Better, Stronger, Faster
Whether you’re a professional, recreational or competitive athlete, you are likely looking for ways to be better, stronger and faster in order to get that competitive edge.
In prior blogs I’ve discussed nutritional and training factors for sports performance. If you don’t have adequate fuel or an anti-inflammatory diet, this can definitely be a limiting factor in your ability to perform and recover. In addition, if you have poor training and recovery strategies, you will reach a plateau or get injured.
This week the focus is on the effect of trigger points on performance, as they relate to strength, speed and power.
Trigger points are tight palpable bands that can refer pain, limit range of motion and affect muscle strength. In addition, they are a source of local pain and altered tissue pH, which aside from causing local irritation, can affect tissue healing and quality.
Length-tension relationships, Joints and neuromuscular efficiency
When the body sustains an injury, such as a strain/sprain or overuse/repetitive strain, an imbalance results in the affected soft tissues. This is initially local, but can ripple up or down to neighboring joints and muscles over time.
The imbalance often results in muscles that shorten or splint to protect the injured area (see left side of diagram) and muscles that are stretched and are trying to stabilize the area (see right side of diagram).
Both the short and the long (stretched) muscles will develop trigger points, albeit for different reasons, but nonetheless, with similar effects on the muscles involved.
Muscle Physiology 101
The basic muscle contractile unit is called a sarcomere. Sarcomeres are composed of long, fibrous proteins that slide past each other when muscles contract and relax.
Two of the proteins are myosin, which forms the thick filament, and actin, which forms the thin filament.
A muscle fiber generates tension during the action of actin and myosin cross-bridge cycling. While under tension, the muscle may lengthen (eccentric contraction), shorten (concentric contraction), or remain the same (isometric contraction).
Applied muscle physiology 101
The ability of a muscle to generate optimum tension is partially dependent on it’s resting length, i.e. if a muscle is either short or long (go back to the picture above), it’s ability to produce force, reduce force and stabilize, will be adversely affected. Consequently, so will strength and power.
Better, Stronger, Faster
If you are an athlete that wants to be Better, Stronger and Faster:
1. Address deficiencies in your diet and training
2. Have your movement and muscles assessed for optimum length and strength
A movement screen, range of motion and manual muscle testing can identify deficiencies that will impair performance.
Regardless of whether a muscle is short or long, it will have trigger points.
Dry needling, followed by stretching if the muscle is short, and/or lengthening if the muscle is long, is the fastest way to restore abnormal length-tension relationships, leading to optimum neuromuscular efficiency, i.e. the ability to be stronger, faster and more powerful in any sport or activity as well as minimizing the risk for injury.