Gallagher Performance Blog

What you need to know: Many healthcare providers and trainers poorly understand why someone 'feels tight'. Dealing with muscle tightness is not as simple as just stretching.

Why Muscles Become Tight 

The human body is designed to move and movement requires varying amounts of stability and motion. When movement occurs, patterns of stability and motion can occur in efficient or inefficient ways. As structures accommodate movement, the load placed on everything from joints to muscles and tendons to nerves changes and these changes can produce symptoms. In the process of wanting to avoid symptoms, the body will often develop compensation patterns. A common result of this compensation process is the feeling of being 'tight' or 'tension'. This tension serves a protective role, thus it is referred to as protective tension.

The development of protective tension and the reason behind its presentation is one of the least understood mechanisms in musculoskeletal care. The body is smart enough to constantly monitor loads and prevent excessive load of any given structure to ultimately help prevent injury. If you are feeling 'tight', there is a reason and your body is sending you a signal. However, many people will ignore this signal until more pressing issues develop, such as pain. So how does one handle a muscle that 'feels tight'? Unfortunately, the solution is not as simple as just stretching. Stretching often provides temporary relief because of underlying joint dysfunction, stability and/or mobility deficits, or muscular weaknesses that need addressed.

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FUNCTION IS AS REAL AS ANATOMY  The way our body functions is as real as our anatomy. There are some that like to act or state that "function" or "functional training" are fitness industry buzz words. They make light of the concept. And rightly so, as most of what is labeled  as "functional training" has very little to do w...
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“I thought chiropractors only treated backs."  

This is one of the most common statements we hear in our office. Considering chiropractic is rooted in the treatment of the spine and that the majority of chiropractors treat spine-related conditions, this line of thinking is naturally expected.

However, at Gallagher Performance we do things differently. Gallagher Performance offers the latest in evidence-based treatment and hand-on care in the Murrysville, Monroeville, Plum, and surrounding Pittsburgh area. We treat more than just backs and necks. We treat a number of musculoskeletal conditions, such as:
  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • TMJ
  • Shoulder pain
  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Elbow pain (Golfer's Elbow and Tennis Elbow)
  • Tendinitis
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Hand and wrist pain
  • Hip pain
  • Piriformis Syndrome
  • IT Band Syndrome
  • Knee pain (Runner's Knee and Jumper's Knee)
  • Shin Splints
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Ankle sprains
  • Nerve entrapments and compressions
  • Disc herniations
  • Sports Injuries
  • Post-Surgical rehabilitation
  • Prenatal and Postpartum care
  • and more

The Gallagher Performance Difference

Too often treatment precedes diagnosis. For far too many patients who are seeking care from a provider, treatment is often directed at delivering symptomatic relief without gaining a full clinical picture of why they are symptomatic in the first place. It's almost as if these providers deliver treatment goal of simply reducing or eliminating symptoms and that once absence of symptoms is achieved, the patient is free to return to activities as they were pre-injury status.

However, this model of treatment is why many patients are recurrently dealing with pain once they do return to activities.

For example, someone that works overhead or uses their arms all day (painter, drywall hanger, hair stylist, etc.) will more than likely run into shoulder impingement at some point in their professional careers.  An anti-inflammatory will help reduce pain. Getting a quick adjustment to the mid-back and cupping may provide a sense of relief in reduced muscular tension and improved range of motion, but what will really make a difference is making sure the muscles around the shoulder are doing their job to keep the joints stable and moving the way they’re supposed to. You see if proper function is not restored, pain will be quick to return because unnecessary stress is being placed on the shoulder joint. This unnecessary stress will eventually lead to injury.

Focus on The Root Cause, Not Symptoms


When it comes to many of the above musculoskeletal conditions, a trip to your primary care physician should probably not be your first stop. That's just being honest. Medical doctors have little training in the diagnosis of musculoskeletal conditions. This is generally why they simply prescribe anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxers, and tell you to go easy for few days.  Although this may enable your pain levels to reduce, it does not mean you are going to be problem free once you return to your activities. This is why making functional changes in the body is so important.

Again, this is why diagnosis is so important. Not only is it important to understand your sensitivities and what specific movements or activities you have pain with, but it's important to identify what is driving your pain. The driver of your pain is known as the root cause and, sometimes, the root cause of your pain is not in the same location as where you feel pain.

