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Knackered Knees part 2, It’s Not Your Knee!

I didn’t post much last week, my apologies, but it seems the “knackered Knees” post seemed to tick the boxes for many of you. It’s the most read post this year, so thank you, especially if you shared it.

I’m going to continue on the theme of knees in today’s post then.

knobbly knees

A huge, sorry, HUGE part of your knee struggling is down to the joints above and below not doing their job properly. You see, the body is a system, a single integrated unit. It will do its absolute damnedest to keep functioning to its absolute best. The problem is, if one section of the body isn’t working right, something else will have to take up the slack, and pretty soon will burn out, passing the load to something else, which will burn out passing the load onto something else, which will. Well you get the idea.

Gary Ward, the man behind Anatomy in Motion told me on our first meeting that, “There’s no such thing as a dysfunctional body, it is always 100% functional”

Gary Ward

Gary Ward, the founder of Anatomy in Motion

As he said this I seriously considered getting my coat and asking for a refund on the course. But I thought I’d allow him continue.

You know, I’m nice like that…

He then gave an analogy, which I loved and will now share, albeit paraphrased somewhat.

Gary said, “Imagine you have three cups each with an equal amount of water in them. This water represents 100%. Now if I pour water from one cup into the other two, I now have an empty cup but still 100% of the fluid.”

It took a while for this to sink in for me. But after taking many of my regular members through the Anatomy in Motion (AiM) assessments I am amazed that they can do the incredible things they do despite the “dysfunctions” the assessment process highlighted. Their 100% may not be equally distributed between all their “cups” but they were certainly using it to the best of their ability.

Keeping an AiM mindset during my regular work training a variety of people in various settings, I can see their “dysfunctions” screaming at me, yet these guys are currently pain free and doing awesome things.

Take today as an example. I was asked by our BJJ coach to warm his lads up and give them some new stuff to play with. So I did. We had a blast, lots of laughing and joking as I took the lads through animal movements, AiM movements and some of John Wolf’s EKG drills as well as some partner games. I’ve seen these lads train week in and week out and am in no doubt that they’d tie me into a knot in a heart beat, despite my strength and endurance advantage, their skills would easily negate me and I’d be toast!

However, as we went through various movement patterns, I could see areas of weakness and probable future injury sites.

Sure enough by the end of the session one of the lads asked about a certain problem. When he asked, I spotted every ear in the room pricked up. This was a common problem.

His problem, tight hip flexors.

Hip Flexor

Hold on Dave, you said you were going to talk about knees…

Yes, coming to that in a moment, bear with me.

Now, hip flexors.

If there’s a muscle that give people crap, it’s the hip flexor. The ramifications of your hip flexors being tight go far and wide, here’s a few of them:

– Sleepy glutes – Tight IT band – Poor VMO function – Low back pain – Tight Hamstrings – Weak Abs – Anterior Pelvic Tilt – Turned out feet – and much much more

But the good news, the body will still perform to the best of it’s ability. You just may feel it, the next day.

Take another look at that list, tight IT band, poor VMO function and tight Hammies. Does that sound like a combination of events that will keep a knee happy? Consider that the hamstring and IT band both cross the knee joint and the VMO is pretty much the “Knee muscle” If these structures are all working at less than 100%, something else must make up the deficit.

Tight hamstrings, well what else assists in bending the knee? Yes, your calves, so they’ll be tight too.

No VMO, what else straightens the knee? The other side of course, the Vastus medialis runs to the inside of the knee, the vastus lateralis is on the outside. The VL and the rectus femoris have to work that bit harder meaning the force is now going down the outer edge of the leg, and where’s the IT band? Yup, on the outside. How do you think that will that effect the position and tracking of the knee cap?

All in, it’s a bad situation for the poor old knee joint.

If your knees are bothering you, check your hip flexors, including the Rectus Femoris.

The Thomas Test is the easiest and best well known way to do this, google it and you’ll get literally hundreds of articles on it, it’s a good test and it’s also a good solution in itself. But on your own it can be impractical. For the most people your best served by simply bridging.

I have many other drills for you, for example an AiM 3D Hip Flexor stretch but to describe that is a monster article by itself. For most people, most of the time, the bridge is relatively idiot proof with many progressions to use as you improve.

The Activate Bridge plays a central role in the training of ALL my BJJ guys, and features front and centre in the training advice laid out in the Fighting Back book. Rather than bore you with several paragraphs of instruction, here’s a video:

[youtube] You’ll see in the video we use a resistance band, but a belt or even a training partner can be used to provide you with the resistance. This will give your glutes little choice but to get involved in the fight while giving the hip flexors the option to relax.

Once they the glutes are singing and the hip flexors are relaxed, you need to move. You need to go through some of your drills in order to to for the body to realise that having functioning glutes is a good thing and that the letting the hip flexors relax from time to time really does allow the body to move more fluidly.

I recommend getting up and doing some bodyweight squats and lunge movements. After the bridge, these should feel like a dream to perform, as the hips and knees will flow much easier. Deep walking lunges with the back leg kept as straight as possible will further open up the hips and strengthen the glutes, hamstrings and vmo. Your poor tortured knees will think it’s Christmas after the 10-15 minutes it takes to bridge then integrate with the squats and lunges.


Dave Hedges Some feedback from the Fighting Back eBook:

“The first thing that struck me was how fucking relevant that information is. I’ve done BJJ for years and coaching BJJ athletes in a Strength & Conditioning setting these same things are seen almost across the board with athletes who’ve given an appreciable amount of time to that sport. This is a product I’d recommend for anyone who deals with BJJ athletes, or anybody with postural issues in general. So, everyone! Great stuff mate well done” Alan Sherry, Crossfit Strength & Performance

“I have been intensely involved in the martial arts for over 34 years, and with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for 20. In that time, I have competed at more tournaments that I can remember, and have put in a lot of time on the mat. In doing so, I have done some damage to my body, both through the physical training as well as the wear and tear of life. I wish I would have had Dave Hedges’ book Fighting Back years ago. In simple language even someone like me can understand, he gives you the prescription not just to fix bad backs, but to make them better and stronger so you can keep training hard for years to come. I truly enjoyed this book and have already implemented his advice into my own personal training regimen. I heartily endorse this book, and look forward to more from Dave.” – Cecil Burch, 1st degree Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu,

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