Getting Alpine ready

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Prepping the body to reduce pain
By Danielle York (Resident CrossFit – Modesto, California)
For The Mediocre Alaskan
When prepping for a hike, especially a hike with a pack on our backs we need to make sure that our core, hips, and glutes are firing to reduce low back, ankle and knee discomfort.

When you are walking, running, or hiking your body is designed to use 10 degrees of hip extension. This means that your kneecap needs to pass behind the midline of the pelvis while having a neutral and stable spine.

A common compensation for a lack of hip extensions is over-extension of the lumbar spine. People will break the stable spine position in order to drive the leg backwards in the push-off phase of the walking, running or hiking. Alternatively, the body may also resort to overuse of the ankle and calf to help compensate for the lack of hip extension.

Activation Exercises will help improve hip extension and eliminate biomechanical faults in the way that a person walks or runs. The muscles that move the hip into extension are: glute maximus, adductor magnus, semimembanosus, semitendinosus and biceps femoris.  The muscles utilized to stabilize a pack while hiking are: core (abdominal muscles), latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and lower and middle trapezius. Lower back pain can come from forward shoulder tilt when fatigue settles in from hours of hiking. It is imperative to focus on keeping your upper back activated while utilizing a pack hiking.

Before performing the Activation Exercises we need to “wake up” our neuromotor control system with self-soft tissue work. Foam Rolling or utilizing a lacrosse ball/tennis ball on your muscles from the waist down is an optimal approach to take. Focus on these following areas: muscles on the sides of your hips (TFL muscle), Piriformis, Glutes especially the Obturator which is on the bottom of your glutes before your hamstrings, lower back (Quadratus Lumborum), and hamstring musculature.

Then perform these following Activation Exercises:

 Cat & Cow

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Begin on all fours with your arms directly under your shoulders. Slowly sag your back down to the floor, then round your back up toward the ceiling and repeat.

Tip: Make sure to use your entire back for the motion and keep your movements slow and controlled.

Perform 5-10 reps

Donkey Kicks in a Quadraped

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Start in a quadruped position with the wrist aligned directly under the shoulder joints and the kneecaps directly beneath the hip sockets. Pull the belly button into the spine to engage the abdominals and hold the face parallel to the floor in order to create a neutral and stable spine. Next, drive one heel up into the sky as high as possible while keeping the knee bent at 90 degrees and maintaining a neutral spine. Do not allow your lower back to arch. Continue to pull the belly button into the spine s you press the heel into the sky.
Perform 5-10 reps on each leg.

 Glute Bridge March

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Lie on the floor with the knees bent at 90 degrees and the forefoot (toes) off the floor. Press the hips up into the air until they align with the knees and shoulders in a straight line. Next, begin to march the legs by reaching one knee up into the sky at a time. Make sure that the hips remain level with the floor. Do not allow one hip to drop towards the floor while marching; this is a sign of instability in the hip socket. Also, keep a neutral spine and do not arch in the lower back.

Perform 10-15 marches with each leg.

Side Plank Hip Hike or Standing Hip Hike

Begin in a standing upright position with your hands on your hips. Raise one hip as high as you can, lifting your foot off the floor, then lower it back down and repeat. Tip: Make sure to focus the movement on your hip. Activate your core muscles to keep your trunk steady.

Perform 5-10 reps on each side. 

Curtsey Lunge

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Stand tall and then reach one leg behind the other while squatting the hips down towards the floor. Aim the knee towards the outside of the standing foot and drive the hips backwards while reaching the arms forwards to the horizon to help keep the chest lifted. Lower the hips down towards the floor as far as possible before returning to standing and repeating this movement several more times. This exercise will help activate all of the posterior and lateral muscle groups of the hips and is an excellent exercise to use in any program.
Perform 5-10 reps on each side.

Lastly, complete range of motion stretches to teach your body about the new neuromuscular activation you have:

These are suggested:

Plantar flexion stretch

Stand or sit to perform this stretch, curl toes underneath the ball of the foot, apply a downward pressure as tolerated. Perform 1-2 reps per ankle hold 30 seconds each.

Figure Four Hip Stretch

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Begin lying on your back with your legs straight. Cross one leg over the other, resting your ankle on your opposite knee. Bend the knee of your bottom leg toward your body until you feel a stretch in your hip, and hold. Tip: Make sure to keep your hip relaxed and your back flat against the ground.

Spiderman Lunge Stretch

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Set up in the top of a push-up position with the hands placed at shoulder width apart. Align the shoulder, hips and anklebones in a straight line and hold the face parallel to the floor. Next, step one foot up to the outside of the same-side hand before returning the foot to its original position and alternating sides. This exercise will help activate the Gluteus Medius and Hip Flexors.
Perform 1-2  lunge steps with each leg holding 45 seconds each

Tripod Hamstring Stretch

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Begin standing in a long, open, and flat area.  Extend one leg forward, propping your heel on the ground, and hinge at your hips until you feel a stretch in the back of your leg. Hold briefly, then press your foot flat to the ground and squat down on your back leg. Step forward and repeat with your other leg. Tip: Make sure to keep your movements controlled and maintain your balance during the exercise.

Perform 1-2 reps per leg hold 30 seconds each.

Practice makes perfect, once your body realizes how to activate neuromuscular control in your hips try remembering to keep the activation in simple tasks such as standing or getting out of a sitting position without utilizing your hands.

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