Once we identify what is driving your pain, then treatment is design to not only get you out of pain, but to also create the functional changes in your body to become more resilient so that pain does not return.

This is why we blend specific manual therapy, joint manipulation, and neuromuscular stabilization exercise progressions to improve control of movement and posture. If it’s a muscle or joint issue, we treat it. If it’s something we can’t treat, we’ll make sure you receive recommendations on the right specialist for your condition.
We want you to achieve your goals whether it’s getting back to work, sport, or just simply the activities you enjoy. Regardless of your goal, we pride ourselves on helping you achieve them as efficiently as possible.

Don’t let a joint or muscle injury stop you from reaching those goals. Let us help. After all, we take care of more than just backs.

This one is for those dealing with foot pain, calf pain, Achilles tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, or maybe your running/sprint form needs a ground-up makeover. Whether it’s pain or performance issues residing in the lower body, if the foot isn’t working properly, the hip can’t do its job properly.

Most people get too nervous about pronation of the foot and internal rotation of leg and hip, as if these are bad things. Reality is when it comes to gait, extension -internal rotation-pronation are paired together. What do athletes and runners covet? Powerful and efficient triple extension as this is our gas pedal for propelling us over ground. But guess what, if you lack adequate pronation and internal rotation of the foot/leg/hip, you’re not going to get much in regards to extension. This is especially true of those with high arches of the feet or hip dysplasia. Often you’ll see these conditions together.

Enter the exercise progression in the video series. We need to re-educate the foot-Achilles-calf complex to work as a system.

1️⃣The focus in adequate pronation as this properly loads the plantar fascia and locks the foot for efficient load transfer. This will help to properly mobilize the foot. Likely they also need good manual therapy to restore normal mechanics.

2️⃣Then the focus goes to proper loading of the foot through the big toe for extension. This is critical because if you can’t access the big toe, you can’t fully access hip extension and the glute musculature. These athletes will short their gait and force inefficient compensations as they are over-reliant on their feet.

3️⃣ideal torso alignment and abdominal pressurization is reinforced. If patients or athletes aren’t able to perform these simple exercises with efficiency, they likely have spinal/pelvic stability issues that need addressed first.

Thank you Michal Truc for these golden bullets from the DNS course in Sweden as these same principles apply to the skating stride for efficient mechanics.

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Neck pain can be quite common in MMA, grappling sports, and wresting. A big reason can be simply over reliance on the neck and inefficiency of the extensor system and trunk stabilizers.

Once an athlete learns to improve how their body works as a system, tissue and joint stress reduce and performance efficiency will be almost immediately noticed. Especially if they have keen body awareness.

Often times when there is a strength problem, the recommendation is to isolate that area and train it. In this case, the thinking was to strengthen the neck by using a neck harness. Now while local tissue strength and resilience is absolutely important, the problem in this case is that solving what can be perceived as a "lack of strength issue" isn't always solved by isolation training.

This athlete needed to learn to use his body as a complete system to better support his neck and enable him to express the strength that he already has. His over reliance on the neck was causing accumulation of stress on the neck, leading to his neck feeling pretty jacked up week after week of grappling.

Neck pain and tightness was become a recurrent issue for him. He was developing a pattern of having to take time off every couple weeks because his neck just couldn't handle the stress anymore. Rest did enough to reduce the presence of symptoms such as tightness and pain, but rest isn't doing anything to solve the underlying problem that is feeding his pain - lack of awareness of how to use his body as a system to reduce neck pain and improve performance. If an athlete is never taught how to efficiency use their body, then there will be breakdowns in the system at some point.

Avoid the breakdowns as best as possible by developing keen body awareness and how to use the body as system, not as isolated parts.

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A common reason for low back pain, hip pain, knee pain is poor functioning hips. What happens to poor functioning hips? They usually get tight. This tightness leads to reduced range of motion and increased likelihood of back, hip, and/or knee pain.

Likewise, a common reason for reduced athletic potential is poor functioning hips.

The hip complex is meant to be trained in multiple planes of motion because the hips are designed to move in multiple planes of motion. Yet most people live in the sagittal plane of movement - essentially only moving  forward or backward - and they gradually lose the ability to move in lateral or rotational planes of motion.

