Stephen Strasburg Update in 2013 by Zig Ziegler, the Sports Kinesiologist

In 2011, I wrote a post about Washington Nationals Pitcher Stephen Strasburg.  In the post I made some prediction about his health. As a result of an enormous amount of media exposure about his technique, comparisons to other phenomenal pitchers who’s careers were cut short by injury and a genuine concern for he health, the Washington Nationals opted to keep a close eye on Strasburg and monitor his pitch counts. The move was helpful to the short term health of Strasburg but only delays the inevitable.

The Nationals ended Strasburg’s season just prior to the playoffs last season amid a tremendous amount of criticism from baseball veterans, hall of famers, and tv analysts. All of these experts second guessed the decision and said the nationals had to be crazy to shut him down when he wasn’t complaining of pain or injury. Today, the move looks like a smart one as Strasburg has begun to struggle this season and complains of forearm tightness.  In my 2011 article, I gave some very pointed advice to Strasburg to help him avoid the surgery. I renew that advice and hope that a some point, athletes like Strasburg, Robert Griffith III (RGIII), and even Adrian Peterson heed the warning signs of their body rather than ignoring them to prove how manly they can be. It’s time to take care of our athletes, even if the athletes don’t take care of themselves.  Here are some excerpts from the article and a link to the entire 2011 article.

Excerpt #1

In 2008, I had the chance to see a young pitcher dominate on the field for San Diego State University.  His velocity was tremendous and intimidating as he struck out batter after batter.  I said to myself, “I wonder how many innings this guy will have in the major leagues before he is injured?” In 2010, the Washington Nationals drafted Stephen Strasburg with the top pick in the professional baseball draft.  Yes. Strasburg was number one on everyone’s board, except mine.

Well it didn’t last long. Strasburg had surgery after less than 10 starts in professional baseball.

Excerpt #2

In 2005, I developed a numerical scoring system to measure the efficiency of a pitcher after completing a biomechanics assessment, Biomechanics Assessment Rating™ (also known as B.A.R®).  In the numerical scoring system, a pitcher with throwing mechanics similar to Stephen Strasburg would score less than 44% out of 100%. The B.A.R® compares ideal body postures, joint angles, pitch accuracy, angular velocities, and torques generated by the pitcher.  In comparison, a starting pitcher like Greg Maddox would score closer to a B.A.R® of 82% rather than a B.A.R® of approximately to 43.5%, which is where we find Mr. Strasburg after my assessment of his mechanics in games over the last two weeks.

Strasburg’s biomechanical deficiencies contribute to his low score and increase his risk for repetitive throwing injuries.

Excerpt #3

Stephen’s Feet: For starters, Stephen Strasburg significantly “over-strides” during his delivery of the ball to home plate. The ideal stride length for a baseball pitcher is equal to no more and no less than 87.5% of his height. At 6 feet 4 inches tall (76 inches). This means an ideal place for Stephen’s lead foot in his throwing motion is 66.5 inches away from the position of his back foot at foot plant (the point at which his front foot lands on the ground).

To date I can see no attempts to shorten Stephen’s stride length.  In fact, the more he struggles, the longer his stride seems to get as he begins to aim the ball.  This causes even more stress on the arm.

Excerpt #4

Essentially, Stephen is not in control of his throwing arm or the ball. Our good friend “Mo”-mentum is in control. And Stephen’s upper arm and forearm muscles have to work 7-10 times as hard to ensure that he releases he ball at the proper point to ensure delivery of the pitch to the catcher.  As he fatigues when facing each and every batter, this delivery becomes more difficult.

Excerpt #5

Simply put, Stephen didn’t fix the reason why he needed to have surgery.

So it’s pretty clear to me what lies ahead in his career. Stephen Strasburg might make it through 2-3 starts for the major league ball club, but if he continues to throw with the same mechanics, one of two things will happen, Stephen Strasburg will re-injure the same elbow, or he will shift the stress to his shoulder and rotator cuff surgery is next.  He might first experience stiffness in the forearm muscles or biceps area.  If he continues to pitch after feeling this often called minor “discomfort”, a major injury will occur in the elbow.  Typically, the pitcher experiencing this discomfort makes a subconscious adjust to move the stress away from the area and continue pitching. This moves it to the shoulder or lower back.

So let me leave you with this as we watch Stephen closely between now and the all-star break next season.  Let’s pay attention to what is said about his accuracy (command), velocity, and arm health.  Other than what I have stated here as fact-based opinion, I dare not guess at what exercises Stephen should do prevent injury. Muscular strengths and weakness typically cause deficiencies we see in biomechanics.  However, in Stephen’s case, the way he was taught to throw the ball is now a part of his biomechanical deficiencies. As a result, destiny may have him set for duty in the bullpen (as was the case with Joba Chamberlain-who should never have been a starter (with a biomechanical efficiency score of under 50%). If the Nationals send him to the bullpen, Strasburg will be an incredible, nearly untouchable reliever.

