Over the past few weeks, chatting to the various strength and conditioning heads walking through the doors at Locker 27, the topic of injury inevitably rears its ugly head.
What to do with one, how to avoid getting one, specific ideas for repairing one etc have all been whirling through my head.
Through my own experience, I would like to share one strategy I have found to work extremely well when it comes to repairing injuries… muscle control, a.k.a. the FLEX.
First, some definitions to avoid confusion. When I write the cool, slightly slang term ‘Flex’, I’m talking about this process; close your eyes and contract a muscle of your choice. Let’s take your left Latissimus Dorsi or Lat muscle. Shut your eyes and try to contract that muscle only. This is the Flexing process and I believe it to have more value than it’s more commonly known meanings of seducing beach babes or titles of ‘roid-rager magazines.
So what we’re talking about here is the ability to contract a muscle of choice, on demand, in isolation.
Now if you’re human, you will probably find that this process is quite difficult to do properly. What I’ve also found, is that a lot of people with injuries, aches, pains etc also suck at flexing. They have very little, if not no control over their individual muscle groups at all.
Joseph Pilates, the brains behind the now mostly bastardised, diluted workout term Pilates, originally called his method ‘Contrology’. He used it primarily with buggered war veterans and soldiers who were injured so bad that they had barely any muscle control. He got them walking again.
Pilates, in the Classical sense, not the recent Hollywood bullshit version, focuses around using calisthenics and isometric contractions to build muscle control. Joe’s claim was that after 30 sessions of Pilates, your ability to flex would be unlike anything you had ever felt before. And I agree. Why? Because I used his methods, an excellent teacher and all my savings to heal my own spinal injury back in 2010/2011.
What’s awesome about this idea of muscle control, is that there are lots of methods to develop it. One of my favourite, and perhaps one of the most fool proof and fastest result-producers is using weights, in the form of dumbbells and cables. With strategic prop placements, you can more or less isolate a muscle group, just like a dedicated body builder, and begin building control in that muscle.
Now I’m no physio, doctor or medically trained elitist, but logic tells me that muscles support our skeleton. And if our muscles are piss weak, then it’s going to be harder to support that skeleton. And if we have an ache or pain in a specific area of our skeleton, then we should look at our ability to flex the individual muscles surrounding that area of ache or pain. And if our ability to flex those muscles suck, then we should turn to weights, calisthenics or isometrics to do something about it, until we can close our eyes, and contract that muscle in isolation, on demand, because that is a great test of having developed enough muscular control to support that skeletal area.
So next time you get a tweak, ache or pain, and you’re not sure where it’s come from, test your ability to flex by closing your eyes. If you can’t do it, do some accessory work on those surrounding muscle groups for 4 weeks. After 4 weeks, re-assess your flexing standards, and see if your pains have disappeared. Chances are, the pain will have diminished as your strength in that area has increase, and seeing as most humans on this planet are weaker than their evolutional standard requires them to be, testing your strength would be a good place to start.
Harry Cloudfoot is a self-experimenter and writer based in London, UK.
If you have any questions about your training, post them in the comments sections below, and we’ll see what we can do!
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