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

Working with Pro Athletes is Not Enough to Make You an Expert; Yet Another Surgery for Brandon Roy!

Was his career really over? With chronic knee pain and seven surgeries later, Brandon Roy is still fighting for his playing career. (Wire image)

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

Brandon Roy was once regarded as one of the most prolific guards in the NBA.  With excellent lateral explosiveness and sleek moves to the basket, the All-Star guard was poised to go down as one of the greatest in NBA history.  Just before the start of the 2011 NBA season, Brandon Roy announced his retirement from playing professional basketball.

Unfortunately, Brandon Roy has been a victim of the system. The system is present in basketball, football, and baseball, and all sports at the professional and youth levels. The system is a part of a culture that we have seen all to often shorten or ruin the careers of some of sports greatest athletes.  Many athletes go on to to achieve success in spite of this system and culture.

The system and culture I am referring to is related to the treatment and care of athletes, and most importantly in Brandon’s case, care of sports or athletic injuries.  In the world of sports, injured athletes are viewed as unable to help the team and often times a distraction.  Many coaches, knowingly and unknowingly, relegate the mental state of injured players to the bottom of the depth chart as well as their bodies once an athlete is injured.  Some athletes are so dedicated to their return that they will push themselves hard to get back on the court or the field even when their bodies show signs that they are not ready.  Brandon Roy is one of those athletes who will do whatever it takes to get back on the court.

Beset with chronic injuries to his left knee, Brandon wore one knee brace or sleeve while playing in Portland. (Getty images)

Some successful athletes seek advice outside of their immediate medical team. After seven surgical procedures, Brandon Roy did just that and all I can say is… Good for Brandon!  Public perception is that if a medical group, team of doctors, physical therapists, athletic trainer works with a professional sports team they must be the best. If a pro team trust multimillion dollar athletes with a medical expert, the average person believes that medical group must be good enough for them.  Unfortunately, that’s just not true.  In today’s world, some professional teams hire based on cost.  Others hire or obtain a team based upon a close personal relationship. The buddy system is always at play especially in America.

In 1994, I sat in one of my graduate school classes at the University of Northern Colorado wondering what was the next step I would take towards achieving my goals.  After a few weeks of contemplating my future I sat down with my grad school adviser, Dr. David Stotlar. A well respected administrator around the country in sports, Dr. Stotlar served as one of the pioneers in the emerging field of Sports Marketing. The UNC program was one of only five universities in the country at the time offering a Master’s degree in the field of Sports Marketing and Administration.  I asked the following question:

What happens in the interview process for a job with a professional sports team after I complete my master’s, if I am down to one of the final two candidates for a job? There I would sit with a Master’s Degree in Sports Business, a Degree in Kinesiology, and experience as a former athlete.  Candidate number two, happens to be the workout or drinking buddy of the General Manager’s son and also plays golf periodically with the decision maker.  I asked, “Who would get the job?”  Dr. Stotlar replied, “Well Zig, unfortunately for you, the job is likely to go to the buddy of the GM’s son. ”

At that point I set out to work on relationships and building a reputation of doing quality work. My efforts lead to friendships with numerous professional athletes including Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan and many others.  i worked hard to open the doors to numerous opportunities in professional sports. I’ve been blessed to have been able to work with some of the greatest athletes in the world.  But that alone does not make even me anymore of an expert than the recent college graduate. What makes any person better in their field and in life is their experiences and how they learn from them.  Working with some of the greatest athletes in the world in multiple sports has forced me to think outside of the box and evaluate each athlete and their goals or conditions on an individual basis, regardless of whether or not they played the same sport or suffered the same injuries as others with who I had worked.

All too often that happens today, especially in professional sports. After all, just take a simple look at how often coaches are recycled from team to team.  NBA coaches move from one team to another. When a head coach gets a new job, he brings in his entire staff of good friends, brothers, and associates whom they trust.  A coach can bring in their entire system to their new team.  Assistant coaches, strength coaches, even athletic trainers sometimes change jobs based on the buddy system  Once in the system, the less effective at their jobs begin to work the system to ensure their longetivity in the event the coach who brought them in moves on.  If a staff has been there for a while even through poor job performance something else is keeping them on staff. Most of the time, that something is relationships.

