Archive for the ‘T-spine and fitness results’ Category

 

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In both my random and intentional thoughts on fitness, I have been thinking about the need for control a lot lately. As you may be aware, I train a lot of athletes form the age of 8 all the way into their fifties and the one common thread that I have seen in all of these age groups is a lack of control especially (but not limited to…) their lower bodies. They usually lack the ability to control their ankles, hips and knees and or all of the above and as a result may possible be more prone to injury. Now please be aware of the fact, that most of these people are not noobs and some of them have been “working out for their whole lives.”

As then as you can see just training for fitness may not in most cases be enough to help counteract these potential risk factors for injury. What then can we do to improve this needed factor?

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To answer this question we have to first understand the role of the brain in this quality. The brain is the control center of the body in that role is the ability to control joints and movement patterns. This works by learning and experience, for example your foot learns how to respond to terrain by walking over it. When you hit a hole it will shift and try to protect your ankle and other parts. But this will only work if have hit a hole before. This is one example in way that the brain learns to control a joint or to stabilize from an outside force that could cause harm if it wasn’t dealt with.

Another example is when a baby stabilizes his or her should when they are picked up by their arm.

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So what happens when the brain doesn’t do this important reaction?

Usually it leads to some kind of injury such as when a foot over inverts and ends up “rolling” the person’s ankle or spraining it as a result.  So you see that this type of control is very important for our health and performance, especially over a lifetime of fitness and or sports.

Being aware of this fact and the need for this type of control should lead to the question of how we can improve this neurological quality and to increase our ability to get long-term fitness results.

I will endeavor to briefly answer this question and then follow it up with some practical movements in the next post to help improve this needed control.

Training this quality is not that complicated and pretty much is done in the same way that you: build strength, muscle, power and conditioning. You train with specific moves in mind for quality reps over time to develop this skill.

 

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You go from the floor as means to help you easier learn how to control your extremities. Then to more of a loaded spine position, all the way up to standing and choosing exercises that make you control yourself. In fact you can even do this with one move: The Turkish get-up.

 

This complex exercise takes you from the supine posture all the way up to standing with the added benefit of strength development, cross patterning, shoulder stabilization and mobility. It however, is not the only way to do so.

Then you will want to continue that process and add in some gait related simple to complex movements such as (but not limited to) marches, skips, hops and jumps.

As you do and focus on quality movement with fewer reps to avoid break down, you will help yourself develop better control of your body and possibly your joint health and freedom as a person.

Come back next week for part two if this post that will give you some videos and explanation how to work this process in you training and for some ideas how to put them in without neglecting your fitness goals!

 

Research has exploded in the last few years and with the advent of the World Wide Web access to it has gotten much easier.  Along with this enablement is the why behind what you are doing in addition to the how and when. One of these components to training for sport is the need for rotation to develop better, throwing, running and other needs to improve an athlete’s performance.

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You may be aware of this fact or if you have been training with us you probably have experienced our emphasis and instruction on the need for this quality. Or you may have never even heard of us and have never been into our center. Whether you are familiar with us or not, we want you to know the why behind what we teach. That is the goal of today’s post to help you become aware of the reason behind the method. Just as the book title says we want you to start with why!

 

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First we want to begin with the type of rotation that we are talking about and what it looks like.

The type of rotation that we are talking about is driven from the floor and ends up translated through the arm or the implement that is utilized in an athlete’s chosen sport.   We are however not referring to an isolated move wherein the trunk is the only thing that is moving.  An example of this technique is shown in a proper golf swing, pitching, and a slap shot in hockey and so-on.

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After that last statement, you may be thinking, “so this is an important component to sports” and you would be very right if you are. So it would then in that case make sense to learn how to do it well for increased power and efficiency for sports performance.

 

 

So now that you have the why we should rotate well, how then can one do it? Also is there any risk in rotating? (As you may have heard that there is.)

The next few paragraphs and correspodning posts will give you some answers and a few ways to develop this quality to make you a better athlete.

Before we begin the next part let’s cover how to rotate and how not to accomplish this task.When we look at the body for performance and health, we need to realize that the body operates in movements and these movements are powered by systems or slings of muscles that function together to perform that move. In rotation we have both the anterior and posterior slings as seen below.

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In order to better utilize this sequence to throw, run and other sports activity requires that you utilize a particular technique. Not only will this create better power but will also better help prevent non-contact /overuse injuries as you play.

