Zach Cooper

Zach Cooper is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Licensed Massage Therapist who has committed his life towards helping others improve their health. When he isn't baking waffles or practicing headspins, he spends his time reading fitness research and sharing it with the many intellectual readers who frequent his site.

Jun 212017

One major contributor to neck pain may be poor breathing.

A new study examined 44 patients with neck pain and 31 subjects without pain.  Those with neck pain had impaired breathing habits compared to those who did not.  Additionally, those with neck pain exhibited less range of motion and weaker strength of the neck flexors and extensors.


Breathing is meant to be done using the diaphragm.  When the diaphragm is not engaged, accessory muscles of the neck such as the traps, scalenes, and SCM all become overactive trying to do the diaphragms job.  Teaching proper breathing mechanics is essential in order to prevent neck tension or pain from occurring.


Lo´ pez-de-Uralde-Villanueva, I., Sollano-Vallez, E., & Del Corral, T. (2017). Reduction of cervical and respiratory muscle strength in patients with chronic nonspecific neck pain and having moderate to severe disability. Disability and Rehabilitation, 1-10.

Jun 212017

Athletes with rotator cuff tendinopathy tend to display lower activation levels of the low trap and serratus anterior compared to the upper trap.

A new study examined 43 volleyball players to determine if any muscle imbalances existed in those who exhibited rotator cuff tendinopathy in comparison to asymptomatic controls.  The researchers found that those who had rotator cuff tendinopathy had a more difficult time activating crucial muscles of the scapula, including low trap and serratus.  Those who were successfully able to recruit the low trap and serratus muscles possessed significantly more upward scapular rotation.


The low traps and serratus are two extremely important muscles for the health of the shoulder joints and all exercise routines should incorporate exercises for these two crucial muscles.


Leong, H. T., Ng, G. Y. F., Chan, S. C., & Fu, S. N. (2017). Rotator cuff tendinopathy alters the muscle activity onset and kinematics of scapula. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology.

Jun 122017

One common cause for irritation in the iliotibial (IT) band is a weak glute medius.

A new study had 12 women run on a treadmill for 30 minutes while measuring the activation of their glute medius muscle.  Those subjects who had a history of an irritated IT band demonstrated lower levels of glute medius activation.


This study further elucidates Shirley Sahrmann’s concept of “synergistic dominance”.  When the glute medius muscle becomes weak, the nearby muscles must work harder to compensate.  In this case, one of the nearest muscles to the glute medius is the TFL, which attaches to the IT band.  When the TFL is working too hard to make up for a weak glute medius, it is no surprise that the IT band becomes painful.

This study illustrates that for runners, exercises to strengthen the glute medius can be immensely beneficial.


Foch, E., Westbrooks, J. W., & Milner, C. E. (2017). Hip Neuromechanics In Women With And Without Previous Iliotibial Band Syndrome During A 30-minute Run: 3495 Board# 3 June 3 9. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise49(5S), 995.

Jun 042017

Individuals with stronger muscles in the arch of the foot display superior levels of balance and dynamic stability.

A new study used ultrasound to examine the size of the abductor hallucis muscle in 28 runners.  The abductor hallucis is one of the key muscles that helps stabilize the subtalar joint.  The study found that the larger the abductor hallucis, the better the balance and dynamic stability of the runners.


Exercises that strengthen the abductor hallucis, such as variations of Vladimir Janda’s “short foot” drill, may be highly beneficial for improving balance and preventing dysfunction.


Zhang, X., Schütte, K. H., & Vanwanseele, B. (2017). Foot muscle morphology is related to center of pressure sway and control mechanisms during single-leg standing. Gait & Posture.

May 302017

Individuals who tend to shift their shoe pressure medially experience a greater likelihood of experiencing shin splints.

A new study examined 79 runners to determine whether they tended to place more pressure medially or laterally during gait, and then checked for symptoms of shin splints after endurance training.  Those runners who placed more pressure medially had more instances of medial tibial stress syndrome.


This study adds to the growing body of research suggesting that subtalar stability is essential for optimal functioning of the ankle joint.  In theory, exercises that strengthen the muscles of the arch could potentially teach individuals to shift more pressure laterally and thus aid in the prevention of shin splints.

What would be interesting to test is whether there are any differences between severity of shin splints in the left leg compared to the right leg in these individuals.  Because right-side dominant humans tend to put more medial pressure on their left shoe, this could theoretically lead to a greater occurrence of shin splints on the left.  Unfortunately, this was not tested by the present study.


Brund, R. B., Rasmussen, S., Nielsen, R. O., Kersting, U. G., Laessoe, U., & Voigt, M. (2017). Medial shoe-ground pressure and specific running injuries: A 1-year prospective cohort study. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.

May 072017

Left-handed people have faces that are shaped differently than their right-handed counterparts.