In closing, don’t get me wrong. The Nationals can get another 10-20 starts out of Stephen before his next surgery (unless two of the first 10 are complete games where he throws over 120 pitches and takes the typical 5 days of rest).  The more balls he throws, the closer he gets to being tabbed just another pitcher who failed recover from early injuries. But let’s hope for the best! Personally, I’m a fan and want to see Stephen Strasburg dominate pitching at the major league level.  But the game may have other plans for him.

So far the nationals have gotten just over 30% more games than I originally assessed, which based upon his pitch counts, would be about accurate. (Strasburg threw about 30% less pitches than the average starting pitcher since the start of his career).  As a fan, I hope they get it figured out. I would hate to see Strasburg end up in the announcer’s booth way too early in his career like Brandon Webb (whose career the Diamondbacks had a chance to save or other pitchers who are out of the game).  Here is the entire article. Follow on Twitter @zig_ziegler

Zig Ziegler is a Sports Kinesiologist who consults with athletes and teams on improving player’s health and preventing injuries.


Every person moves in a way that is unique to their body; Isn’t it time to treat them like it!

To keep up with the latest from Zig Ziegler, follow Zig on twitter @zig_ziegler

I received the following comment on Linked In and I felt the need to address it to a larger population. As a result, I am answering it in the contents to follow as a follow up to my previous article on squatting found here: Article on Squatting from January 2013

Ray A. •states:   Zig you’ve touched on so many points I’ll only address a few.
First, your baby squat comparison is poor at best since babies are born without patellas and don’t develop them until 2 -6 years old. Also their center of gravity is very low.

Second, in performing a squat the superior part of the scapula should stay in vertical line with the center (arch) of the feet. In this way the weight distribution is 50/50.The glutes HAVE to fire to come up from the end of the eccentric range.

Third, In performing a lunge if you push of the ball of the foot and the toes, you are overloading the quads which is worse for women since they are quad dominant.

Finally, lifting the heels with support during a squat will shorten the soleus and lead to and abnormal movement between the calcaneus, tibia and femur, during walking and running which in turn will cause discomfort or pain at the weakest part of the kinetic chain.
I didn’t squat until I was 35 years old because no one could explain how to perform it to my satisfaction. Finally, Vern Gambetta and Paul Chek explained it in a very comprehensive way.

Ok so here is what I have to say:

#1 The points I made were based off my evaluation of over 6,000 athletes performing a squat, using 3D motion capture technology, so I want to be clear that my findings are not my opinion or the result of trying to prove or disprove a theory or hypothesis.  They are based upon the objective findings of full body biomechanics data (which are not perfect by anymeans but better than visual or video).

In addition, my findings are merely based off the result of what people are actually DOING combined with an understanding of kinesiology.  Now let’s make one fact clear that we all agree on.  “Based on Kinesiology, every joint or segment of the body has a specific task to perform.” However, unfortunately because of neurological deficiencies, learned motor patterns, and muscular imbalances, every joint in the average person’s body does NOT function properly. So if we evaluate what 100 people are doing and make a blanket statement that “if thats how the best do it, then that’s how it should be done”, you are incorrect.  Tiger Woods once said, “Don’t try to copy my swing, because I am constantly trying to make it better, so by the time you get down my old swing, I’ve got a new and improved one.” Now Tiger may or may not have perfected his swing, who’s to say?  Its not wins and losses that tell you if his swing is the best, it is a swing efficiency test that will allow you to see how efficient it is.

Now back to lifting.  Even the best squatter or weight lifter is not necessarily the best technically or most efficient example of how to perform a lift.  They just achieved the goal better than the competition.  And if the sole focus was performing the lift or moving a certain amount of weight, then technique doesn’t matter, achieving the goal matters.  The human body is a great machine. It will find a way to perform whatever task we ask it to perform.  It may not be done biomechanically correct, or efficient but if it can be done, the body will find a way to perform the task.  In the world of fitness, physical medicine, and sports performance, the task or focus should be on developing the body from the ground up, not lifting the weight.  If your goal is to lift weight, who cares if your body is balanced as long as you can complete the lift. But remember, at some later date, you will ask your body to use muscles or joint that have not been tested and that is when you will see an Achilles rupture, low back, or knee injury.  So keep the task in mind but empower your entire body not just your mind a a few muscles you have overcompensated with in training or normal activity.

So here’s a thank you to Ray and his points which inspired me to write this follow up.

#2 Ray stated that, “First, your baby squat comparison is poor at best since babies are born without patellas and don’t develop them until 2 -6 years old. Also their center of gravity is very low.”

