As Physiotherapists, we spend a lot of our time re-educating and retraining how our patients move optimally. Let’s look at the bridge, for example.
The bridge is a great exercise to increase the strength of the strongest muscle in our body – gluteus maximus. This muscle plays a big role in movements like running and squatting, and forms the rounded shape of our behind!. A problem a lot of people have is that they get cramping in the back of the thigh (the hamstring muscle) when performing a bridge. It can be so frustrating! So why could this be happening?
It could be due to a change in what we Physios call ‘motor control’.
Motor control determines the appropriate coordination of muscles to generate a desired movement, based on how our body is feeling and the world around us. For example, if you squat carrying a child in front of you, your body will activate your thigh muscles a lot more to account for the increased load, compared to squatting with only your own body weight.
Problems occur when we have a muscle that either doesn’t contribute enough strength, or is doing too much to help out, in a desired movement. In our bridging example, a common contributor to thigh cramping is that our gluteus maximus isn’t doing as much of the work as it could, so the hamstrings are then working overtime to pick up the slack – ouch!
This finding of an underactive gluteus maximus may shed light on a potential contributing factor to low back or leg pain if you have any. It is likely that retraining this muscle to activate more in this exercise will be one of many things your Physiotherapist would work on with you. This may include bridge technique changes such as including a pelvic tuck, or performing completely different exercise altogether to work on this deficit, before integrating it back into a bridge.
If you are experiencing pain or discomfort in everyday life, book in for an assessment with one of our Physiotherapists by calling 8555 4099, or click here to book online.