Including lateral movement exercises can prove to be beneficial for reducing muscle tightness and joint pain as well as enhancing athleticism.

Here is just a sample of lateral movement exercises that are scaleable to an individual's capacity. These are great for training lateral strength, motor control, and improving weight transfer that feeds agility and power. They can easily be performed with most gym equipment. Depending on preference, you may need to purchase some furniture sliders or a slide board. You may need to get creative based on what you have access to. Regardless, the principles of movement are still the same.

In this video we feature:
  1. Lateral monster walks (use band or Hip Circle)
  2. Slider lateral lunge
  3. High box Crossover Lunge
  4. Cable Skater Lunge
  5. Lateral plyometric power
There are plenty of other lateral movement exercises that could be included. Keep in mind exercise selection should be given careful consideration based upon the individual.

Give your hips a good lather.  They'll be feeling more greased than a Five Guy's bacon cheeseburger. And that a good thing. Motion is lotion that is vital to the health of your joints. You'll be primed for speed and power. Plus your cranky back and knees will thank you.

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Our brain controls our posture and our muscles. Therefore posture and muscle tone (i.e. how tight or relaxed a muscle is) is an expression of the brain. We must pay attention to this expression and how it relates to movement.

A frequent cause of disturbance in our movement quality, why muscles get tight, why we display poor posture, and why we may have trigger points or pain is due to insufficient muscular stabilization of our spine.

Insufficiency is our stabilization system is exactly the reason why patients and athletes who have poor body awareness demonstrate poor ability to simply relaxation. Believe it or not, relaxation is easier said than done. If the brain doesn't know how to relax fully certain muscles, the low-grade state of contraction will keep muscles and surrounding joints under constant stress. This constant stress will ultimately lead to trigger points in muscles, dysfunctional movement patterns, and altered posture.

This is why specific exercise progressions that respect the developmental aspects of posture and movement are so critical. Exercise should not only address muscle function, but it must also address brain control to change how our body functions.

"Brain Education" focuses on the efficiency of our postural and movement control to avoid overloading of specific tissues and joints while promoting muscular balance.

Movement and relaxation is a skill. It must be practice daily through purposeful exercise with complete awareness to the feeling of the movement. This is the gateway to change in the body. These changes are valuable to anyone who is simply looking to get out of pain or improve their athletic ability.

However, there are still those that challenge the notion that there is an “ideal” or “good” posture. They will have you believe that there is no such thing as “good” or “bad” posture. The reality is, when it comes down to determining what is “good” or “bad” posture can be simply summed up by saying….”It depends.”

What will dictate “good” or “bad” when it comes to form or posture will depend upon a number of variables specific to the individual. We can find efficient form and ideal posture that someone should respect and when they don’t, the result is excessive wear and tear on their joints and tissues, leading to pain and progression of degenerative changes.

Yes we need to be efficient in movement and have a vast movement capacity. Yes there is no single posture that we should maintain for an extended period of time, no matter how “good” it is.

But those notions go out the window when our body meets increasing external resistance to our movement or we are performing movement at increasing speeds.

What does that mean?

Yes, we should be able to flex our spines and perform a body weight squat with posterior pelvic tilt (aka the dreaded “butt wink”) and resultant lumbar spine flexion. Yes this would be considered normal healthy human motion. But that doesn’t mean that one should perform a loaded barbell squat with the same intent or form. This could be an injury waiting to happen. When increased load or speed of movement comes into the picture (ex. barbell squat), very specific considerations must be made to that individual on the form and posture they express during the squat pattern to maximize their muscular efficiency and minimize stress placed on the joints.

These are the same considerations that must be respected when it comes to rehab and the subsequent development of fitness/physical ability. According to McGill, this breaks down into two stages:
  • Stabilization of the injury and reduction of pain by approaches that follow desensitization and healing.
  • Development of strength and physical ability only begins when the first stage has been achieved.
In order to desensitize the patient, we must promote postures and movement that minimize stress on the joints and injured tissues. Otherwise, as stated by Mosley, most people will “wind up” their nervous system as a way to over-protect because they are aren’t prepared for what they are asking their body to do. Desensitization and reducing perceived threat is critical in the first stage of healing.