According to a new study, individuals with a slender lower face are 25 percent more likely to be left handed. In these individuals, slender jaws cause the jaw to be lower, causing them to bite backwards. This leads to a more convex facial profile with an overbite.

This change in facial structure can affect occlusion, which could potentially affect the body’s sense of proprioception and dominance towards various polyarticular chains of muscles.


According to the Postural Restoration Institute (PRI), the positioning of the teeth and various cranial bones can have an effect on one’s right-side dominance.  It would be highly interesting to discover whether or not the difference in facial structure observed in this study could be increasing subjects’ likelihood to become left-handed due to effects on the Temporomandibular Cervical Chain (TMCC) described in the PRI courses.



Hujoel, Philippe P. “Handedness and lower face variability: Findings in three national surveys.” Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition (2017): 1-16.

Apr 112017

Orthotics may help prevent back pain.

A new study found that when subjects were given a custom-made orthotic, six weeks later their symptoms of back pain were significantly lower compared to subjects who were put on a wait list and received no treatment.


There are many conflicting opinions in regards to the proper use of orthotics.  This study would seem to indicate that in some instances, orthotics may indeed be helpful.  This could be due to the ability of orthotics to prevent engagement of what PRI calls the “Posterior Exterior Chain” (PEC), which can lead to back tension if chronically engaged.

Unfortunately, this study did not properly control for the placebo effect, so it is impossible to know whether the effects seen were indeed due to the orthotics or were simply a placebo.  Regrettably, higher-quality research is needed to discern more.


Cambron, J. A., Dexheimer, J. M., Duarte, M., & Freels, S. (2017). Shoe Orthotics for the Treatment of Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Apr 072017

Individuals who suffer from arthritis of the knee tend to exhibit inferior strength levels of the muscles that affect the ankle joint.

A new study examined the ankle strength of 37 subjects with knee arthritis and 15 subjects without arthritis.  The plantarflexor strength of the arthritis group was significantly weaker compared to the controls.


This study provides further evidence to support the role that the ankle plays in the prevention of knee damage.  One possible reason that plantar flexor strength may be so important for the health of the knee is that the tibialis posterior muscle contributes to plantarflexion and also helps stabilize the subtalar joint.  Lack of plantarflexion strength may also indicate poor subtalar stability, which can force the knee to take on higher loads of force due to increased valgus.

Consequently, those who suffer from knee pain may benefit by improving the mobility of stability of their ankle joint.


Gonçalves, G. H., Sendín, F. A., da Silva Serrão, P. R. M., Selistre, L. F. A., Petrella, M., Carvalho, C., & Mattiello, S. M. (2017). Ankle strength impairments associated with knee osteoarthritis. Clinical Biomechanics.

Mar 152017

Which variation of the elastin gene you possess can increase or decrease your likelihood of suffering a ligament injury.

A new study followed 60 professional football players for seven seasons and monitored the number of MCL injuries that occurred.  Different variations of the gene, particularly the ELN-AA and ELNA-AG polymorphisms, experienced significantly different likelihoods of sustaining injury.


This fascinating study adds to the growing amount of evidence that two people could be placed into identical environments and experience differing amount of injuries based off of their genes.  Even though both groups were engaged in very high amounts of physical activity, their genetics interacted with their environment to affect their injury status.


Artells, R., Pruna, R., Dellal, A., & Maffulli, N. (2016). Elastin: a possible genetic biomarker for more severe ligament injuries in elite soccer. A pilot study. Muscles, Ligaments and Tendons Journal, 6(2), 188.

Feb 092017

A new study has found that subjects with stronger quadriceps muscle were actually more likely to develop arthritis in the knee compared to those with weaker quads.

Researchers studied 40,121 men at the age of 18 in order to assess their quadricep strength.  Twenty-four years later, researchers followed up to determine which subjects were suffering from knee arthritis and which weren’t.  The subjects with stronger quads at 18 were more likely to have knee arthritis in the future.


One possible explanation for these findings is that subjects with stronger quads have developed these increases in strength as a result of overusing the quads in place of the glutes.  Because so many people suffer from weak hip extensors, many people have learned to substitute hip motion with excess knee motion, which would lead to stronger quads and increased load on the knee, eventually contributing to arthritis.

As a result, one could speculate that teaching people to strengthen their glutes in order to properly hinge and squat at the hips would take load off of the knee and help prevent arthritis.  It would have been very interesting if the researchers had also tested the glute strength of these subjects to determine if strong quads correlated with weak glutes, but unfortunately that will have to be tested by future research.


Turkiewicz, A., Timpka, S., Thorlund, J. B., Ageberg, E., & Englund, M. (2017). Knee extensor strength and body weight in adolescent men and the risk of knee osteoarthritis by middle age. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, annrheumdis-2016.