In response I have to state that you sir are incorrect.  Babies ARE NOT born without patellas, except in rare cases of a birth defect.  The patella begins to develop around the fourth month of the fetus as cartilage.  The patella is present in most new-borns but only begins to ossify (harden) Experts GUESS that the patella, which is a sesamoid  bone, begins to develop between the ages of two and three years old.  It is weight bearing activities in the TODDLER (pictured in my previous blog) that contributes to the ossification of the patella.  So to clarify, before a toddler starts to walk and bear weight, the patella is mostly cartilage.  As they bear weight it hardens and become more of the patella that we see as older humans.

Today, some children begin to bear weight at between 8-10 months old, contributing to earlier ossification than previous studies from the 70’s 80’s and early 90’s.  This is because parents are pushing the children to walk at an earlier age. This push can be harmful to overall bone development and cause abnormalities in walking or movement patterns later in life.

As for Ray’s reference to the center of gravity? A baby’s center of gravity is low compared to the ground. But compared to their leg length, it is not low. As a toddler develops into a taller person, the center of gravity does not change relative to their body, only to the ground.  An adult shorter person squats more efficiently than a taller person not because they are closer to the ground.  They do so because WE use cues that are meant for people who are 5foot -6inches  to 5 foot -8 inches tall.   A toddler doesn’t need to be told where to place their feet when they squat, their brain naturally seeks the place where they have the greatest amount of balance.  Its natural for them.

#3 Ray’s statement about scapula position relative to the feet in the squat is almost true but only in a perfect world where the upper and lower body segments are the same length and weight.  Since people come in all different shapes and sizes, this is not 100% true. However, it is another cue that is used improperly in the world of fitness and even physical medicine. It’s about as accurate a cue as telling every person who squats to stand with your feet shoulder width apart.  That cue is incorrect because some people have long legs, short torsos, and narrow shoulders. How should they stand? The answer is….It depends on the person.

#4 Ray stated, “Third, In performing a lunge if you push of the ball of the foot and the toes, you are overloading the quads which is worse for women since they are quad dominant.

I hate to say it Roy, but you are again a little bit incorrect.  First, all men are not the same and neither are all women.  So a general statement like that is not supported by all women nor men. From my research, 90% of men and 93% of Women are “quad dominant” because we live in a quad dominant world. Here’s an example, the next time you are standing, notice which muscles you are using the most. Try to contact or squeeze your glutes.  Notice how much you had to think about it.  However, when you look at quadriceps involvement in basic standing, the quads are the muscle group that keeps you on your feet.  Not the hamstrings and glutes. Its the quads that keep your knees extended which is what keeps you standing.

As for “kinesiology of the exercise”: A walking lunge, step up, and even a squat involves both pulling and pushing, not just a push.  A forward lunge with push back is just that a push.  In a normal lunge, “Rotational” forces are always at work while performing any ambulatory movement.  But as a society, we have a tendency to only coach what we THINK we see to justify our expertise.  I stopped thinking about what I see a long time ago and began to measure instead that way, my opinion would be eliminate and all I had to do was read the numbers.

In the picture to the left walking lunge with med ball extended(which is not meant to be an example of perfect technique), the lifter is preparing to step forward in a walking lunge.  If she pushes, she goes backwards.  However, if she pulls, her body goes over the top of the front foot, then she completes the lift by finishing with extension of the quads AND hips (glutes).

In doing so, the lunge will engage the big toe, plantar fascia, ankle (achilles), soleus, gastrocs, anterior/posterior tibia for lower leg stabilization, hamstrings, glutes, quads and lower abs in that order.  In ideal firing order, the squat and lunge are an exercise for the entire lower body.  Starting with the feet.

Done incorrectly, the quads are dominant and this becomes a knee extension exercise which is done by the quadriceps, not the hamstrings and glutes. Some people scoffed at my analogy of sprinters vs. distance runners in the previous post on squatting.  However, now is the perfect time to clarify.

Sprinters are the only athletes who are NOT AS quadriceps dominant as the average person, but only while they are sprinting. In normal ambulation, they are just as quad dominant as the person next to them in terms of muscle recruitment in everyday activities.

Sprinters, however do not push themselves down the track…they pull and push and the push only comes as they leave the ground in finish knee extension. however, the glute contraction comes in the form of a pull as they repositioning the pelvis for loading and absorption of forces.  Sprinting is the only non-quad dominant exercise done while upright on both feet.

Ray also stated that

“Finally, lifting the heels with support during a squat will shorten the soleus and lead to and abnormal movement between the calcaneus, tibia and femur, during walking and running which in turn will cause discomfort or pain at the weakest part of the kinetic chain.”