Once pain is reduced, the development of specific fitness qualities can take center stage. This is when we address the complexity of the movement system. Panjabi established the importance of the passive, active, and neural systems for trunk/core stability and movement. Jull and Richardson found in voluntary movement, activity of the deep spinal muscles precedes activations of the superficial muscles (aka feed forward mechanism).

The integrated spinal stabilization system (ISSS) serves as the “feed forward stabilization mechanism”. The ISSS consists of the diaphragm, pelvic floor, all parts of the abdominal wall, short intersegmental spinal muscles, deep neck flexors, and serratus anterior.  We know that these muscles essentially form the “deep core” that is so important to train for efficiency of posture and movement.

The ISSS required “Brain Education” to work optimally. There is no way around it. We must focus our attention and efforts to ensuring that no matter the task, we must rely of the ISSS if we are going to realize our movement potential, maintain healthy posture, and minimize joint pain.

Don’t fall into the trap of believing someone who says “good” or “bad” posture doesn’t exist. Again the answer is it all depends. Posture and the considerations we make regarding it are always specific to the individual and task at hand. Posture shouldn’t handled in a general approach. Most rehab, training programs and online instruction is handled in an over-generalized fashion. When people need specific, when they need individualized considerations. And that’s the best approach when it comes to helping one learn how to educate their body in regards to what’s best for their posture and movement.

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Movement gets a lot of hype these days and receives plenty of attention in the fitness industry, strength & conditioning industry, and rehabilitative fields. From movement screens to movement coaches, movement is a buzz word it seems some are simply trying to capitalize on.

Movement screens don't prevent injuries, they just give you information. What you do with that information is what matters. And do we really need all these screens to 'diagnose' what's wrong? Does someone suck at an overhead squat because they have tight ankles, weak glute medius, tight TFL, hip flexors, and lats? Or maybe because they are just simply uncoordinated? Because they don't understand the movement? You'd be surprised at how quickly movement expression can change with proper coaching of postures and technique. Watch what happens. Our brain has the ability to figure things out.

Coaches or therapists may provide an elaborate 'corrective exercise' program or 'activation' warmup, but what's the use when it's executed with poor quality of movement? Now you're just doing stuff that doesn't help. You could do a lot more with basic exercises that have a high quality of execution and movement competency. If all the focus is on "doing exercise" without the focus on the "feel of the movement", you're missing the boat.

Movement competency, injury prevention, and performance-based training are all linked. You can't separate them out. The best injury prevention methods are found in performance based applications. The best physical and athletic development models reduce injury. And both performance and prevention have a focus on movement efficiency or movement competency.

Performance and injury prevention boil down to how well do you express fundamental movement qualities. The best programs coach someone through movement so they feel and understand how to express higher levels of function/performance in exercise and sport.

Training and rehabilitation occur through movement, not simplistic exercises. Sadly that's what most people get. And that's why they don't progress, why they have pain, or why they relapse.

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Personal trainers or strength coaches don't have a license to diagnose, treat, or manage musculoskeletal conditions. Yet some are convinced they can play 'therapist' or 'doctor' on the regular.

While I do agree that it's important for coaches/trainers to understand pain and how to make appropriate modifications to an exercise plan based on a client/athlete's current limitations, it's completely inappropriate to give any level of medical advice. Just because you took a course or use correctives in your exercise plan, it does not put you on the level of a PT, DC, or MD regardless of your opinions of those professions.

For example, saw a patient who, for months, had been dealing with chronic knee pain. Yet her personal trainer convinced her it was no big deal and she needed to "pump blood into her knee" by exercising and that would heal her knee - only to be informed she has a torn meniscus. This kind of situation occurs more than you would believe and it's wrong.

Social media is littered with people such as this who present solutions to pain or specific physical ailments. They generically provide exercises or stretches for some common condition (low back pain, shoulder pain, knee pain). It's often just regurgitated information cause it's easy to copy.

Yet they know NOTHING about YOU, but assume to know you. This is wrong. People listen cause it's free advice and there is perceived authority. Sadly, a large social media following equals perceived authority in today's world.

They are providing 'treatment' in the form of exercises or stretches to relieve the pain they are 'diagnosing' you with. Some even goes as far as to discredit certain medical or rehab professionals. They say, "Don't listen to them." What they are really saying is, "Listen to me." Again, wrong.

No license? Don't listen to them. They aren't qualified.

