Multi-directional Training for Strength and Injury Prevention
Welcome to this week’s FitDog Friday post. A few weeks ago we wrote about the Labby Limbo, a fun and functional exercise to improve your dog’s core and leg strength. Today we will feature another valuable movement called the side step.
As a human athlete, I have learned over the years that it is very important to workout in a ‘functional’ way. To me, functional training means training across multiple planes and directions and in ways that require the body to recruit multiple muscles — as a system not as individual body parts — in order to execute the movement correctly. When someone looks at me funny after hearing that definition, I like to explain this in another way. Life is not simply straight ahead and perfectly balanced. Sometimes it throws you curveballs that require you to move sideways or force you to lift things that are not perfectly balanced or symmetrical (for example, think about when you carry your groceries to your car).
Many athletes that I know train in one direction only—forward. They run forward, they train their frontal muscles far more than their posterior muscles and their lateral muscles, which leads to imbalances that cause pain (often in the back or shoulders) and eventually overuse injuries. I know strength athletes who can bench press over 500 lbs. who can barely perform 1 ring dip! In my opinion, it is better to be trained to handle life’s ‘imprecision’ so that you can avoid injury due to muscle imbalances.
What does all of this have to do with FitDog Friday? A lot actually! Many of the same training principles that apply to the human body also apply to the canine body. Although the canine fitness industry is in its nascent stages and probably about 10-15 years behind the human fitness industry, we are finally making progress and starting to apply effective human techniques to our dog fitness routines.
The Side Step Drill
While at Superzoo in Las Vegas this week, I learned a great new lateral exercise from the folks at DogTread. Check out the video of Cocoa (the very sweet and beautiful Chocolate Lab) doing side steps on the treadmill. This is a tough exercise for dogs as they rarely have the opportunity to move in this way. The treadmill is a perfect platform for dogs to move in this direction and it is far easier to teach this movement on the tread than it would be on the ground.
My own training regimen incorporates similar movements. Take a look at the picture to the right where I am performing a side shuffle with a weighted sled as resistance. This is harder than it looks and really works the posterior and lateral chain. For both humans and dogs, the benefits are plentiful: more balanced muscle development, strengthening of seldom used muscles which can assist in injury prevention and athletic (and life) endeavors, to name two.
Oh how I wish that I had learned about functional canine fitness years ago! We had a very active Lab, “Sweet Sally Brown”, who had multiple ACL tears over the years. I am convinced that these injuries could have been mitigated had we trained her more functionally rather than simply running her as much as we did. As we are learning with human athletes, our canine companions are similarly at risk of these (and other) types of injuries due to muscle imbalances resulting from one-dimensional usage patterns.
How about you readers – anyone else have stories to add?
Please enjoy our FitDog Friday Blog Hop brought to you by SlimDoggy and our co-hosts Peggy’s Pet Place and To Dog With Love. Join the Hop or just enjoy the links below – lots of fun fitness tips and advice!