Nowhere in my article did I advocate lifting the heels off the ground. In the image of Arnold squatting with a 2×4 under his feet, it is done to maintain full contact from toes to heel. It is NOT done to shift the weight to the toes or forefoot.  They did it to achieve a solid stable foundation while squatting to COMPENSATE for a lack of ankle mobility.  However, you are incorrect again in your assessment regarding “abnormal movement between the calcaneus, tibia, …”  But rather that shoot it down, I’d have to ask what would be considered abnormal movement? And most importantly, how do know that it is abnormal?    Before shoes, man ran around barefoot and developed enormous density in the lower leg muscles, hamstrings, and glutes. It is excessive and improper “upright” posture that has changed our physiological development and contributed to an increase in body dysfunction like low back pain and more.

Here is a graph of a male subject doing an overhead squat. 

Screenshot of a 3D Overhead Squat Functional Movement Screen, with poor knee flexion.

Screenshot of a 3D Overhead Squat Functional Movement Screen, with poor knee flexion.

Notice the yellow (left knee) and bluish (right knee) lines as the vertical green line intersects them.  That point is at the bottom of the squat (maximum knee flexion) for a male subject  who is squatting through their heels.

The Red line represents the pelvis anterior/posterior tilt, and the green line going across the graph illustrates the Torso or Trunk Flexion/extension. For starters, at the point when the green vertical line intersects the yellow and bluish lines, they should all be nearly identical.  The white line represents pelvis height during the series of squats.  You might also notice how in the three consecutive squats, even the knees to not stay the same and stress is moving demonstrating more instability.  However, it is the instability of the male subject’s right ankle which allows for more internal rotation of the tibia allowing it to achieve greater flexion.

This is not a good thing for the lifter.  The internal tibia rotation causes medial knee pain, lateral knee pain, lateral right side hip pain, and shuts down the glute medius.  This only occurs when the gastroc/soleus (calf muscles) are not capable of firing because the weight is in the heels.

Now Roy said, “The glutes HAVE to fire to come up from the end of the eccentric range.”  However, here, in the graph, the (pelvis) represented by the red line bends forward slightly on the way down, loses the posture half way through the descent phase of the squat, then at the bottoms begins to tilt forward again.

Now just so you know, the pelvis should begin to tilt backwards from the bottom of the squat if the glutes are firing to assist.  In this graph, we see the quads taking over the get up to knee extension not the glutes contracting to get the pelvis extension (vertical).

(In the graph, notice how the red line does not follow the same curve as the other lines.  The Red HORIZONTAL line is the zero point or completely vertical.  Above the line is forward bend, below the line is backward bend.)

I could go on for hours about this particular graph but in the interest of not boring readers with things I get excited talking about, I have to come to a conclusion of this post. I have thousands of these graphs which I’ve been looking at for over 12 years while applying corrective exercises and re-assessing. I experimented with every cue and technique you could think of using with my clients.  And now I share what I’ve learned with each of you in hopes that you will leave behind the use of words like “the average person does this” or “everybody should do that”.  Other people who may be perceived to be experts may truly believe what you’ve learned from them, but we should trust in data not in reputations, and when it comes to technique the data is in the actual biomechanics of the motion not the result.  A person who develops their body from the ground up is that much more effective when the ask their body to perform a task. As I stated before, the body will find a way, but if you empower every joint and body segment to do its job, it sure does make it easier.

I learn something new everyday from my clients.  But I’m open to allow their bodies to teach me how to help them not to share what I think I learned from someone else’s body. We are all different even when we present the same symptoms.   I am sure many trainers like Ray get great results based upon what they believe. And Ray is not alone in his thinking.  I am sure we have probably not studied the same things. I’ve spent my life studying my clients not text books. I stopped following the “experts” because they all started to try to find their own unique niche or trick they could teach people to improve their brand.  Oh don’t get me wrong, I read other peoples books and listen to what they say, but it has to pass one simple test.  That test is….knowing what we know about how the body truly works, does it make common sense.  If it doesn’t throw it out. If it eliminates one joint or another, throw it out.  However, if your goal is task specific, you may accomplish the task with that tip or cue but you do it at risk to yourself and your body’s health in the future.

My hope for every reader today is that each of you gains an understanding of the following….

Each person moves in a way that is unique to them. This is based upon their own strengths, weaknesses, injuries, repetitive activity history, and neurological deficiencies, coaching cues, instructions, and much more.

To our profession or any exerciser: I know its easy if you are an expert or working with clients or patients to refer to techniques that are based upon the average person, but we must get into the uniqueness of each individual in an effort to get the most out of their bodies and help each person develop as an individual.  I love the feedback and appreciate the comments. It is the questions and comments that stimulate more questions and can ultimately lead us to the truth about health and fitness.  Be encouraged and know that your questions and thoughts will only lead you closer to unlocking the key to your body’s success.

Be sure to look for my upcoming book Absolute Kinetix: Fitness From the Ground Up!  Follow me on twitter @zig_ziegler

Have a positive day!

