Everybody is familiar with the idea of muscle compensation but it's rare that we take time to think of it in any detail. This is a shame as understanding this common phenomenon could help all of us interested in improving our sports performance and reducing our propensity for sports injuries markedly.

Using the example of the falling Sprint start that I wrote about in my previous article on Premature Acceleration, hopefully you'll get a better understanding that will benefit you at some point in your sporting future.

Visualise the point in a falling start immediately prior to taking the first step. From the side, we would observe a person lined up straight from ear through shoulder, hip and ankle with this line being 45 degrees to parallel. Their ankle would be bent at 90 degrees and the whole of their weight resting on the toes. The joint between the toes and foot would be bent 45 degrees.

Essentially with ankles held at 90 degrees, the joint between the feet and toes are the point around which the whole body hinge to fall forward.

Now imagine that the muscles of the lower back that extend that portion of the spine get injured slightly.

In their weakened state, they are not active enough to be able to hold the torso at the 45 degree lean required for an optimal falling sprint start so unconsciously, the runner may use the muscles on the bottoms of their feet that control that hinging of the toes from the foot excessively to limit the hinging movement. 

This limitation is done unconsciously to keep the runner safe but often what happens is that even when the muscles of the lower back heal and return to full functionality, the muscles on the bottoms of the feet are still used excessively. Unconsciously, their use limits falling forward but now for no benefit other than not using the effort required to rejig the system.

The same sort of thing could happen the other way too.

In the case where the muscles on the sole of the foot are hurt, the muscles of the lower back can become overactive extending the spine excessively which would decrease the ability to fall forward to the optimal 45 degree angle.

 

Muscular compensations don't just affect sprint starts. Literally any movement can be limited through similar mechanisms.

If you ask me, speed, strength, power, endurance, agility and mobility are heavy prices to pay for injury especially when it's a thing of the past.

Sorting out compensation patterns like I do with lots of my clients can set free athleticism of all kinds, providing a large return for a little input.

Your sports performance can hinge on it.

 

Arton "The Compensation King" Baleci
Float Sting - Sports Injury Rehab and Performance, Harley Street, London W1