Coaches and trainers - You want to wear a medical hat, then play by our rules. Go ahead and get yourself a professional degree and pass national or state licensure requirements. Until then, stay in your lane.

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Disc herniations and bulges can heal without surgery. Expert neurosurgeons will tell you the same thing. Yet why most elect for surgery is they never find conservative treatment that solves the problem.

We must identify the underlying reasons WHY the disc herniated or became sensitive. Often these reasons deal with improper movement and postures that overload the disc routinely. We get too focused on the event - the moment the back locked up and pain hit like a ton of bricks - and not enough focus is brought to the process that led to the injury.

With this patient, we had to focus on teaching sparing the spine while winding down sciatica symptoms in the right leg. Focus was also placed on flexion intolerance, reduced lumbar spine extension, and poor transverse plane stability of the lumbar spine and pelvis.

The combination of these interventions and pain education resulted in significant reduction of low back pain and near complete elimination of sciatica in TWO treatments.

The important thing to remember here is that while the total number of in office treatments was low, this patient was provided with the proper home instruction that enable him to make a dramatic impact on his pain and symptoms. Patients need to understand what is driving their pain. They need to understand how their postures, movements, and habits are either helping them or sabotaging their healing process. From here they can make the appropriate modifications and learn to problem solve their pain.

Sometimes you don't have to wait weeks or months for pain relief. Making lasting changes in the body is a different story. This can take a longer period of time with the correct inputs through repetition. And this is exactly why education and home care instruction is vital to patient success. Help them understand their pain and the recovery process.

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Contrary to what has been preached for years, it is now known that interventions such as rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medications and electrical stimulation will not solve the problem of tendinopathy. The application of these interventions was based upon the assumption that inflammation within connective tissue or joints was created by repetitive motions and sustained postures associated with labor, sport, or other forms of activity. However, this assumption has been proven to be wrong. New understanding of overuse injury is providing the foundation for treatment that truly addresses the root cause of your symptoms, not merely alleviating them.

New Understanding
We all know someone who has been told they have tendinitis, or inflammation of a tendon. Tendinitis is commonly referred to as an “overuse” injury.

Tendons are the structures that connect muscle to bone. They are critical in transmitting the force produced by muscles during movement. It was believed that tendons, when injured or over-stressed, became inflamed and painful. Inflammation is the body's natural response to injury. Inflammation begins the healing process. Applications such as rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medication are prescribed to minimize the effects of inflammation.

Interesting thing is, research has demonstrated that inflammation is rarely present within tendons, thus providing a new understanding of how overuse injuries develop.

Back in 1979, a couple surgeons by the name of Robert P. Nirschl and Frank A. Pettrone examined sections of injured elbow tendons under a microscope. What they found was no presence of inflammation. None. What they did notice was how the tendons had degenerated. Their color and texture had changed. The tendons were grayish and swollen rather than white and soft.

No inflammation? No tendinitis. Tendinosis is the correct name for this condition. Tendinosis is the result of repeated or sustained muscular contraction associated with poor movement or posture, which decreases blood supply. The body begins to react in similar ways as if you had injured muscular tissue and scar tissue development is triggered. This would be a normal response if there were actual damage, but the body has been tricked. There is no injury, but scar tissue accumulates in healthy tissue due to compromised circulation. Accumulated scar tissue increases mechanical stress on tendons, limiting normal function of muscle contraction. Limited function means reduced strength, range of motion, and can lead to pain during activity.

Now that we understand the mechanism behind scar tissue production, the deeper question is, "What is the underlying reason for poor movement or poor posture that is responsible for the overload?" Because if the reason was simply just sustained postures or repetitive movements, wouldn’t we see more of the population coming down with overuse injuries?

Mobility vs Stability: Stabilizing the Confusion
Mobility seems to be the buzzword of the fitness industry and it’s certainly popular among certain camps within the physical medicine profession. There are plenty of products, assessments, and even entire workouts that are devoted to mobility. Some define mobility as the ability to achieve a certain posture or position, while others define it as the ability to achieve a certain range of motion specific to a movement (i.e. squat, push-up).

Advocates of mobility claim that mobility should be achieved first. We need mobility and lack of mobility is implicated as a predisposing factor for overuse injury. But is mobility the secret to preventing overuse injuries and unlocking athletic performance?