The next two posts will continue to answer these questions and give you some ways to learn how to use this principle for sports performance and injury prevention. So keep tuned to this blog for that!

 

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I sincerely hope that these posts on a movement that many desire to do  are helping you in your pursuit of your first chin up or to improve your technique. They may also make your form more efficient and possibly move on into advanced versions such as weighted chins and the one arm versions. The last few posts goals have been to help you prepare for this week’s concept which if you apply, will result in you ending up stronger than before as soon as you put them to work. Now although you will end up stronger, it doesn’t mean that you will end up doing this move for reps or at all today. (It can though) It will however result in you being the closer than before though!

This concept  that today’s post is about is  irradiation. Which involves you better stabilizing your body and making strength gains as a result of using it.

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The following few paragraphs will give you a brief lesson on how to utilize this phenomenon to better build strength and how to apply that to your chin-up work. with the end goal of getting your first or improving your chin-up technique! These points are breathing, planks for learning how to create force,the ab brace and many more, without further ado let’s get to it!

1.Breathing:
Generating strength and increasing force can be amplified by using the proper breathing techniques. The diaphragm when used well stabilizes the spine and fires the deep core muscles resulting in greater force production in your pull-up work. On this movement pattern you will want to get a good breath in on the bottom of the move and exhale on the way up with a hiss, grunt or blow out hard as if you were trying to blow out candles. Watch the video below to learn more about this strength enhancing technique:

2. Planking for tension generation and or greater force:

After you have learned this vital component of strength of breathing you will want to learn how to produce tension. Tension is the foundation for generating force, power and efficient movement. This is simple to do and is done easily in a plank position, especially if you have a friend to train with. Get in a good plank position. (No saggy back or butt lift)

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(Try again!)

Start by squeezing your feet together, then tighten your legs, squeeze your abs as if you were about to get kicked. (Your partner can help you with that, gently of course.) Clench your glutes, (if you do this right you will get a wedgey.) Finally push your hands and feet down into the floor to generate more tension. (You will know it, if you have it!)


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3. Core brace:
When I first started training others the thought about using your abs was to pull in your belly button in. Then research found that if you do that draw in maneuver, that you double the spinal load and actually make yourself weaker as a result of it. Instead of drawing in to increase stability, you will want to brace as if you were about to get socked in the gut. As stated above in the plank paragraph.

4. Leg and glute squeeze:

As you may be aware power starts from the floor and is expressed in other parts of the body. A good example of this is the push-press, which starts in a wheel drive with hip extension and then ends up moving the load up into the air. This wonderful phenomenon however is not seen in pull-ups which are an open chain exercise (feet not on the floor) which makes it a harder movement as a result. So how can we get this effect of the legs to assist our upper pulling and make us better at pull-ups? The answer is the principle that I stated earlier, Irradiation. If you recall it is known to make its user stronger by using our central nervous system.

However, we can use your lower half to perform better at this movement. So when you set up on the bar, squeeze your legs together and squeeze your glutes as if you were trying to create a diamond in between them. Then imagine as if you were pulling the bar towards you. Hello increased strength!!!!!

5. Grip: 
Grip is a highly neurological action, in fact when a baby is born; they can breathe, poop, eat and grip things. Grip is also very much involved with creating muscular tension and making your strength work more effective. So in your pull-up/chin-up work choke the bar as if you hated it (you just may) and imagine trying to break it half.

6.Acceleration: 

we all have sticking points in our movements form squats to deads and every other move strength move. A good way to deal with this is to simply blast or accelerate through this challenging part of the move. It could be on the bottom, mid-way or so-on. Just know yourself and use this concept as needed!

Experimenting and trying out these different concepts can be vital in achieving your first or multiple pull-ups. Practice these concepts slowly, adding in one every session or every other and own the technique as you do you will continue to progress in your training and never be bored as you do!

Next week we will discuss programming and a few regressions and progressions to use to earn this coveted movement pattern that is closer than you think!

My neck hurts as I…..; my low back hurts as I squat. My shoulders hurt as I press overhead. These are common complaints that I hear from my online clients, in person and of course my fellow fitness fans. Although there can be many reasons as to why a person has pain in any given movement pattern. There may be overuse in a muscle in the chain due to imbalances and compensations or even just the old-fashioned reason of poor form as a person trains that movement. There also may be a serious medical condition such as cancer or the like. So as always if you have pain present especially if it is chronic, see your doctor.

