Laxity and Lifting

April 10th, 2014 by Laura

I had Symphis Pubic Dysfunction in 3 pregnancies. During the second and third pregnancies, my hip started slipping out on me with no warning and I was prescribed a walker. By the third pregnancy, my hips were grinding and clicking constantly, my SI joint was always inflamed, and I had sensations like I was cracking in half.

When I got back to lifting weights postpartum, there were days when I felt very loose and unstable under the bar. I had snapping hips. I seemed to suffer at least one tweak each month. I started tracking my disasters and they typically came around the same time each month. My doctor confirmed that I was still dealing with laxity from SPD.

This is a list of the things that I have either had some success with or am currently working on:

Trigger Point Therapy
Trigger point work is my primary method of self-care. I only stretch briefly to introduce a muscle to its new length following a trigger point release. If the muscle doesn’t lengthen, I opt for activation over more stretching. My body isn’t gong to release a tight area if it feels there isn’t enough stability. Trigger point work is much safer lengthening option for me than stretching and yanking structures out of place.

You’d think that a lax person’s muscles would be supple and stretchable but it is actually the complete opposite. My muscles get ridiculously tight and uncomfortable. Stubborn, restrictive trigger points form for stability. It is a temptation to indulge in a good stretch. I stay much healthier if I resist that urge.

Stability Instead of Mobility Before Lifting
Most of the popular warmup drills have proven to be disasterous for me. Every SI joint explosion I suffered was preceded by some type of mobility work or stretching. My muscles felt extremely tight and uncomfortable, yet somehow I was able to contort myself into these exaggerated positions. A lax person needs to create stability rather than mobilize the joint. My warmups now consist of:

A. Something to get the blood moving
B. Manual Soft Tissue Work (LAX ball, Self Massage, Rolling, etc.)
C. Activation (Side Planks, Dead Bugs, Light Pause Squats, Hip Thrusts, etc.)

When I do stretch, it is only for a few seconds to introduce a muscle to its new length (following trigger point release).

In training, I seem to stay healthier (and my lifts do well) when I put speed on the back burner in favor of long pauses and slow eccentrics.

Slow Down and Pause
My squat does well when I incorporate a lot of 5-count eccentrics and pauses. The MAT specialist I saw also suggested pausing in multiple locations during both the eccentric on concentric of the squat, focusing hard on the muscle contraction at each stop.

Stop Short of Full ROM
This one is probably pretty obvious but still a hard habit to break. I don’t need to be doing pause squats where I have dropped so low to the ground that my butt is on the floor and I am sitting there with zero tension. Overcoming the dead weight to stand up is difficult, but sitting on the floor does nothing to teach me to stay tight and stable.

Movement Specialist
A movement specialist can help to form better patterns and create a balanced posture. The therapist I saw also prescribed a mineral regime which could help ease the effects of SPD. Unfortunately I could not keep up with the appointments due to my children’s schedules and the distance I had to travel. But this was the first professional that I saw who actually had a clue what I was going through rather than prescribe the standard ‘rest, anti-inflammatories, and stretch’ (stretch?!).

MAT (Muscle Activation Technique) Specialist
The premise of MAT is that muscle tightness is secondary to muscle weakness. A muscle becomes tight because it is lacking stability, but instead of trying to loosen a tight muscle, MAT improves the stability of your joints by reactivating muscles and their ability to contract on demand. This technique will get you strong in your end range of motion (and make you aware of your end ranges) if you are lax.

MAT is exercise-oriented and stretching is used only to expose weaknesses. The muscle is tested, activated, and retested over again. It is a complete solution instead of a temporary band-aid fix as it retrains the brain.

My specialist said that the people who see the quickest results are elite athletes, and people who are really messed up. I fit both categories and my results were fantastic. My monthly disaster time was noticeably less intense after only 6 sessions, and my body feels stable in ways it has not since having kids.

Altering my Training Schedule
Relaxin is elevated at certain times and if you have SPD, problems might be more severe then. The options above help mitigate the symptoms but if I am having a rough day, shifting around the training schedule isn’t a big deal. As far as competing, it isn’t totally ideal to have to check my calendar to make sure my competition won’t fall on a day that I might. I am hopeful that over time and continued treatment, that this won’t be an issue. But for now, holding back on the days I know I am most likely to injure myself helps me stay healthy for the long run.