Leg injuries can happen in a number of different ways, but when they aren’t caused by acute force, like a fall or collision, we can oftentimes trace the problem back to a muscle activation issue. Muscle activation, or tension, occurs in order to facilitate movement and to help us perform any action, but if the muscles don’t activate correctly, problems can develop. Below, we take a closer look at the role incorrect tension can play in a leg or foot injury.
Tension in Your Legs
I got the idea for this blog when I was reading a post on the Total Immersion swimming website by TI Swim Coach Mat Hudson. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may remember that I was a fond proponent of Terry Laughlin’s total immersion swim technique, and this post on the technique and his passing are worth a read. But while I was reading Mat’s post, I was interested in what he wrote about muscle activation and the need to relax certain muscle groups if tension occurs incorrectly. He noted that there are three main ways a swimmer may have inappropriate muscle activation:
There might be excessive tension – where there are more muscle units being activated than are necessary to get the work done.
There might be misplaced tension – where muscle units are being activated in the wrong spot.
There might be mistimed tension – where the muscles are being activated at the wrong moment.
If any or all of these factors are present, the body ends up working against itself, which is not only exhausting, but it can lead to injuries, like muscles strains or pulls. However, with appropriate placement, timing and the correct amount of muscle tension, our bodies run smoothly and without internal conflict. When we’re moving optimally, everything is in line when it comes to tension. This can lead to faster lap times, a quicker first step on the basketball court, or it can simply reduce your likelihood of injury.
Having the correct tension doesn’t just apply to sports. Correct muscle tension will help you in all walks of life, from walking to working your job. It’s also something I keep in mind during surgery. I need to have fluid muscle activation during the procedure to ensure I correct patient problems that may be inhibiting correct tension in their body.
You can work on muscle tension and the inappropriate causes of muscle tension in a number of ways. In Mat’s post, he mentioned that a lot of the problems he sees are because the swimmer is too tense. When they are encouraged to relax a little, they find that movements are easier. Don’t overthink your movements, just do what feels natural. Others find that activities like balance training or yoga can help improve muscle tension, so consider adding these activities to your workout routine if you want to optimize your movements throughout the day!