However, this post is not about that type of pain especially since I am not a trained medical professional. This post will show you how to reduce discomfort in a movement by learning how to get your thoracic spine moving in the ways that it should; both in extension and rotation. The result of this new mobility will help you move better, feel better and could quite possibly make you stronger and more conditioned in the long run!

The t-spine or the thoracic spine is composed of 12 vertebrae and has an absolute important function in just about every exercise. The T-spine must either extend or rotate in our human movements, such as: gait (running/ walking) squatting, lunging as well as other movement patterns and exercise.

You probably now can see that if this area has too much dysfunction that it can affect the surrounding areas and create potentially dangerous compensation in other movement patterns and exercises. In other words lack of mobility and stability in this area can lead to injury in places such as: the low back, neck or potentially other areas as well by creating undue strain in another area as a result of the aforementioned dysfunction. 

So then you see that if it is not functioning well we will want to make it better by specific drills to do so. Not just from a health perspective but problems in this area can also lead to poor performance in your training or in your chosen sport. So sometimes mobility in conjunction with stability work followed by re-patterning; can lead to better strength gains in people who are training and having some difficulty getting better at their pursuit.

The way that the thoracic spine moves:

Your mid-back is designed to move in two ways and if you are extremely deficient in them your chances of getting injured are much higher.

The first movement is rotation.

Your middle spine should be able to rotate almost equally from side to side. This movement is seen in walking, running and in many lifting moves. Failure to rotate well here can lead to all kinds of problems and pain in any area that the movement pattern involves. For example if you cannot rotate form you thorax, you will rotate too much form somewhere else as I wrote about earlier.

Good                                                                                               You’ll need some work

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The second move is extension.

This movement mostly happens at the lower part of this area. once again failure to have this movement in the t-spine will usually lead to ugly overhead form, possible injury and overuse of the low back in order to try to extend and to get in the right position for overhead work.

Good                                                                                       You’ll need some work

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Fixing these issues:

First thing first there should be some kind of assessment to find out if your t-spine is the problem. Then from there, a break down should take place to find the one of more things that can be corrected to improve these movement patterns.

Step One: Check breathing:

Lack of proper breathing patterns can create tightness in your neck, upper back, chest as well as other areas in our bodies. To see if you are breathing well stick one of your hands on your chest and one on your belly. Take a breath in through your nose and see what moves first and what area you are breathing into.

Then place your thumbs on your back and other fingers in the front of you. Once again take a breath in and see what is moving as a result of your breathing.

Did your chest rise up first? Did you feel it in your neck? If so you have dysfunctional breathing and will want to make it better.

Not having these qualities in our training can lead to injury and most likely will keep you from getting the results that you want from your fitness training. So don’t be one of those people who don’t spend time on training joint mobility.

Step Two:  Check your rotation:

This post is geared towards people who are doing a self assessment and don’t necessarily have someone to look at their t-spine function. In light of that, the following assessment you can do yourself, if you are simply aware of your position and breathing as you do it.

Step Three: Cervical rotation/ extension

At times due to the closeness of a person’s neck to their t-spine, one can compensate for another. This can lead to lots of tightness in a person’s neck and possible injury as the person works out.

Good                                                                                          You’ll need some work

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Step Four: Check your extension

As I stated earlier, your mid-back shouldn’t be able to just rotate but also extend as well. Failure to do so often leads to the dreaded rib-cage flair,  low back pain, shoulder instability and not being able to live up to your full potential as a lifter! (Oh-no!)

Finally: fix what is going on.

Drills to improve these movement issues:

Breathing:

Rotation:

Neck drills:

Extension:

Taking care of this area doesn’t guarantee that you will never be hurt, but not taking care of it is to leave things up to chance and most likely not end up living up to your potential in fitness. So make sure that you spend time on these drills especially the ones that you need the most improvement in. If you don’t you are simply a slacker! (J/K) But, really, you are!
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While I was training two friends that worked out together with me and were doing Romanian Deadlifts with dumbbells; a very overweight gym goer approached us and then told one of my clients, that they would hurt the student’s back. As a result of this well-meaning ladies exhortation, I had to virtually talk this lady off a proverbial ledge and re-assure her of this particular exercise’s safety for her lumbar.

That was over ten years ago and these fear still plagues gym goers everywhere and that is what this post is about. So read on friends.