The bad news is for the new team is that If a coach’s entire system didn’t work in one program, its not likely to work in another  The smart members of that new staff recognize the writing on the wall from the last job and start working relationships the moment they walk in the door.  The culture of professional basketball is unlike any other professional sport.  In football, coaches bring in experts and specialists on offense and pair them with experts on defense and other areas crucial to the entire team’s success.  In basketball, an offensive guru, often gets a job and fills crucial coaching roster spots with more offensive gurus to help implement their system. Professional sports team positions are filled with coaches and administrators who were fired as a group from one place and move as a group to coach a whole new team.  Coach’s mistakenly bring all the problems they had in one organization over to their new teams. Why do they do this?  Loyalty, comfort, and control.

Professional sports are highly political and and a close fraternity. Once you are in, you could be in for life. Even if you are not the best in your field. Once you are out of the system you may be out temporarily or permanently depending upon your persistence and actual value to a team or player.  You can be kicked out of the fraternity sometimes based on the simple fact that you challenged the system, even if you are one of the best at what you do. This is the buddy system at its finest.  Unfortunately, this buddy system isn’t just happening with coaches on the bench, it happens with experts who care for the athletes.

And that is not the best way to determine the best care for multimillion dollar athletes.

Sometimes a handshake is all it takes to become a part of any professional or collegiate sports medicine or strenght and conditioning teams. Others pay for the rights (sponsorships) or accept less pay for treating players. Any money not paid for services is made up by the publicity from the association with a professional team.

It’s definitely not the best way to provide care for youth athletes. This buddy system affects youth sports too, as parents race their kids to the lines building in the offices of the team doctors for professional and collegiate sports teams in their area.  Often, you hear parents boast about getting their kid in to the see the team doctor for XXXX professional or collegiate teams.

Often times, they boast right after their 14 year old has completed an unnecessary surgical procedure when all they might have needed was rest and proper body development.  they won’t even know this procedure was unnecessary for years to come.  This trickle down affect is causing many youth athletes to now begin to suffer repeat injuries. This system is broken and won’t be fixed until athletes take control of their own medical care.

An athlete with repeat injuries is often labeled negatively as injury prone or high risk.  Once an athlete is labeled as have high risk of injury or injury prone, they can be blackballed or see their career placed in jeopardy as a result of what has nothing to do with them as a person.  Injuries to a player like Brandon Roy are not treated them same. And this credit can be given solely to Brandon himself.  He is given the benefit of the doubt and ample consideration because of his talent and excellent character.  Brandon Roy is a great person.  As a result of his character and personality, people root for him.  I root for Brandon Roy, Greg Oden, Derrick Rose, and even Kobe Bryant (I’m a Bull’s fan remember) especially when it comes to their health. Every player deserve a better healthcare system.  A system where they can have open access to the best health care available and believe or not, they currently do not.  Some programs obviously get better care than others as they hire medical staffs that are on the cutting edge or at least open minded.  Brandon Roy deserves a chance to get healthy and stay healthy.

Less than a year ago, Brandon Roy was headed for retirement and probably a career in coaching basketball.  After what I am sure was careful consideration and weighing his options, Brandon took the steps he believed necessary to get back on the court.  It is reported that Brandon underwent PRP (platelet rich plasma) injections similar to those reportedly undergone by Kobe Bryant, Greg Oden and others in an effort to help aid in the recovery and repair of damaged or deficient tissue.

I can imagine Brandon felt great in the days and weeks following the procedure.  As a result of how good he felt and a testament to his own personal work ethic, Brandon Roy was able to return to the NBA after many had given his career up for dead.  Brandon Roy proved many doubters wrong.  I for one was excited about his comeback.  After all,  one of my earlier writings predicted that Brandon Roy could and would play again!

