Anthony Donskov is the founder of DSC where he serves as the Director of Sport Performance. Donskov holds a Masters Degree in Exercise Science & is the author of Physical Preparation for Ice Hockey.
Overworked, Over stretched, Under Strengthened
I’m sure during the coarse of a regular workday many coaches feel overworked, over stretched, and under strengthened. Being successful takes hard work, early mornings, late nights, hours of deliberate practice and plenty of caffeine. However, the scope of this article is not about our lives as coaches, but about our athletes and their ability to perform at high levels without setback. Through hours of screening, education and application, I believe that we have plenty of muscle groups that are either overworked, overstretched or under strengthened. In some cases, I believe that certain muscle groups fit in all categories. That’s right! I do believe that in certain instances we are overstretched! Below are several examples of the overworked, over stretched, and under strengthened thought process.
- Rotator Cuff: The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body. It is also the least stable. One third of the humeral head can contact the glenoid fossa at a given time. (1) The rotator cuff musculature serves as a dynamic stabilizer for the glenohumeral joint. These scapulohumeral muscles act as humeral depressors, control external rotation, and reduce anterior-inferior capsuloligamentous strain. The rotator cuff muscles have been described as a steering mechanism for the head of the humerus on the glenoid. (2) Most strength and conditioning programs do not address these “local” muscles. For some reason, we as coaches believe this protocol belongs in the PT room. Instead, we focus on heavy pressing developing “global” muscles such as the anterior, middle deltoids. Weak cuff musculature and strong deltoids equals’ superior humeral head migration. Over time, this causes secondary impingement. We need to focus on scapular retraction and protocol that directly attacks this muscle group. Our job as coaches is to reduce injury and enhance performance. I would rather have an athlete with a 275-pound bench press than an athlete that can press 400 pounds, but can’t make it through a season due to shoulder impairment.
- Serratus Anterior: This muscle protracts and upwardly rotates the scapula. These muscles are imperative for proper scapulohumeral rhythm. “The serratus anterior is an important muscle because it contributes to all components of normal three-dimensional scapular movements during arm elevation, which includes upward rotation, posterior tilt, and eternal rotation. The serratus also helps stabilize the medial border and inferior angle of the scapula, preventing scapular internal rotation (winging) and anterior tilt.” (3) A non-functioning serratus can decrease sub acromial space and place the rotator cuff musculature in a compromising position during overhead sports and high impact collisions. It is important that we address these potential problems before injury occurs.
Overworked, Over stretched, Under strengthened:
- Hip Flexors/Adductors (Adductor brevis/pectineus): I train a wide range of athletes, but the majority are hockey players. In order to train an athlete, we as coaches need to understand the demands of their respective sport. The recovery leg in hockey is an open chain movement (one leg off the ground) that does not eccentrically tax the hip flexors/adductors. Hockey players stretch these muscles constantly (stretch weakness) and in my opinion, cement further dysfunction. We need to tax the hip flexors/adductors, eccentrically (lengthened) in a closed chain manner (foot on the ground) to strengthen these muscles and enhance open-chain performance. This serves to reduce injury and aid in the proper function of the adductor brevis, and the pectineus, while simultaneously activating/strengthening the additional hip flexors.
We are strength coaches and our job is to build bigger, faster, and stronger athletes. However the gains made in the weight room are of little substance if they cannot tangibly be carried onto the field/ice due to injury. We don’t need to have separate programs to address these issues. Activation, mobility, and stability protocol done prior to strength training can work wonders for our athletes. Additionally energy system work such as the slide board, shuttle runs can address other dysfunctions related to the hips and lower extremities. The best injury prevention protocol is a well-designed strength and conditioning program. No frills needed! Although many days we as coaches feel overworked, over stretched and under strengthened, it is our job to prevent this from happening to our athletes.
(1) Kent, BE, Functional anatomy of the Shoulder Complex: A review, Phys Ther 51:867, 1971.
(2) Saha, AK, Theory of Shoulder Mechanism: Descriptive and Applied, Springfield, Ill 1961, Charles C Thomas.
(3) Wilk, K, Reinhold, M, Andrews, J, The Athlete’s Shoulder, Churchill Livingstone, 2009, pg 622.
Anthony Donskov, MS, CSCS, PES, is a former collegiate and professional hockey player, founder of Donskov Strength and Conditioning Inc., (www.donskovsc.com) and Head Instructor/Director of Off-Ice Strength and Conditioning for Donskov Hockey Development (www.donskovhockey.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.