Movement can be a complex and intricate process.
Controlled by the nervous system and generated by the muscles, effortless motion is an intricate multifaceted process that is so easy to take for granted.
The complexity of the process that drives movement leaves plenty of room for bugs and glitches to mess up the system.
If one muscle were to be unable to perform its task due to weakness, injury, tightness, or joint restriction, the nervous system will call on another muscle or joint to pick up the slack.
This is called a compensatory pattern.
An example in the is the seated row. The goal is to pull the weight toward your body by retracting the shoulder blades and extending the shoulder joint. If your upper back muscles are weak or inhibited you end up flexing the elbow and curling with your bicep.
The most common example we see in a sporting context is groin and hamstring overload as they try to do the work for an underperforming glute max in hip extension.
So often with athletes playing chaotic agility dominated sports (football, basketball, tennis, soccer, netball etc) the constant accelerating, decelerating and change of direction work leads to a huge amount of stress through the muscles of the hips and lower back. If your glutes (the biggest muscle you own) are inactive or weak (which is super common), the load will need to be dealt with elsewhere in the body (Most often the lower back or adductor magnus).
The list of flow on negative effects of inhibited glutes can be lengthy:
- Reduced vertical leap
- Reduced sprinting speed
- Slower agility and change of direction
- Lower back pain/tightness
- Lumbar stress fractures
- Hamstring strains/tightness
- Groin strains/tightness
- Overuse and acute injuries at the knee
The good news is it's really easy to fix. Foam rolling to release knots trigger points, targeted static stretching to hit the reset button on problem muscles carrying excessive tightness, and a one minute glute and core activation series to prepare the body for competition done before every session can work wonders for reversing any compensatory patterns you might develop.