Whether you’re a highly trained athlete or you play sports for fun and to stay healthy, you want to play at your best. Competition or not, there’s nothing quite like the sensation you’ve improved and are excelling in your sports of choice because of the work and effort you’ve put in. Olympians and rec league sports lovers have one key thing in common—namely, that if they don’t care for their bodies, injuries can happen, and keep them out of the game.
The complex, interconnected form of the human body allows us to do amazing things. But like anything worth using, your body requires some proper maintenance and care so you can do your thing, and do it well. One of the best ways to ensure you move and play your best game is with physiotherapy—the science that helps us to move, strengthen, and maintain our bodies, whether we play sports or not.
Physiotherapy helps athletes at any level get their game on and play their best. It also lowers the risk of injury and can help improve strengthening, stamina, and other key skills. As a physiotherapist, I provide my clients with a customized program of physiotherapy techniques to help them keep up with the work of caring for their bodies.
Here are three key techniques to help you play your best, no matter what sport you love.
1. 3-Dimensional Breath Control
Learning to do anything begins with the basics, and physiotherapy is no different! Everyone (hopefully!) knows how to breathe, however this technique teaches us to do it with intention to support our bodies. This foundational technique helps you to breathe deeply, fully filling the lungs.
Doing this practice has huge physical benefits: it can help condition your diaphragm to be more efficient, align the cavities in your chest and abdomen, and even help to relieve stress and anxiety in the short term.
Here’s how to practice 3D breath control at home (it’s simpler than it sounds):
- When sitting with your feet flat on the floor, sit up on your sit bones and rock your pelvis backwards so you are sitting behind your sit bones and low back is slumped, then come forward so you are on your sit bones and notice this point of ease of muscular tension. Then keep coming forward so you are now sitting in front of your sit bones and your lower back is arched. Then return back to the pelvis vertical position and notice the ease of muscular tension as your bones are supporting you against gravity.
- Relax and extend your neck, as if you are being pulled up from the crown of your head like a puppet being pulled up on a string. Your chin should tuck in slightly and you should feel slightly taller.
- Slightly lower your rib cage towards your pelvis, so it doesn’t feel like you are arching your back or sticking out your chest. This should align the ribcage vertically over the pelvis.
- Place your hands on your lower abdomen, just below the belly button. Breathing slowly, inhale ‘into’ your hands, trying to fill your abdomen with each breath before slowly releasing. Do this a few times.
- Repeat the same exercise with your hands on the sides of your ribs. You should feel them gently stretch apart from each other before contracting as you exhale.
- Repeat the same exercise, now focusing on the ribs on your back (posterior ribs), near your spine. Focus on inhaling so that your posterior ribs expand outwards to help fill the back of your lungs. you’re lying on. Let yourself gently relax as you exhale slowly.
- Next, think about all three of these ‘breath zones’ as you inhale, trying to gently fill all of them at once for each breath. Take your time. Relax. Keep it slow and steady as you inhale and exhale. Focus on the area that felt the hardest to fill when doing the areas separately.
- Repeat this exercise at least once a day and feel the soothing, aligning effects!
Curious to learn more about this approach to breathing and how it can help? Get more information on 3-D breath control (and why it matters!) here.
2. Eccentric Strengthening
Despite its eccentric name, this is a simple (but often overlooked) physiotherapy technique that is invaluable for athletes looking to build strength and flexibility. In eccentric strengthening, tension is applied to the muscles and tendons as they lengthen. This allows the muscle to generate more force throughout its entire range.
This might sound kind of confusing, so let’s use an example. When lifting a weight with a bicep curl motion, the initial curl (bending it up towards your shoulder) is a “concentric contraction”. This means the muscle is contracting (becoming shorter) as the tension is applied. When you lower the bicep again, this is the “eccentric component” of the exercise. The muscle is lengthening back to its normal size, but the tension of the weight is still on it.
Eccentric strengthening isn’t limited to weightlifters only though! It’s also an essential part of physical rehab after sports injuries, as well as for strengthening to prevent injuries like muscle strains and tendonitis in the first place. I use it as a key part of my physiotherapy program for many of my clients, who play different sports and do different forms of exercise.
3. Multi-Planar Strengthening (Vipr Pro)
For a long time, the world has generally accepted the idea of muscle groups (as in, what leads to leg day at the gym). Each group is neatly separated and categorized, and they can be worked out completely individually, right? Well, not exactly.
While this understanding of the muscular system does get results, it also ignores the interconnected nature of this machine of ours. Our bodies were designed to move—period—and they use countless muscle movements, big and small, to get stuff done.
Multi-planar strengthening is something I’ve put to use countless times over the years, especially with my sports-lover clients who want to strengthen their bodies in a more holistic way. But what is it, exactly?
Most traditional exercises move in just one of the three planes, or directions. The three planes are:
- Sagittal plane (forward and backward motions like walking)
- Coronal plane (side-to-side motions like jumping jacks)
- Transverse plane (rotational movements like torso twists)
So while exercising in one plane is great, what if there was a way to do two, or even all three, in the same motion? That’s the idea behind multi-planar strengthening, which focuses on key joints in the body which allow you to move in multiple planes of motion at one time.
I personally love the products from Vipr Pro for multi-planar strengthening. You can think of these large, rubber columns as the evolution of the dumbbell. Using these weights, I teach clients a multi-planar strengthening routine that involves shifting, lifting, and twisting for a multi-faceted workout that helps strengthen you for life’s ‘real’ activities outside of a gym or clinic.
Getting Your Game On with ProActive Pilates
As you can see, there’s more to sports physiotherapy than meets the eye. While these techniques might not be right for every athlete, they’re nevertheless a few key techniques that I (and other great physios) use daily for their clients.
If you’re looking for a supportive guide, someone to help you unlock the true potential of your body and help you get your game on for the long term, I’m here to help. With more than 25 years of experience as a physiotherapist for athletes of all levels, from beginners to professionals, I can put my extensive knowledge to work and help guide you to a stronger, healthier tomorrow. Learn more about my approach by getting in touch, or book your initial assessment.