Jul 12, 2018Small Muscles Play Big Role
Sometimes it’s the smaller muscles that make all the difference. While the big muscles are important for athletic performance, the supporting cast of smaller muscles is essential to keeping athletes injury free. Muscles like the rotator cuff, low traps, and gluteus medius are the body’s support system, so they shouldn’t be ignored.
Matt Pudvah, Head Strength Coach for the Sport Performance Institute at Manchester Athletic Club in Massachusetts, provides some examples of exercises to incorporate into your team’s training to help give your athletes the well-rounded strength they need. Most of these are relatively simple exercises involving resistance bands, making them an easy but valuable addition to any athlete’s training.
Pigeon Stretch With Band Distraction
This exercise works the tensor fasciae latae, hip flexor, and glute. The pull from the band opens up the hip and provides a deeper stretch. Pudvah recommends doing this exercise before a workout to open the hips, or as a static stretch after workouts.
Start by looping a band onto a squat rack. Then step inside the band with your inside leg and walk out until there is tension in the band. Get into the pigeon stretch position with the band pulling into your hip joint, either straight back or at a 45-degree angle. Switch sides and repeat.
Mini Squat Exterior/Interior Rotation
This works the gluteus medius, which is often overshadowed by the gluteus maximus. Yet, according to Pudvah, the medius should also regularly be engaged. Perform this exercise before deadlifts or squats to warm up the muscles that will be activated.
Start by wrapping a mini band just below the knees and lower into a quarter-squat position. Keeping your feet flat on the ground, allow one knee to dip in toward your midline in a slow and controlled motion. Keeping your opposite knee still, press the inside knee back out to the starting position. Switch sides and repeat.
Mini Band Wall Slide
Using scapular protraction, a movement that rarely gets targeted, this exercise activates the Mid-trapezius, serratus anterior, and some deltoid. The opposite, movement, scapular retraction, is targeted much more often, so this exercise helps to create a better muscle balance. Do it as part of your warm-up or before bench presses or rows.
Start by placing a mini band around your mid-forearms. Round your shoulders forward without letting your elbows come off the wall. Slide forearms up and down so the band goes from shoulder height to eye level.
Band Scap Pulldown
To go along with the mini band wall slide, the band scap pulldown uses scapular retraction to work the mid-trapezius, lower trapezius, maintaining that balance between movements. Pudvah recommends working this in before or after upper-body lifts.
First secure a band onto a high object so that you’re in a pulldown position at a greater-than-45-degree angle. Grab the band with both hands while keeping your elbows locked, and row in slowly using just your shoulder blades. Focus on driving down and back to prevent shrugging.
Dead Bug With Band Overhead
Keep the core active, engaged, and strong, with this exercise. It will also promote good form and alignment through the pelvis and ribs. Incorporate this into warm-ups or before doing deadlifts.
Anchor the band to an object that’s knee height or lower. Lie down on your back with the band directly behind you. Grab band in both hands and pull so that your arms are straight and your hands are above your shoulders. Keeping your back flat and arms stationary, bring your knees up toward your arms, and lower one leg at a time.
External Shoulder Rotation With Band
This will help stabilize and strengthen the rotator cuff, which is key to shoulder health and preventing injuries. Do the exercise during warm-ups or immediately prior to an upper-body lift with pushing movements.
Anchor a band to a rack or any stationary object. Standing beside the rack, place a pad between your opposite-side elbow and ribs, grip the band, and rotate your forearm away from your body without moving your upper arm. Keep your wrist locked for the entire exercise. Switch sides and repeat.