My First Go Around With Dr. Eric Serrano (Part 3)

JP: What are some of the common weight training injuries that you see in your practice?

Dr. S: The most common weight training injuries that I see are imbalances between the frontal superficial line versus the back superficial line (refer to the book Anatomy Trains for more information). Hamstrings are notorious for being tight. Also, I notice that many people lack supporting muscles. For instance, it’s common to see weak lats with strong upper traps pulling the shoulder girdle closer to the clavicle which causes impingement of the rotator cuff.

JP: While we’re talking about injuries, any tips or supplements that will speed up healing?

Dr. S: There are many supplements that will speed up healing. Research has shown that digestive enzymes will help with injuries. They act as anti-inflammatories and will even help reduce cancer. Another big one, albeit through a separate mechanism, is glucosamine and chondroitin. These are more applicable to the joint (as is collagen); whereas, enzymes (specifically bromelain) will act on the tendons. Fats are also important. Fish oils and GLA have been shown to have a potent anti-inflammatory effect. Other supplements include Vitamins C (2 grams) and E (800 IUs), MSM, reishi mushroom, cat’s claw, turmeric, and feverfew, but the dosage used will depend on the injury.

JP: You’ve mentioned some impressive numbers with regards to your own training and I saw you perform multiple repetitions of towel chin-ups with ease. Do you have any strength tips that you would like to share?

Dr. S: First of all, the most common mistake I see is overtraining. If you’re over 35 years old and do more than 10-12 sets per body part, you’re overtraining! If you do legs more than twice a week (depending on your state), you’re likely overtraining! In a strength phase, work your legs only once a week and the total number of workouts should not exceed 3 times a week, especially if you’re performing any aerobic training. Always keep in mind stress factors, such as work, rest, nutrition, family, and so on. I have research that clearly demonstrates training more than 3 days a week elevates cortisol levels for up to 4 days. This is important because elevated cortisol levels will not help you build muscle! You want to have an acute “destroying” effect on the muscles, and then stop it and allow them to recover and build. One of the best ways to stop this so-called destruction is to use branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). BCAAs lower cortisol levels. I’ve been saying it for years to always ingest BCAAs pre-workout.

Another thing, you’re only as strong as your weakest link, so always work on your weak muscles. One way to figure this out is to train the body unilaterally at first to see what is lagging behind. Once you know, spend more time on that particular side. Also, remember that your grip dictates your strength. If your grip is weak, you won’t be able to bench as much. The most common weakness I’ve seen involve the hamstrings while the glutes get too strong. Usually, both the lower and upper back tend to be weak leading to injury.

JP: I learned from you that limited range calf raises hit the medial head of the gastrocnemius. Any other little secrets?

Dr. S: If I tell you, then they won’t be secrets any more, but I’ll share one with you anyway. A common injury I see involves the origin of the biceps (long head) due to lat pulldowns. Most people tend to train their biceps solely with elbow flexion, but the biceps function as both elbow and shoulder flexors. Usually, biceps injuries occur at the shoulder. To properly train them, you should go from a stable to unstable, prestretched to shortened position. Let me explain what that means. Anytime you rehab someone, you should start from a stable position and work around the joint that is hurting. So if the origin of the biceps is painful, you can work the distal end in a stable position by performing elbow flexion without contracting the origin at the shoulder. This way the muscle does not weaken and heals faster due to increased blood flow (although sometimes it’s necessary to just rest). Sit on an incline bench and perform an incline curl as normal involving only elbow flexion. This is considered a prestretched position which helps the fascia heal. Performing incline curls on a Swiss ball will actually provide a more stable environment since you can rest your triceps on the ball. Move to a contracted position (e.g., a preacher curl) after a few days or even a week when there is no more pain, and then progress to more unstable positions.

Tomorrow in Part 4, we’ll discuss why it’s important to eat fruits in season, Dr. Serrano’s new food pyramid, the importance of unsaturated fats, mercury toxicity and the safety of fish these days, and why breastfeeding women should not consume flaxseed oil.

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