While mobility is important, if we consider the developmental model, stability should be the primary focus.

Enter the Developmental Model
Developmental kinesiology, or essentially understanding how we develop motor function through early childhood, emphasizes the existence of central movement patterns that are “hard-wired” from birth. For example, an infant does not need to be taught when and how to lift its head, roll over, reach, crawl, or walk. Each and every one of these movement patterns occurs automatically as the CNS matures. During this process of CNS maturation, the brain influences the development of stability before purposeful movement can occur.

The process begins with the coordination of spinal stabilization and breathing through what is known as the integrated spinal stabilizing system (ISSS). This constitutes the “deep core” and it is activated subconsciously before any purposeful movement. The musculature of the ISSS  contracts automatically under the control of the nervous system. The role of the ISSS is critical because it provides a fixed, stable base from which muscles can generate movement. The ISSS is essential to maintaining joints in a neutral position, thus maximizing muscular forces with minimal stress to structures such as ligaments, capsules, and cartilage.

Bottom line: Inadequate activation and stabilizing function of muscles may place greater stress within the body, compromising posture and movement. Mobility is DEPENDENT upon stability. You need stability first before you can achieve purposeful, efficient motion. A deficient stabilizing system is likely to lead to strain or overuse injury due to compensatory movements.

Managing Overuse Injury
Now that we have a better understanding of why scar tissue develops in the body and factors that contribute to poor movement and posture, its time to discuss what can be done in the treatment and prevention of overuse injuries.

#1 - Myofascial Release Techniques. Understanding that overuse injuries are most often degenerative scar tissue problems rather than inflammatory conditions, treatment strategies should change accordingly. Rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medication, and electrical stimulation are no longer ideal treatments. Treatment that involves myofascial release or soft-tissue manipulation becomes the focus in order to breakdown scar tissue and allow for normalized muscle/tendon function. Clinicians or therapists are able to locate scar tissue by touch. The hand is a powerful tool.  Characteristics they evaluate for may include abnormal texture, movement restriction, or increased tension. Treatment is often delivered by the hand or with the use of an instrument and is non-invasive in nature.

#2 - Improve the stabilization function of muscle. To ensure quality movement during functional activities or sport skill execution, it is critical that all stabilizers of the body are adequately activated. Insufficiency within certain muscles in the kinetic chain will result in muscular imbalances that can contribute to chronic pain or poor performance. Corrective stabilization strategies thus should always be the foundational concept of any training or rehabilitation program. Clinicians are beginning to recognize the importance of “training the brain” since the majority of motor dysfunctions may be more related to altered CNS function than local joint or muscle issues. The CNS is the “driver” and attention must be given to how it coordinates muscular patterns during movement in order to provide stability.

For example, if someone has difficulty performing a squat, rather than focusing on local “tight” or “weak” muscles or restricted movement in a specific joint, one may need to realize that the insufficiency is due to a dysfunctional ISSS pattern at the brain level.

Rather than focusing on mobilizing a tight glenohumeral capsule/joint and strengthening the rotator cuff musculature in the treatment of shoulder impingement in a baseball pitcher, should you focus on an inadequate ISSS and the "weak" link in the kinetic chain, such as poor dynamic scapular stability, proprioceptive deficits, or impaired lower extremity mobility.

The body functions as a single unit during complex movement, not in segments. The key is to maintain control, joint stability, and quality of movement. Every joint position depends on the coordination of stabilizing muscle function throughout the entire body. Through repetition, ideal stabilization patterns are achieved and then integrated in with sport-specific movements.

Patient Case (seen in video):
Presenting complaint of R Achilles pain during running and stiffness through the ankle upon waking or after prolonged sitting.

Finding of functional hallicus limitus on R (reduced big toe extension), R ankle dorsiflexion restriction, and lack of stability through the anterior oblique slings and R hip.

Treatment also included joint mobilization and manual soft tissue release not shown in video.

Address the cause, don't just address the site of symptoms.

More related reading:

Muscle action is also known as 'Direction of Muscle Pull'. The direction of muscle pull is a critical part of kinesiology that is often overlooked. It has huge importance in rehab and performance as it helps us better understand the motor control aspects of movement.

Direction of muscle pull defines the kinetic chain.