Squat with Heel Push. Over-emphasized Cue from Trainers and Strength Coaches Contributes to Achilles, Knee, and Low Back Injuries

Are you an athlete looking to increase your leg strength, power and explosiveness? Are you mom or female exerciser working out in the gym and hoping to firm up your legs and improve a jiggly butt and reduce the visibility of cellulite on the back of your thighs and butt?

To keep up with the latest from Zig Ziegler, follow Zig on twitter @zig_ziegler.

If you look around the internet at various training websites including youtube videos, you will hear numerous experts explain proper squatting technique touting squat technique as the answer to your dreams.  The truth about fitness is that there is only one squatting technique. The best technique for squatting is the one you were born with and used until a fitness expert tried to instruct you, you read an article in a fitness magazine, or followed the advice of a friend.

If you watch children up until the age that they begin organized training, their bodies develop at a rate in which we perceive is balance between strength and flexibility. Coordination, however, takes a while to catch up for those children of all ages who experience a growth spurt or constant changes in activity.


A child playfully squatting without fear of damage to knees and squatting perfectly through the body’s full range of motion without regard to injury to the knees or back.

In fact, a developing toddler to adolescent is capable of demonstrating strength and flexibility while constantly battling coordination mainly because they have no perception of failure or understanding of instructions given to them on how to walk, run, squat, or throw. They just do it.  In fact, the first signs of struggle we see from children while performing physical activities is after their first words of instructions.

Recently i began to instruct my teenage daughter on how to play a new sport. The more practice and instruction I provide, the more she struggles. The more I allow her body to do what she does naturally, the better her performance and the better the result. My goal is to provide her with the strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility to assist her body in performing the task and allow the skill to benefit from her body having the strength, coordination, and flexibility to perform the skills necessary to play the sport. With those things, I am instructing around one weakness or another.

Have you ever heard a strength coach or a fitness professional say, you’re going to struggle until you learn proper squatting technique. I’m glad no one sad that the kid in the pictures. Who knows how long it would have taken him to get up and move on to the next toy.  Over the next few minutes I hope to shed a little light on a topic that has finally started to negatively impact, sports, fitness, and life.

I wanted to keep this post brief with the idea of making several points. Here’s how the body works when you perform a squat or for that matter any task on your feet:

1. The first segment of the body to store absorb, and transfer forces absorbed from the ground is the big toe on both feet while performing any activity while standing, walking, running, jumping or lunging.  That force is transfer through the joint between the big toe and the foot (the interphalangeal joint). This is the first joint to store and release energy into the entire foot as it passes through the foot and ankle. As forces pass through the toe, it is the bottom of the foot (not the top) that must properly absorb the force and pass it on to the ankle.As a result of forces applied to the ground, the soft tissue of the bottom of the foot contracts and releases efficiently in order to properly move the forces out of the foot or injury may occur.

2. The next segment of the body to absorb, store, and transfer energy is the entire lower leg.  The muscles which must first absorb the force as it comes out of the ankle is the gastrocnemius/soleus complex (posterior compartment of the lower leg also knows as the calves) but only after the force passes through the Achilles tendon which connects the ankle to the posterior (back) lower leg muscles.

3. The gastroc/soleus provides the necessary muscle contraction to transfer the forces properly out of the lower leg and next segment, the femur and the muscles of that segment which begins with the hamstrings and glutes. The glutes and hamstrings help to stabilize the pelvis and put it into position to complete the entire squat.  The quadriceps act as a stabilizer and help to extend the knee during when elevating the body from the squat position.  The quadriceps are triggered to extend the knee and are stimulated by any other anterior muscle contraction in the lower leg or foot.

In the 1960s/1970s/1980s and even the early 1990s, weightlifting was done primarily by body builders including Arnold Schwarzenegger.  The legendary body builders focused on squatting through the forefoot.  In the mid 1990’s some so called expert (no one will ever take credit for it now) began to instruct people to squat, lunge, leg press, etc while pushing through the heels of the feet. In fact, if you watch just about every fitness video, or so called expert in glute training, every one stresses pushing the the heels.


Arnold Schwarzenegger squats in the gym with a 2×4 under his heels. This action forces the weight into the forefoot forcing increase gastroc/soleus/hamstring/glute contraction when standing from the squat position. This also disables internal tibia rotation (lower leg rotation), while enabling external rotation of the thigh at the hip. (While his base is narrow contributing to overload of the hip joint (scientifically referred to as the acetabulofemoral). However, there are no glute medius issues present here.)

Here’s a test for you to run through your common sense meter.  Perform a toe raise by shifting the weight towards the heels. In performing toe raise, notice the increase intensity in your quadriceps contraction and some contraction of your glutes.  Shift the weight into your heels by raising your the entire front part of your foot off the ground, step, or where ever you are doing this test. In doing so you may feel a some contraction in the glutes.


However, you should notice that the more you try to squeeze your qlutes, the more you squeeze your qaudriceps (thighs)  instead.

