Strong enough to hold FORM?

So, you can swim/bike/run the distance you’re aiming for?  But can you

hold form

for the duration?  If the muscles you’re using for the activity have fatigued, but you’re still ‘at it’ … which muscles are you using?  The answer will be

not the muscles you’re meant to be using, or the muscles designed for the job and certainly not the muscles you THINK you’re using

Result?  Injury, or at the very least an underwhelming performance.

Since the arrival of CrossFit several years ago, ‘Strength & Conditioning’ (S&C) training has become prevalent, which is  a great thing, or at least can be, when used with logic.

Human nature has a terrible habit of erring us towards focussing on what we can do, rather than what we can’t, or find more difficult e.g. knocking off 100 crunches instead of perhaps holding the weight of your torso + head in extension for 10 x 10 seconds, using the strength in the lower back muscles to hold the position.

And what if your posture is a ‘Pink Panther’ (ie tail-bone tucked under with rounded shoulders)?  Crunches are simply going to perpetuate this spinal shape, as the strength of your rectus abdominis (your ‘six-pack’ muscle) – amongst a few others – will ‘hold’ you there.  If we gaze into the crystal ball, we’re likely to see back pain whilst cycling & running, because the back extensor muscles are weak in comparison to the trunk flexor muscles and they’ll tire first.

Conversely, if your posture is of the ‘Donald Duck’ (ie tail-bone sticking out) variety, then it’s unlikely you’ll find 100 crunches easy.  But it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to hold your torso+head weight when in extension either.  Those lower back muscles might be pulling you into an exaggerated lumbar curve, but they might be short and weak – facilitated through the presence of trigger points which will limit the muscle’s function.  Grabbing that crystal ball again, we’re likely to see back pain whilst cycling & running, but the solution will need to be different.

Strength is Necessary, but Knowledge is Key to Success

If you don’t know what to strengthen, get an assessment.  CHEK assessments are available at Ten-Point; once you have the data, corrective exercise programmes can be written.  And if gyms aren’t your ‘bag’, you don’t even need to use one.  Postural strength can be developed at home with bodyweight and minimal equipment.

Don’t wait until you’re injured, and don’t just do ‘S & C’ exercises thoughtlessly, simply because you’ve heard you ‘ought’.

Be functionally strong to enjoy your sport!


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