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Runnning and “The Serape Effect” February 19, 2007

Posted by Lisa Sabin in boston marathon, fitness, marathon, Plantar Fasciitis, Uncategorized.

I spent the last two days in a seminar called “Following The Functional Path.” The speaker was Vern Gambetta, who is considered the father of functional training. I am sure most of you have heard of functional training. But you may not know what it is or how it applies to the runner.

If you have been following my blog, then you know that I am suffering from plantar fasciitis. I have been coaching and involved in the fitness industry since about 1997, when I started coaching gymnastics. I have been running seriously since 1993 and became a certified personal trainer in 2001. I have had plantar fasciitis off and on 3 times now. Each time that I have had a flare up of plantar fasciitis, I’ve gone to a podiatrist and looked at the problem from the feet. I am a bit of a pronator, but not an excessive pronator. I have had plantar fasciitis on both sides. I had forgotten that my symptoms were on the right side originally. My podiatrist gave me a cortisone shot in 2004, on the right side. Now I have it on the left.

I started thinking…I know I need to keep up with my strength training. I am not always consistent in the weight room. I love to run more than anything, so sometimes strength training takes a back seat to running or even cycling. Okay, it’s last on the list for me! That is beside the point though. Why did my plantar fasciitis move from the right to the left? I am not sure that I can answer that. The human body is complicated in the way it compensates for muscle tightness or weakness. It’s always changing.

I learned something new this weekend. Vern talked about the “Serape Effect” A serape is a Mexican or South American garment that crosses over the body in an “x” shape. No, it is not like the leather belts worn by the guys who string people upside down and give them shots of tequila in Cabo. Although, I felt like I could’ve used some tequila after some of the lunges Vern had us doing this weekend!

A key concept to understand in regard to core function is the “Serape Effect.” This concept was articulated by Logan and McKinney in their book “Kinesiology” over fifty years ago. The serape is a Mexican garment that is draped loosely over the shoulders and is crossed in front of the body. The concept serves to reinforce the concept of the muscles of the core as a connector. They identified the serape muscles as the rhomboids, serratus anterior, external obliques and internal obliques. These muscles working together are called the “Serape Effect.” Logan & McKinney state that: “The serape effect incorporates several major concepts which are vital to the understanding of movement. In ballistic actions such as throwing and kicking, the serape muscles add to the summation of internal forces. They also transfer internal force from a large body segment, the trunk, to relatively smaller body parts, the limbs. For example, the serape effect functions in throwing by summating, adding to, and transferring the internal forces generated in the lower limbs and pelvis to the throwing limb.” (Logan & McKinney p.154)
The serape effect clearly makes the connection that in overhead activities there is a definite hip to shoulder relationship. According to Logan and McKinney using the example of a right handed thrower: “There is a definite interaction between the pelvic girdle on the left and the throwing limb on the right by way of concentric contraction of the left internal oblique, right external oblique, and serratus anterior on the right at the initiation of the throw. The pelvic girdle is rotating to the left and the rib cage is rotating to the right.” (Logan & McKinney p 156) This movement paradigm is true in all overhead activities. It is a clear rational for training the core in diagonal and rotational patterns in order to take full advantage of core function. What is amazing is that this was articulated over fifty years ago and there are still people who do not take advantage of this naturally occurring phenomenon. This has broad implications in performance enhancement as well as injury prevention and rehabilitation.

This weekend Vern had us all line up and do some running without using our arms. This demonstated how much rotation occurs in running. After that, we did some walking while rotating our arms across the body, forwards and backwards. We did several variations of this simple exercise. What became apparent to me was that I had trouble rotating my upper body. I was tight rotating in the transverse plane.

I am going to incorporate more rotational movements into my routine, along with the usual squats and lunges. I have always known that it’s important to flex, extend and rotate and to work in all 3 planes of motion. Now I have a clearer understanding about how this applies to us runners. It’s important to be sports specific in your training. That means if there is a rotational component to running, then runners should not forget to include rotational movements in their training to prevent injury.

Thank you Vern for a great seminar. The two days were well spent.

Vern Gambetta, Gambetta Sports Training Systems



1. totaltransformation - February 20, 2007

Awesome info…thanks!

-J. Kaiser

2. lsabin - February 21, 2007

Thank You.

3. talex - March 24, 2008

Great article. I was reading an article about functional training and saw the word “serape effect” and decided to google the word. I would love to attend trainings/seminars regarding this type of programming. I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, let me know.

4. www.torcuatoruiz.com - July 9, 2013

Thank you with the blog post. Discover ways to quit and overcome panic assaults.

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