Knee Pain: Waking up the Posterior Chain

Knees hurt? Try using your hips.

When you first learned how to squat or ride a bicycle jump, you likely received no formal training in the fundamentals in how to do it. You just got on a started riding.

What I see in my own movements in learning weight lifting, in my bicycling and running and in a number of my clients with aching knees is we don’t know how to use our hips.

 

We have super strong muscles in the buttocks, gluteus maximus, gluteus medius,

The strength of the hamstring muscle group broken down are the biceps femoris, semimembranosus on the, semitendinosus on the. When this muscle contracts when the feet are planted it helps produce hip extension. When the leg is free in the air (open chain) it primarily bends the knee.

And super strong muscles to maintain our posture when loaded in the abdominals, notably transversus abdominus, the

 

What about the quadriceps muscle group? Its strong in straightening the knee and the rectus femoris and psoas work together to actively bend the hip. The calf muscles can help us come up from the bottom of a squat or pedal a bicycle but if we are relying on them as primary power drivers it may lead to tightness and pain.

Now on the issue of knee and back pain, a few tweaks to our emphasis of which parts of our body to use and the alignment of the pelvis will help us to use the powerful muscles of the backs of the legs and buttocks and allow the quads to be a balancing muscle with the back of the legs.

It is not to say it is wrong to use the quads or that we should overemphasize the posterior tucking of our pelvis. There are extremes on both ends. Discernment goes a long way here.

Some strategies to wake up the posterior chain are to squeeze the butt muscles together as you end many of your typical motions.

Straight leg variations

1.       Turned out leg extension.

 

2.       2quadruped opposite arm leg, watch out for the back excessively rounding, try to use the core as you reach one leg back and the opposite arm reaching forward

 

3.       Kettlebell Russian Swing, keep the knees relatively straight, reach behind you and squeeze the butt and push down into the heels as the bell floats up to eye level. Resist the tendency to collapse down and reach with your arms

 

4.       Deadlift by pushing into the heels and only lowering as far as your hips can reach back

 

5.       Roman Chair Extensions- push into the heels and squeeze the buttocks to return from a bent over position- if the back is trying to take over let it relax and emphasize the legs

 

Now in bent knee variations the tendency is even greater to overemphasize the quads at the expense of missing out on the great power of the posterior chain.

Using the hips has great implications for being able to move efficiently, powerfully, and explosively and even further if your hips are shut down we are missing out on a lot of enjoyment of the full movements in sex, dancing, and true integrated motion that we can repeat daily without breaking down. If we rely on just a few muscle groups perhaps those structures and the joints may be taking more load. With more load distributed to larger muscle groups and more structures it may stand to reason that there is less risk of reaching a stress point and on the performance side, opening up capability for greater capacity.

Long and short of it, push into those heels and squeeze the butt. As this becomes more natural don’t over do these cues, bring it all together and let it flow naturally even a good thing overdone can lead to overuse.