Earlier, I mentioned the role of the big toe. If the weight is in the heel, what happens to the big toe?  It lifts off of the ground as the top of the foot and toes extend upwards, initiating the front side contraction of the entire leg.

Now try this test.  Perform a standing calf raise (heel lift). As you lift your heel, try to contract your glutes (squeeze your butt).  Were you successful? If you were, your kinetic chain and kinematic sequence are correct.  Your kinetic chain and kinematic sequence are easily explained as the flow of energy and order (sequence) of muscle contraction.


Perform a calf raise by elevating your heels and pressing through the front of your foot. increase the intensity in your glutes by turning your feet and legs outward a few degrees.

What you feel here is the muscles contraction and areas of intensity you should feel when are at the top of your squat. While in performing the heel raise, you should have noticed a significant difference in muscle contraction on the calves, hamstrings, and glutes.

But is the contraction greater or less than the Toe Raise (heel press) rather than the Calf Press (heel lift).

In Biomechanics and Kinesiology, in order to push through the heels a person must first shift the weight backwards.  To do so, requires a contraction of the muscles on the front of the lower leg. In EMG research testing in my lab, the entire anterior compartment of the lower leg (shin) contracts once the weight shifts behind the mid point of the foot.

The gastroc/soleus complex also contracts but only acts more as a stabilizer than a primary mover. This means the calves neither receive nor deliver any force to the middle of the foot or the big toe when pushing through the heels.  In other words if the weight is in the heels and the lifter pushes through the heels, the entire front of the leg contracts to help with the squat.   NOT THE BACK OF THE LEG!

As a result of the single exercise cue “Push through the heels” sports and fitness professionals have inadvertently contributed to an increase in Achilles tendon injuries, knee injuries, low back pain and injuries, tight hips, and numerous other injuries.  It’s time for a change in the industry and it starts with exercise professionals. I have come to that conclusion based not on opinion but after evaluation of the Biomechanics data of over 50,000 athletes and exercisers over the past 18 years.

By the repetition and migration of injuries to different parts of the body, it’s easy to conclude that many professional athletes like Greg Oden, Tiger Woods and others were instructed to push through their heels while squatting and lunging during rehab.  Because it is clearly a cue given as an industry standard, I can imagine  that even Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose, as he rehabs in hopes to return to play this season has been repeatedly instructed to push through his heels.  Even though Adrian Peterson had an incredible 2012 NFL season, he still exhibits signs of a weakened left foot and left ankle demonstrating that he may have been pushing through his heels while training.

Here’s the problem:  When you apply force back into the heels, you disable the foot and ankle’s ability to resist internal tibia (lower leg) rotation.  In doing so, the athlete’s body is inadvertently ENABLING that same rotation that the foot could be preventing. It is that rotation that cause stress in the Achilles tendon and may cause medial and even lateral knee pain.   In addition, the same rotation is what contributes to patella femoral syndrome and can lead to patella tendon ruptures. In previous chapter, I discussed Greg Oden’s injuries and what could have been done to prevent all of his injuries from 2008 to present. It is this simple cue that may have contributed to his repeated injuries. I am able to conclude this because of the presence of rotational stability issues in while he performed running and squatting Biomechanics tests. Brandon Roy, currently signed to play for the Minnesota Timberwolves also exhibited signs of rotational instability. And in numerous exercise videos on the internet Roy can be seen showing those same signs of knee rotational instability due to weight in his heels in various youtube videos.  Later in this book, I will share research data from over 1,000 individuals performing squats and other exercisers in evidence of my findings.

Personally, I used to recommend pushing through the heels, as well. In fact, in my early days in the industryI used it as a common exercise cue believing what at the time made sense. However, looking back, my reason for suggesting it didn’t make “common” sense and as I began to apply more of the principles of Kinesiology, I knew I needed to change many of my exercise cues which came from the still evolving fitness industry.  From 1997 on, I advocated mid-foot striking while on long distance runs and mid to forefoot pressing while performing strength training and conditioning. I switched to this cue as a way to allow the body to develop and utilize the foot as it was intended: a shock absorber. In order for the foot to assist in absorbing shock with high, low, or no impact activity, the forces start at the segment nears the end (distal) part of the foot, not in the heel.zig hurdle

As a former hurdler, I NEVER ran on my heels.  However distance runners (more in the US than other countries) were instructed to run with a heel strike. Here’s a common sense question, if pushing through your heels help increase glute muscle contraction, wouldn’t distance runners have large glutes and strong hamstrings? In addition, would sprinters (who incidentally run on the balls of their feet) have small glutes and stronger quads when compared hamstrings?  Instead, its just the opposite.  Distance runners have large quads and non-existent glute muscle development when compared to sprinters.

The bottom line is time for a change in this simple cue. Please stop instructing clients to push through their heels unless you are trying to develop strong anterior (front side) leg muscles. Because as a cue to develop more glute strength or get rid of cellulite on the butt, it’s just not gonna happen.

