Equilibrium News masthead
27 July 2006

Do you have a lazy bum?

Are your Glutes helping you to run faster?

Are your Glutes doing enough of the work when you run?

If you are not too sure about the answers to any of the questions above then you need to read this article. You may not find in it the answers to all the questions in the universe, but you may just find out some information to help you to recruit your butt!

Your Gluteus Maximus is one of the largest and most powerful muscles in the human body. It is vital in the hip extension movement (when your leg is extended behind you when pushing forward) that the glutes are activated. If the glutes are not activated and performing to their maximum potential other muscle groups, namely your hamstrings and erector spinae (lower back), will be activated to perform the movement. These muscle groups are not as strong and powerful as the glutes and therefore the drive phase of the run will not be as powerful. This simply equates to slower running times.

In technical terms, when performing a hip extension the muscles contracting to perform this are hamstrings, gluteus maximus, contra lateral erector spinae, and ipsi lateral erector spinae. These muscles work together to perform the movement. The muscle responsible for performing the majority of the work (the Prime Mover) in this case is the Gluteus Maximus. The other muscle groups responsible for assisting the prime mover are called the synergists (in this case are the Hamstrings and both Erector Spinae). When the prime mover is inhibited in any form then the synergists will take over the movement. This is called Synergistic Dominance. As these muscle groups are not as powerful as the Gluteus Maximus, the movement decreases both in speed and power. This translates into a slower running speed, not to mention potential long-term injuries though muscle imbalances.

What Causes The Glutes
To Become Inhibited?

One such cause of glute inhibition may be caused through Reciprocal Inhibition. This theory states that a tight muscle can decreased neural input to its functional antagonist (opposite). What this actually means in English is that for a muscle to contract, its opposite has to relax. If the opposite muscle is tight then the ability of that muscle to contract is going to be restricted. With reference to the Gluteus Maximus, a tight illiopsoas (its opposite) will mechanically decrease hip extension as well as decrease neural input to the Glutes.

Therefore, by decreasing illiopsoas activation and tightness we can begin to activate the glutes more effectively. Once your glutes are more active, you can then start to increase their strength. The next progression from here would be to develop power through hip extension. This in turn, once we step back into the practical world of running, simply equates to propelling you faster towards the finish line. And, after all, is that not what you are trying to do?

So it makes sense to wake up your butt, make sure it is doing enough work and then get it to help you to get to that finish line as fast as you can…

The above information is a very brief overview of glute activation and the implications for running. The same information and principles discussed can be applied to anyone trying to target their glutes in any exercise programme. If you are requiring any further information about the above article or any other aspect of your training please feel free to contact Lyndon Littlefair at Equilibrium.


7 July 2006

What is Wellness?

What is the true meaning of Wellness? What does it really mean to be well?
Does it simply mean to be not unwell and free of illness?

Or does it mean that you have endless amounts of energy, very rarely get sick and bounce out of bed every day ready to take on the world?

If the latter picture is you, that’s fantastic!!

If not then there are probably a few areas that you could improve to:
  • Increase energy levels
  • Decrease fatigue
  • Increase mental alertness at work and play
  • Rarely become ill
  • Feel fantastic most of the time!

So What Does Wellness Encompass?

So what is it that makes up the true meaning of wellness? If you are looking at the overall picture, then you really need to look at the overall picture.

Wellness can be influenced by a huge variety of factors each as important as the other. These influencing factors can and do include:
  • Optimising sleep / wake patterns
  • Consuming good quality foods
  • Eating correctly for your biochemical individuality
  • Consuming good quality water
  • Consuming enough water
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation
  • Not smoking cigarettes
  • Eliminating toxins from your body
  • Decreasing your exposure to electromagnetic stress
  • Limiting the amount of stress in your life
  • Effectively handling the stress in your life
  • Keeping a positive attitude to life
  • Being happy with yourself
  • Being physically active
  • Being mentally active

This list above is by no means the completed list. I’m sure that as you read over the list you are thinking of other factors that could influence how you feel on a day-to-day basis. However, the point that I am trying to raise is that there are a lot of factors that will influence your overall wellness.

If you can honestly say that you are doing all of the above, then you are well on the way to achieving an overall very positive state of wellness. If not then you could start to look at the various factors to improve your overall health.

Wellness is not just determined by being physically fit, or not having to visit the doctor. Wellness is about being in the best shape possible, physically, mentally and emotionally.

I hope that this article has made you stop and think a little bit about what you could be doing to enhance your health and overall wellbeing.


5 July 2006

How Does Core Stability
Prevent Back Pain?

Most of us, throughout our lives, will suffer from back pain. This may be the result of a sporting injury, poor posture, muscle imbalance, or even just from a general lack of activity. There are a lot of different types of back pain. Each may be caused from a completely different issue and therefore cause varying degrees of pain.

I’m not going to go into every single case today. However, what I am going to talk to you today is about the effect that Core Stability has on the prevention of Back Pain.

First Things First... What is The Core?

The first thing that we need to talk about is the core. Many of you have probably heard of Core Stability or The Core, but how many people can actually give an accurate description of exactly what it is?

There are many experts in the back care field with varying descriptions of the core.

However, for the purpose of this article we will use the term “core” to refer to those muscles closest to the spine which provide its first initial support structure.

Collectively, these muscles are the first to activate, and therefore stabilize the spine before any movement is initiated. There are a number of other support mechanisms in place that also support and stabilize the spine, but we will talk about these in detail in future articles.

What is Core Stability?

Core stability refers to the ability of these deep, supporting muscles closest to the spine to switch on and stop the back from being pulled in every direction under the sun.

When all of these muscles work effectively together (especially the very deep muscles attached directly to the spine) you be activating what is called Segmental Spinal Stabilization.

Segmental Spinal Stabilisation refers to the ability of each vertebra to communicate to each other and work together to hold the spine in the correct alignment.
It is because of this function that your spine can be both stable and mobile. That is, it can move effectively in all different directions, but maintain its integrity all at the same time.

When all of these muscles are working effectively, your back feels fantastic. However, if any of this highly complex muscle system is faulty (e.g. if some muscles aren’t being recruited effectively (inhibited), or other muscle are doing too much of the work (facilitated)) the spine can become unstable or even out of alignment and back pain can occur.

The back and spine is designed to work optimally when it is in correct alignment. Each vertebra was designed to sit comfortably on top of each other. If for some reason they are not, then all sorts of compression can occur to the discs and even worse, to the nerves.

When all of these core muscles are doing what they were designed to do, they provide a fantastic support mechanism to allow the spine to bend, twist, flex and extend.

Unfortunately due to 21st Century working conditions (i.e. working for long periods of time in a seated position) what happens is that some of these muscles become switched off, or inhibited. This causes the spine to become unstable and to not function optimally.

We now know that these muscles are pretty important, but how do we get them to function effectively. Let me cast your mind back to the last time you had a huge Christmas meal... you ate so much that you felt like you were going to explode. I can see you nodding your head as you read this.

When you went to put your trousers on afterwards, you had to pull your stomach right in to get the last button done up. It is just at that precise moment you were activating your Transverses Abdominus, a key stabilizing core muscle that helps you to support and stabilize your lumbar vertebrae.

At the moment I am over simplifying the whole process. However, if you performed this simple drawing in manoeuvre whilst reading this article, waiting for the bus, or even sitting at your desk at work, you will begin to wake up and activate some of the core muscles.

There are several specific exercises that you can perform to gain even further benefit, and we will discuss these in a series of articles that follow on from this one.