a choice that should be respected. All I’m saying is it makes sense to be mindful and take into consideration how the body is working intrinsically and how the intrinsic workings will directly influence how we look, move and feel.

How can I start to improve my intrinsic mechanics so I can exercise my core safely?

The pelvis is a great starting point. Below is a link to a short video that gives you a quick and easy way to assess the symmetry of your pelvis (from a biomechanical perspective) and how to perform an anti spasm technique to help with the alignment of your pelvis.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Lkur9ZcNXw

If you would like more information email me at tomwaldron57@yahoo.co.uk

Or contact Rachel from Biomechanics Education at rachel@biomechanicseducation.com

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Tom Waldrom
Tom Waldron

WARNING: The Number 1 Mistake All Runners Make!!!

Runners of all people know how important it is to look after your body. If you’re running a 5k, 10k or even a marathon it’s important to have a warm up and cool down in place to avoid any potential injuries. Anyone who is committed to their running won’t last too long or have an enjoyable experience if they neglect proper recovery and rest time. Yoga stretches, sport massages and muscle release techniques are all common practise these days to keep the body in good shape, especially before an event!

In recent years the foam roller has become an incredibly popular piece of equipment to add the injury prevention aspect of running. I use it myself and why wouldn’t I or any other runner? It’s a fantastic way to self massage the legs and back. Increasingfoam-rolling2circulation to the muscles and stimulating the sensory neurons to improve flexibility at the joints. It’s definitely good practise to use something like a foam roller to help with those achey muscles after an intense training session or event. So even with all these benefits of foam rolling why is it that foam rolling is causing injuries here there and everywhere, even ruining some peoples bodies permanently!?!? This is no joke, so let me explain…

It’s not that foam rolling itself is bad, but the way in which some people are foam rolling is  literally ruining their bodies, leaving them unable to run and in pain… Allot of pain.

So what’s the problem?

A very common issue runners complain about is their ‘ITB is tight’ (ITB – illiotibial band). The ITB is a thick band of fascia (connective tissue), that runs down the outside of the IT-bandthigh from the hip, inserting into the knee. The ITB has many functions but the two I’m going to focus on here are stabilisation of the knee and force absorption.

If your knee isn’t stabilised by the ITB it will roll too far in or out when running which over the years can cause the cartilage to wear away. Resulting in knee replacement surgery. You also need force absorption from the ITB so your joints don’t take too much impact which would again wear them down. For the ITB to be an effective stabiliser and force absorber it needs to have a good relationship with the nervous system. This requires for the ITB to have a degree of tautness.

So the problem is runners who feel their ITB is tight begin to foam roll it profusely. And to be fair it sounds logical right? If it’s week, strengthen it. If it’s tight, stretch it (or in this case, foam roll it). The problem is that your ITB is not a muscle, it’s a band of fascia. If someone is constantly rolling their ITB on a hard surface it will eventually become too ‘loose’ and won’t be able to perform it’s jobs properly. As soon as your ITB loses it’s ability to stabilise the knee and absorb force from the ground, other areas in the body will have to compensate which will lead to pain, tension, dysfunction and eventually injury…

Of course you don’t want that to happen but what if you’re reading this and thinking, ‘this is great and everything but my ITB is tight and foam rolling it gives me relief, what should I do instead?’

Let me give you some much healther ways to deal with your ITB tightness and even eliminate it from your life completely…

Your ITB connects onto two muscles around the pelvic area (gluteus maximus and tensor fascia latae). If these muscles are tight or in spasm (not firing when they’re SELF-MASSAGE-GLUTES-2supposed to), then this may be the root cause to your ITB tightness in the first place. So instead of foam rolling your ITB, I’d recommend massaging your glute muscles with a massage ball. Massaging the glutes will start to increase the circulation and hydration to the muscles and stimulate the sensory neurons to improve their function. If these muscles are working better then the ITB won’t have to be so tight.

 

The main take away here is foam rolling is great and I do it on a regular basis. The thing to avoid is foam rolling onto the ITB. I’ve seen and heard too many people who have had to stop running due to hip, knee and back pain due to their ITB being damaged, in some scenarios these cases even leading to surgery…

So pick up a pair a massage balls and give your glutes a good massage (before and after running) your ITB will love you for it:)

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Tom Waldrom
Tom Waldron