This is an excerpt from my upcoming book: Absolute Kinetix: Fitness From the Ground Up.  To be added to the list to receive a copy of the book, post a comment or reply to this article or send a tweet mentioning Absolute Kineix: Fitness From the Ground Up! @zigSports.

Zig Ziegler, The Sports Kinesiologist can be followed on Twitter @zig_ziegler and on

Greg Oden to play in 2012-13 NBA season? It is possible! Heres how…

What a crazy last 12  months in the NBA.  Brandon Roy is coming back! When I wrote about Brandon Roy coming back from retirement in April,  some readers responded in disbelief.  “He’s got bone on bone,” they said.  “I must have been on drugs”, one commenter said.  “No credibility”, and so on.   Well this is not an I told you so follow up, but more about how Greg Oden can get there too.  (Blog coming soon about Brandon Roy’s chances of staying healthy: stay tuned).

After a whirlwind last 6 months or so, Greg Oden was released and gave a lengthy interview discussing his career and life with Mark Titus of Grantland.  According to published reports, Greg also began a rigorous rehab and conditioning program to help get his body right.  In addition, Greg also reportedly underwent a surgical procedure to help reduce pain in his knee.

The reason you’re here is to find out if and how it might be possible for Greg Oden to make a return as well.  I am a fan of Greg as a person and want to see him on the court and achieve his basketball dreams.

My biggest motivation for writing about Greg Oden and other athletes issues is to bring light to the fact that proper treatment of the ‘root cause of any injury is an  essential component to helping prevent athletes and anyone from suffering from an injury long term’.   What traditionally has been referred to as proper treatment has had only short term benefits to the patient.  Traditionally, professionals in the industry treat the symptom.  If you treat the symptom (pain or injury), yes you can get back in the game quickly.  But the long term affects can be devastating and cut short any athlete’s career.

Recently, someone asked what I thought would have happened had Michael Jordan been drafted in Portland instead of Sam Bowie (whose career was hampered by chronic foot injuries)?  The answer is who knows and who really cares.

The bigger question is what would we be saying about Michael Jordan if he had not recovered from injuries suffered to his feet early in his career.  Three games into the 1985-86 season, Jordan went down with a broken bone in his left foot and was sidelined for 64 games before returning in mid-March.

The answer is that Air Jordan might have been reduced to a fraction of what he is today.  According to his teammates and those who played against him, Michael Jordan (whom I first met in 1994) worked harder than any other player in the game on and off the court.  In many ways, his work ethic overshadowed any treatments or training programs prescribed for him  As a result, any trainer who worked with Jordan would have become a name in the industry because he was Michael Jordan. Had that same trainer worked with Sam Bowie, we have no idea how Bowie ‘s body would have responded.  It is impossible to treat the two players with similar injuries with the same treatment because their body types and injury/training histories are different.

Oh by the way, many people forget or don’t know that Sam Bowie played in the NBA until 1995, he just didn’t play the way he was expected to based upon being drafted Number 1 overall ahead of the greatest player of all time.

Now back to Greg Oden so I can tie this all together.  A proven surgical procedure undergone by hardworking Kobe Bryant (who works as hard as Jordan on his fitness level) to eliminate pain only fixes part of the problem: the pain goes away. That is a good thing because the pain prevented Greg from being able to workout efficiently.   Additional benefits to the procedure Greg underwent earlier this year include reduced inflammation and possibly accelerated healing in the areas of his body affected by all of his surgical procedures.  Based upon the sheer number of surgeries Greg has undergone, his body has probably built up a considerable amount of scar tissue and some nerve damage may have occurred as well.  The procedure could potentially help with both.  This is very positive for Greg’s comeback.  But it is still not enough.

I hope Greg’s rehab and training program has focused on his weaknesses.  As I’ve stated previously, Greg moves inefficiently because of weaknesses in his body that have caused injuries.  Here are a few areas that were weak on Greg in 2008 and as evidenced by the repeated procedures in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012, possibly still affecting him today: glutes, hamstrings, quads, hip flexors, hip extensors, hip rotators (internal and external), peroneals, gastrocs, soleus, abs,anterior and posterior tibialis, and more–mostly on the right side.  The left side indicated signs of significant fatigue and overuse.  So Greg’s left side needed then and probably still does need a break, relaxation.

The Number One area Greg Oden needs to improve….his feet!!!

Greg Oden laces up the shoes on his size 18 shoes into a rigid botttom, Nike shoe. Oden’s shoes also contain at least a heel lift, which also places stress on the front of his right knee. The lift could contribute significantly to meniscus injuries. immobile feet and a heel lift. No wonder Oden has meniscus and patella issues.

