Good question! You can be the best runner, footballer, swimmer or lift the heaviest weights but you are (and I often say this): ONLY AS STRONG AS YOUR WEAKEST LINK! And even the best of us can suffer from lower back pain, shoulder pain, dodgy knees and more.
Without correcting these muscle imbalances these symptoms will persevere. Sometimes an individual might avoid (say) squats if this hurts their knees whereas in reality it might well be weakness in the hips and abdominals present, forcing the quads to overcompensate, so stressing the knees! In training the ‘core’ it is often thought that the ‘abdominals and back’ are the areas we target whereas, in fact, I’d refer to the training we do more so as stabilising the LPHC (lumbo pelvic hip complex). Many of the exercises you see in traditional sports conditioning utilise the big global muscles but fail to fire the deep stabilisers. This focus on the prime movers and consequential failing to address our deeper core muscles will often lead to over-use injuries, imbalances and/or pain.
In addition – in ‘sports’ we tend to focus on flexion of the body with concentric movement (so shortening muscles). If everything was flexed we’d essentially be a rolled up into a ball! From a postural point of view we need to open up!
One example; the use of endless crunches over-loads the spine and pulls us forwards. We need to balance this with isometric and eccentric movement. This is where Pilates and Yoga come in and I urge even the most macho of you to attend one of the many local classes where you may well find you are not as strong in certain areas as you may think! I have always advocated cross-training as the most beneficial (a mix of different disciplines). Make this your new year’s training plan!