Most people that learn muscle action in anatomy learn how our muscles work in an 'open chain' environment. But that's only 50% of the action our muscles perform because they also have to work in a 'closed chain' environment. The change in the environment will change the muscle action.

When properly caring for a rehab patient or training someone for higher levels of performance, it's important to understand how our muscle action changes depending upon the environment they need to function within. This often times will dictate exercise selection.

Failure to recognize how muscle action changes is often a reason why some people fail to progress in rehab or in the gym. And this is why it's important you find a professional who understands these concepts. These concepts serve as the foundation for true 'functional' training, 'functional' exercise, and 'functional' rehabilitation.

'Functional' has been a buzz word in fitness and rehabilitation for over a decade now, yet what most trainers or therapists are claiming to deliver as functional training, functional exercise, or functional rehabilitation is anything but that. An exercise should never be determined to be functional based on how it looks, but rather what it is addressing in regards an individuals specific needs/weaknesses.  That requires we must first identify those specific needs and weaknesses, then determine how a specific muscles is 'acting' or 'pulling' during a given task, and finally determine how are we going to strength that specific muscle action through progressive exercises. This is the primary objective of functional training or functional rehabilitation.

Please watch the video for more in depth information!

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This exercise is a hybrid of the bottoms up kettlebell (KB) serratus press and the McGill one arm bench press.

The bottoms up KB serratus press is often performed on the floor or on a foam roller. The problem is the floor will impede natural scapular motion and the foam roller is frankly awkward and uncomfortable. We want to enhance muscular activation, not create difficulty. This isn't to say that the other methods are wrong, they may not be ideal for everyone. Odds are, once you allow the scapula to move and track along the rib cage with greater freedom, the response to the exercise will be more positive.

This is why blending it with the McGill one arm bench press becomes an ideal variation. We just subbed out the bench press for the serratus press. The serratus press will enable one to learn how to "pack the shoulder", thus creating a more solid platform for pressing.

The added benefits being:
  1. By placing half your body off the bench, you will target the serratus and develop scapular control far better than from the ground and more comfortably than on a foam roller. By allowing the scapula free range of movement, we can better target the ideal mechanics for improved strength and muscular activation.
  2. You get the added benefit of enhancing rotary athleticism through the core and hips by eliminating energy leaks by oblique sling development. Developing rotary athleticism is critical to contact and combat sport athletes.
  3. Developing rotary stability in this sense has carry over to standing pressing strength and power. This is key as standing press strength is more often limited by the strength and coordination of our torso musculature than our chest or shoulders.
Note - In the video demonstration, the right half of my body is off completely off the bench. It should be clear from watching but if it isn’t - it’s stated here. 
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Introducting the Best Hip Exercise You’re Not Doing - Half Kneeling to Heel Sitting

For all you glute and booty fanatics, nothing beats properly performed squats, deadlifts, lunges, and RDLs for glutes that not only look great but work even better.

Problem is most people don’t perform the big exercises well and therefore resort to ways to “activate” or better “isolate” glute function. This is why hip thrusts, clam shells, and so on exist. They can all have their place when used with a plan and purpose.

From DNS we bring you a great drill to learn how to properly load the glutes, improve hip rotational mobility, and restore ideal function between the hips and torso. Introducing half kneeling to tall sitting.

Don’t underestimate this drill. It’s much more challenging than it looks. If you can perform this with control and precision of movement and posture, congrats you have beautifully functioning hips. For those that have challenges with it, be patient and focus on feeling the movement performed correctly. You want to feel the glute and vastus medialis of the quad working together through the movement.

Is this a real struggle for you? Plug this drill into your regular training routine. Follow the advice in the video. Perform it on the regular and watch how it not only helps your strength and movement improve but also gets rid of unwanted muscle tightness or pain in the low back, hips, and knees.

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Nothing beats properly performed squats, deadlifts, lunges, and RDLs for glutes that not only look great but work even better. Proper glute function is critical to hip extension that is prevalent in every day life (walking, sit to stand, hip hinge, lifting) as well as sport (running, sprinting, throwing, jumping, skating) Problem is most people don’t perform the big exercises well and therefore resort to ways to “activate” or better “isolate” glute function. This is why hip thrusts exist. They have their place when used with a plan and purpose. The single leg hip thrust is an advanced progression that is often performed incorrectly. The biggest mistake being the unleveling of the hips that can occur during the movement. By using the external cue of a tennis ball, we can promote better technique that results in improved muscular coordination of the glutes and core. This translates into more efficient movement mechanics, not only in this exercise, but in life and sport as well. Hopefully the video explains the set-up and execution well enough for you to give it a try.