In particular, Greg needs to improve  his right “foot flexion” strength.  Can Greg grip things with his feet?  As crazy as it may sound to the novice reader, it is a necessary part of efficient biomechanics and Kinesiology.  As you’re reading this, take off your shoe and you’ll see what I mean.  Place a towel flat on the floor and grip or pick it up with your foot (one foot at a time for 50 reps- hold each rep for 2 seconds).  Try it and see how your foot feels.  Some of you won’t make it to 25 before your foot cramps.  If you’re right handed do the exercise with your right foot. Lefty’s just the opposite.

The feet are the single most neglected part of any training program.  Less than one percent (1%) of all trainers or physical therapist include true foot exercises in the daily or even weekly training programs for their athletes.  Now big manly types will say working out your feet is not important. Give them big strong massive biceps and they’ll take that guy. But let’s get real, we are seeing more injuries to knees, achilles, and other parts of the body related to weak feet.

We assume that because we are on our feet that they are functioning correctly, but that is not true. And no all of you you barefoot running enthusiasts, that is not enough either. Barefoot running only affects where the impact occurs not function of the feet. That’s a whole blog series I have set for October.

Here’s an indicator of whether or not you need to train your foot flexion or gripping:  Do you wear flip flops? If so, you are overworking the top of your foot and ankle (dorsiflexion and toe extension). In my research for this post, I watched a youtube video promoting toe extension exercises for dancers. It is honestly the worst and most unnecessary exercise ever, unless you’ve suffered an injury that keeps you from wearing flip flops.  Don’t get me wrong, some people will need it but 9 out of 10 would be negatively impacted by it.

Greg Oden and just about every other basketball player in the world needs the opposite.   These athletes need to work on gripping things with their feet. Why do I say this? It’s because the shoes worn by basketball players prevents their foot and ankle from functioning properly.  The solid rigid surface, the ankle taping…this prevents the ankle and foot from doing what it does naturally.  So yes, Greg Oden has a weak right foot.  In addition, he has a weak right lower leg complex: gastrocs/soleus.

This weak right foot contributes to his weak right lower leg, which contributes to his weaker right hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, and other areas of his right leg.  These weaknesses cause Greg to over use his left side which is what contributed to Greg Oden’s left patella injury in 2009.  So if Greg Oden wants to come back in 2012-13, he’ll need to work hard, but he’ll also need to work on the right areas of his body.   Most importantly, Greg should absolutely under no conditions perform the same number of sets and reps or stretches on his right side in comparison to his left.  Greg’s injury history alone is an indicator that one side was damaged more than the other, so why do the same things on both? And yes, all of this was a part of the “controversial report” given to the Portland Trailblazers in 2008 and again in 2009 when contacted for a copy by Tom Penn.  Emotionally, another major injury would probably end his career. I would hate to see this because I had a chance to have an impact on his career longevity.

I guess we can say that two chronically, injured players for one team might be playing in the NBA for other teams after being let go due to those alleged career ending injuries.   And isn’t it amazing that one of them could win a championship (if he ends up in Miami and they win again). Shocking!  I’m just saying… somebody other than me thinks these two guys are still worth it and can be fixed.

The bottom line is just because you read it on the internet or someone makes a statement about it does not mean that it’s true.  Apparently one shoe has already dropped as Brandon Roy has signed with a new NBA team.  Another shoe will drop when Greg Oden is signed before the start of the season and returns to the NBA.  I’m pretty sure someone will sign Greg  next season.  And at worst, Greg can hang on for another 5 years or so going from team to team and make millions.  I hope he works hard on the root cause of his injuries and not just the injury itself.  Ask the question of your therapists, Greg.  And make sure you get a real answer not just one to pacify you.

The only other question left for me to answer here is, “What’s my motivation?”

Well, it is truly to see Greg Oden and many other injured athletes back on the court or in the game.  If Greg’s serious about a return, he should have a copy of his old report if he does not already have one.  But also, he should get a new one. Oh and if he does call to request one, no one will never hear about it from me until long after he returned to the court.   After all, you didn’t know about his previous tests as I kept that confidential not because I had to but because I wanted to keep it quiet.  At anytime, I could have promoted my relationship with the Blazers or any athlete or team as many others in the field do.  Having a famous clientele doesn’t make you an expert.   Actually having a positive impact on them or sharing valuable information for their benefit is what makes me and others in the profession feel great about waking up every day to go to work.

Until Greg was let go, I was a background guy.  That means when an athlete or team came to me, I stayed in the background. This is not about attention for me, it’s about bringing light to a dark situation. I want Greg Oden’s flame to shine.  Let the candle burn Greg.   Next week, I’ll detail Greg’s number 2-5  most important exercises to guarantee his long term health. Oh by the way, NBA teams, a guy with a tight back (back problems) can be fixed and is still worth a top draft pick. hint hint.

Zig Ziegler, The Sports Kinesiologist can be followed on Twitter @zigsports.