Q and A

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Featured Question:

Stretching: What is your take on stretching pre- and post-workout? Do you think that pre-stretch aids in injury prevention, or in preventing soreness? Does stretching making your muscles leaner and longer or is that a myth? What do you think about static verses dynamic stretching?

What do I do as a trainer to help prevent a hallux valgus and bunions, besides tell the client to spread their feet and use their big toe?

When I discuss the mechanics of the foot, I often mention that by smushing our feet into shoes with too small a toe box we cause hallux valgus and bunions, to occur. In an effort to assist the foot in re-establishing it’s optimal function, we would want to do several things:

1 – Make sure that the rear foot has adequate mobility (especially in the frontal plane)
2 – Make sure that the mid foot can mobilize (lock and unlock the Lisfranc Joint)
3 – Promote drills to encourage heel inversion
4 – Give full body strength exercises (to re-establish the natural curve patterns of the body)
5 – Ideas like Vibram (and other footwear like this) will strengthen the foot and promote good synergy with the rest of the body

I am wondering if you could tell me what planes and axis of motion are push ups in? and what are the synergistic muscles and their actions?

Anatomically, the fixed prone push-up is horizontal ab/adduction and functions around a transverse axis. Your question regarding synergistic muscles is well put. When performing movement tasks such as push-ups, the body ALWAYS works in synergistic relationships as opposed to agonist / antagonist relationships (for a very in depth look refer to ‘Muscles Alive’ by Basmajian or any of the work by Andrews (’82, ’85), Zajac, Gordon (’89)). The fixed prone push-up involves dynamic actions of mobile stabilization and force generation from some of the following muscles … all in synergy. (this is by no means a complete list, but touches on the major myofascial structures):

— Pec. Minor – to assist in dynamic stabilization of the shoulder girdle (rib cage and scapula), as well as scapular depression (deceleration) and scapular elevation (acceleration)
— Pec. Major – (both the sternal and clavicular portions) to assist in deceleration and acceleration of horizontal ab/adduction primarily at the gleno-humeral joint
— Cervical Extensors – to collectively assist in maintaining a straight head position
Deltoids – (the anterior portion will have a mechanical advantage in the push-up) to assist in dynamic stability and deceleration / acceleration of shoulder complex movement
— Tricep group – to assist in movements at the elbow complex and shoulder complex (via the action of the long head); decelerates elbow flexion and shoulder horizontal abduction, accelerates elbow extension and shoulder horizontal adduction
— Coracobrachalis – to assist in decelerating horizontal abducting and accelerating horizontal adduction
— Bicep group – similar to the hamstrings during a squat (Lombard’s paradox), the biceps assist synergistically to help accelerate the elbow complex into extension and the long head of the biceps assists the gleno-humeral joint to accelerate into horizontal adduction (because of the position of the upper arm)
— Serratus Anterior – to assist in dynamically stabilizing the scapulo-thoracic joint and assists in accelerating the approximation of the scapula to the rib cage (working with the rhomboids and trapezius).
— Rhomboids and Trapezius – to dynamically stabilize the scapula (via the scapulo-thoracic joint) in motion
— Trunk muscles (this includes all of the abdominal muscles and spinal erectors as well as the hip flexors) – to dynamically stabilize the lumbo pelvic hip complex

To successfully perform a fixed prone push-up, all of these muscles (and more), must operate synergistically and be timed properly by the nervous system. To successfully challenge the neuro-muscular system, progressions into moving push-ups (i.e. ones that involve a push-up and a crawl pattern – see the PTontheNET exercise library) may be given to the more advanced client / athlete. This MUST be a progression. Proper dynamic stabilization and strength must clearly be observed before progression occurs. This progression challenges both the nervous system and myofascial structures in all three planes, ultimately creating higher levels of skilled movement.

I’ve been contemplating getting my dad a pair of the Vibrams (finger toe shoes). Should he try them out?

There is much more reliance on the foot (strength and support) when we switch to Vibrams. There will be a transition period where the foot (muscle, fascia, and structure) must be allowed to adapt to a changed environment. The keys when switching are: ensuring mobility at the foot and ankle (which a trainer can assess); transition slowly; and limit exposure at first.