Unfortunately for Brandon, his road to recovery is not quite complete. I was not surprised when I awoke on November 19 to reports that Brandon Roy would undergo an arthroscopic procedure on his knee.  After seven procedures on his left knee, this surgery was to Brandon’s right knee.  This is concerning to me and should be to his medical team in Minnesota as Brandon has now started to experience “compensatory pain and injury to what has previously been a healthy body part.  (Remember Greg Oden in 2008/2009: Oden Rupture Patella Tendon in healthy left knee as a result of compensating for multiple previous surgeries on his right knee. Oden first began to experience signs of patella tendonitis in the left knee months prior to the left knee injury.  In my opinion, someone addressed the patella tendonitis as a symptom, not a compensation injury).

In Minnesota Brnadon Roy can be seen wearing two compession sleeves knees sleeves. This can be done as a result injury or pain to both knees or as a preventative measure. (Getty Images)

A compensation injury occurs when either consciously or subconsciously a person unloads a previously injured area to avoid pain, discomfort, or re-injury.  Typically, an athlete who suffers an injury to the left knee shifts that stress to the other leg. (This involves repeated injuries in the case of Brandon Roy)  Think about this, when an injury occurs the first response from the brain is to protect the area from further pain or injury. This can be notice by the athele who injures one leg and hops off the field or court on the other leg. The athlete is so focused on being in control of their body and showing that they aren’t helpless that they use one leg instead of two to go from point A to point B.  Crowds often applaud this effort. But in reality it can be seen as a foreshadowing of things to come.

While surgery is a way doctors help repair specific damage, surgery can still be considered an intentional injury to some tissue in an effort to repair a more important injury.  Immediately after surgery, an athlete is unable to utilized the newly repaired leg for some limited amount of time.

What’s next for Brandon?  Well unfortunately I predict another injury to Brandon’s left knee immediately following this surgery. Brandon’s healthy right knee has now forced all the stress back to his chronically injured left knee and upon return to the court if not before, Brandon will begin to experience more pain and discomfort in his left knee.  If he shifts that stress immediately back to his right knee, Brandon could suffer cartilage damage, an MCL (medial collateral ligament) tear, or an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament ) tear or Patella tendon issues on the right knee.  Because of Brandon’s history I would put my money on the right knee suffering a more acute injury but he may begin to experience more pain on his left knee before he even gets a chance to get back on he court.

Compensation injuries are difficult to deal with and become chronic injuries almost instantly unless the root cause of the problem has been address. A word of advice to Brandon:

  1. Eliminate surgery as an option unless there is structural damage.
  2. Identify the root cause of your issues and stop settling for the quick fix.
  3. Hire someone who can pay attention to detail of how you perform each exercise during rehab and strength training.

I have no personal desire to hold Brandon’s hand through recovery from this or any surgery. But will readily offer my advice to him and his staff on what is contributing to his injuries. I require a lot from any athlete I work with emotionally and psychologically but most importantly, I require support from the people around the athlete.  They are the ones who are with the athlete every day and should be able to see impending issues.  Until Brandon stops experimenting with procedures, surgeries and other quick fixes, his injuries are destined to repeat themselves of migrate to other parts of his body.  Brandon Roy can get back on the court and stay on the court but he has to select better people to help him achieve his goal.

If there is one thing the last year has taught me personally, it’s that your career can be affected by the people you put around you and the decisions they make.  My professional and personal life was affected by the actions of others whom I brought onto my team almost five years ago.  I accept that responsibility that I allowed them to turn me into a victim. But no one can be a victim forever. Brandon Roy’s life is currently being affected by people on his team who may not have intentions of harming him but they are doing just that. Brandon has become a victim allowing just about anything that might help his injury recovery to drive his thoughts and procedures.  Get to the root cause of your injuries Brandon. Take control back Brandon! It’s not easy, but I did it and so can you!

Zig Ziegler is a sports kinesiologist and professional sports consultant.  To keep up with the latest from Zig Ziegler, follow Zig on twitter @zig_ziegler.