Turn Off The Quads? Lift With The Hamstrings?

In dance, especially in ballet, it’s fairly common to hear corrections to lift the leg to the front or to the side by using the hamstrings in an attempt to “turn-off” or inhibit the quads from over compensating. Although dancers can sometimes over utilize their quads, it is physiologically impossible to “turn-off” the quads and it is physiologically impossible to lift the leg forward using the hamstrings. This correction is often a huge frustration for many dancers to say they can’t “feel” the hamstrings lifting their leg forward like they are told they should. First of all, let’s go over the muscles that flex the hip and lift the leg forward. The two muscles that primarily lift the leg forward are often called the “hip flexors”. These muscles run from the spine and pelvis and attach on the femur (large thigh bone).

  • Iiacus and psoas (aka iliopsoas)

There are also a few muscles that assist in this motion. These muscles have their own primary function but also help the hip flexors:

  •  Adductor longus, adductor brevis and gracilis (or inner thigh muscles)
  • Pectineus, which also “turns out” or externally rotates the leg
  • Tensor fascia lata (TFL), which connects to the IT-band
  • Rectus femoris, which is one of the quad muscles
  •  Sartorius, which is another muscle that runs across the top of the thigh
incorrect hip alignment and muscle use

Incorrect Hip Alignment And Muscle Use

The main function of the quads is to extend, or straighten, the knee. Therefore, if you are performing a grand battement, extending into a develope, or doing any type of kick or lift to the front, the quadscannot be “turned off” if the knee is straight. The three hamstring muscles in the back of the thigh generally have two functions, bending the knee and extending the hip (lifting the leg to the back).

Now dancers can stop worrying about trying to “feel” their hamstrings working or “turning off their quads” when lifting the leg to the front. However, the correction to try to lift with the back of the leg may not be useless. The idea behind it can very well be an attempt to maintain correct alignment and decrease compensation in order to increase the correct use of the hip flexors while lifting the leg. Both the core and the back should be straight and “lifted” and the leg should lift from a right angle. To train correct alignment while lifting the leg to the front, practice while lying flat or sitting with legs out in front and lift the leg making sure to not let the back arch or the hips tilt.

Correct Hip Alignment And Muscle Use

Correct Hip Alignment And Muscle Use

In 2016, let’s eat right! Most of the time…

After the new year rolls around, we often make fairly demanding resolutions to the way we eat. “I won’t drink pop;ever.” “I’ll never have desert.” Now that it’s February, research shows at least 80% of those resolutions failed.

This year I encourage you to demand a little bit less. Let’s not strive for perfection. First, there really is no perfect way to eat. Second, this mindset usually only leads to let downs. It doesn’t account for that wedding you’ll attend or that time when you’re having a busy week and just can’t find time to prepare a healthy meal.

This year, let’s embrace imperfection. As I try to provide you with up to date nutrition information to live a healthier lifestyle and optimize your performance, don’t get overwhelmed. Don’t let the fact that you can’t eat the recommended amount before training bother you. Don’t get discouraged when your recovery meal is potato chips and beer instead of a 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio.

We’ve all been there; we’ve missed training sessions due to whatever life throws our way. Still, the race usually turns out just fine. We don’t throw in the towel at that less than stellar workout. We take it in stride and move on. This year, let’s resolute to not let the imperfections of our eating get in our way of making progress and becoming healthier overall. Strive to eat right most of the time, allowing some room for imperfection.

Shoes: A Runner’s Best Friend

When I see runners for their first visit, they typically cannot wait to show me their shoes.  Running shoes come in all different brands, shapes, lengths, widths, colors, weights, materials, degrees of stability, etc., etc. The options are endless. Unless they are of the barefoot variety and count gadgets like watches and heart rate monitors, shoes are runners only equipment. So there is no mystery as to why there is a shoe fetish among runners.

If you ask a group of runners what causes running injuries, “wearing the wrong shoes” always tops their list. Is this response incorrect? Depends on your definition of “wrong” and how you determine what is the “right” shoe for you. Should your degree of supination and pronation point to the type of shoe you wear? How about your foot strike? There are multiple studies that show that wearing a shoe matched to your “foot type” does not reduce your risk for injury. How are runners supposed to find their one perfect pair of shoes out of a million if “foot type” is not the answer?

I recently had a runner tentatively show me her shoes and say, “they are just Nikes…” After I reassured her that I was not opposed to Nike, she went on to tell me that she was shoe shamed for not wearing Saucony or Brooks by her fellow running friends. I went on to find out why she stood her ground and stuck with her particular pair of shoes. She stated that they were simply the most comfortable pair of running shoes that she has ever had. BINGO!

As much as we may want some easy to follow diagram with specific criteria to determine the perfect running shoe for you, there isn’t one! There are too many shoe options to count and an even greater variety of people with different combinations of “foot type”, injury history, training history, running gait, strength, mobility etc., etc. Do not allow yourself to continue wearing an uncomfortable shoe because it is the latest trend, coolest brand, or what your go to medical professional, shoe store, or running buddy recommends. Every runner is unique. The only  complete answer is to keep shopping and running until you find YOUR most comfortable running shoe.

If you are at a loss of where to start or have tried many different options and still cannot find a shoe that works for you, check out our Running Assessment! With a comprehensive individual assessment, Elite PT can give you guidance to get you headed in the right direction.