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Sensory Motor Training

SMT is a targeted approach to training the proprioceptive system and it’s pathways involved with the control of equilibrium and posture.

SMT is used to train the upright posture of the body with the emphasis placed on ideal posture during dynamic stability.

Benefits of SMT:

1️⃣ Increases speed of activation of muscle

2️⃣ Improves muscle coordination

3️⃣ Improves pelvic stability through the increased activation of the trunk and gluteal muscles

4️⃣ Improves foot function when ideal foot loading and posture is maintained

Indications for SMT (sub acute patients and performance training considerations):

✅ Post-injury or post-operative

✅ Chronic back or neck pain

✅ Faulty posture with respiratory dysfunction

✅ General hypermobility or instability

✅ Postpartum muscle imbalance

✅ Prevention of falls in senior populations

✅ General physical preparation or fitness

SMT has a wide range of applications and is traditionally trained through 1-leg balance drills, wobble boards, rocker boards, balance sandals, and mini trampolines. All tools we use regularly at GP.

Here we demonstrate a couple advanced variations which incorporate anti-rotational stressors via bands or kettlebells which only take muscular coordination and dynamic stability challenge to another level.

Source: Rehabilitation of the Spine by Liebenson

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The gateway to change in the body is the sensory system.

The balance of excitatory and inhibitory  signals coming from our body's sensory system influences the level of performance of the human body. And this balance of stimuli is always under the control of the brain/central nervous system (CNS).

Be it a chiropractic adjustment, massage or manual therapy, or exercise, the rich stimulation of sensory system is what drives changes in our nervous system that create responses such as:

✅ reduced pain

✅ increased body awareness

✅ improved neuromuscular control

✅ reduced muscular tension/tightness

✅ improved joint range of motion

How the Nervous System Unlocks Performance

The tissues and joints of the body are richly innervated with sensors that constantly monitor the conditions our body is exposed to. The external stimuli our body encounters will generate excitatory or inhibitory signals which will ultimately improved or shut down performance.

For example, our tendons are home to sensory receptors known as Golgi Tendon Organs (GTOs). GTO are responsible for sensing tension as it builds up in our tendons. If the load (resistance) our body encounters is too heavy, thus placing potentially damaging stresses on our muscles and tendons, the GTOs will shut down our muscles ability to contract as a protective mechanism. This inhibitory signaling is directed by the nervous system to protect our body from injury.

Conversely, our body can be elevated to higher levels of performance by the nervous system by means of excitatory signals perceived by our muscle spindles within our muscles. Muscle spindles are sensors that are sensitive to stretch. For those that are familiar with the myotatic or stretch reflex, muscle spindles enable our muscles to function like a "rubber band".

The balance of signals coming from our muscle spindles and GTOs is being monitored by our nervous system to either enhance or shut down performance. This occurs through what is known as the Stretch-Shortening Cycle (SSC).

Enter Plyometrics

The SSC is a normal function of all human motion, be it walking, jogging, running, throwing, etc. The training of the SSC occurs through what is known as "plyometrics".

Plyometrics are often mistaken for ballistic training. Plyometrics may be the most misunderstood and undervalued form of training as they specifically train the SSC function of our muscular system. More specifically they are undervalued and underutilized in rehabilitation and return-to-play procedures for athletes.

If the function of the SSC is not normalized, this is potentially why many patient's "fail" rehab and athletes are unable to return to play or are soon after sidelined with a relapse.

Experience the Difference

At Gallagher Performance, we place a priority of normalizing the function of the entire body. We follow criteria-based progressions which address complete neuromuscular function, including addressing strength deficits and normalizing the SSC function.

Below are same exercises we use regularly to improve the function of the nervous system and unlock the performance abilities - be it for rehabilitation or athletics.




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  • 4484 William Penn Highway

  • Murrysville, PA 15668

Hours of Operation

    Monday-Thursday: 9am-1pm, 3pm-6pm
    Friday: 9am-1pm, 3pm-5pm
    Saturday: by appointment only
    Hours are by appointment only