Before I begin my rant on low-back safety and health, I want to talk about the lumbar spine and  its function . First of all, in movement our body works in a concept called the joint by joint approach or regional interdependence. This concept is a pretty simple one; when it comes to movement, some parts of our system should be more mobile and others more stable. In this science, we find that the lumbar are is one that requires more stability than mobility although it is made to move as well. (More on that in a bit)

So many times we end up injured in my opinion due to the fact that we don’t understand and apply this concept to our fitness and lives.

Just before I completely begin this rant and its application to our training, let’s discuss the low back and how it should be treated during our training and life. The lumbar spine consists of 5 vertebrae and at connects to sacrum an area that has five fused vertebrae and finally ends at the coccyx which is often referred to as the tail-bone.

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The muscles of this area are a force couple known as the lumbar erectors and are multifidi, longissimus thoracis, Iliocostalis lumborum and others these muscles are very small in comparison to the neighboring glutes and lats above and in our lifting should be treated as such.

The movements that the low back can do are as follows:

Extension, flexion, rotation, and lateral flexion or bending; these movements are and can be relatively safe within reason. However, too much of these and or with loading can lead to injury and pain. Yet, on the other side of this coin, one should be able to do these moves in order to have a healthy spine and to keep their movement vitality.

There is also another issue that needs to be dealt with as well; most of us have not so good to terrible posture due to excessive sitting or standing. This places us in either a forward head or an excessively extended posture and can cause things to get shortened and tight that shouldn’t as well as cause muscles that should be active to be under active.

Now that you understand the anatomy and function of the low back, we can begin to understand how to train in a way that will make your chances of injury lessen even if you have been injured in the past.

Let’s go back to few a paragraphs ago and review a concept that we already stated. That being that the lumbar area is built to be mostly stable. This does not mean that there is never motion in it as we move, in fact the opposite is true, as you move, so does your spine. The problem comes into play though when it moves too much and we go too often into the end ranges of the spine as we move.

This includes too much rotation through the low back and way too much extension and flexion. So you see when it comes to low back pain, in most cases it is not necessarily the movement and how it may look to the outsider without the training needed to identify what is potentially dangerous and what is not. It is more a matter of not being able to control the lumbo-pelvic complex as we move and as a result going into hyper-extension and so-on.

Does this mean that everything is safe for everyone all of the time and people should just go crazy and do whatever? The answer of course is no, because of the simple fact that what doesn’t hurt one person, could injure another. This is why some sort of assessment should be administered before a person begins to embark on their fitness journey. This should find any limitations in movement, any potential pain provoking movements and a referral should be given to a qualified medical professional if there is pain present during the performance of a movement pattern.

Then as we go along any issues with mobility and stability can and should be dealt with as well as the avoidance of any pain provoking moves until the issue is dealt with if at all possible. Also as we train, in order to maintain a healthy lumbar spine, we must pay attention to our hip position and spinal position in our movements.

If one can do that and stabilize as their spinal column they can most likely do movements that may be potentially dangerous, if they have not developed the mobility and control that is needed. An advanced trainee not only has arrived to higher than their peers levels of strength and work capacity, but  have also learned how to control themselves in movement and as a result can do the movements that require higher levels of awareness.

Another important aspect to this whole concept is the need for the muscles involved in a pattern to be firing both unconsciously and consciously  in a movement in order to keep the neighboring muscles form being overworked and creating pain and undue stresses to the joints in that exercise. In the case of the low-back it is often the glutes and some of the ab muscles.

This is why any good program will have built-in it proper progressions and regressions in order to make sure that the requisite muscles are firing quick enough to do an exercise safely. Another example of this is just yesterday a man was doing a high bridge and the gym and someone commented on how he was hurting his back as he did it. My response was the opposite of what he expected, “not as long as he is using his glutes!”

These also goes for every move that requires hip extension from the rest/ rack position in KB sport, to a bench pressing power lifter and the hip extension moment on a good Olympic lifter’s snatch and clean.

If you take away anything form this post and all its science sounding jargon and voodoo. Let it be that exercise tolerance and ability is an individual thing and should be treated as such. As well as the fact that just because something may cause one person pain, doesn’t mean that it will do the same in another. Just make sure to be assessed before you begin to train and follow a progressive strength and conditioning program that will meet your needs and weaknesses as a person. Lastly if something hurts you don’t do it. However, don’t try to make others do the same as you and write off a sport or exercise as dangerous to all!

I hope that you have been enjoying this series and that you have been learning how these principles will help your training. Lastly, I hope that you figured out how to apply them to your own fitness and have gotten better as a result. As this series continues strive to add them all into your training, because as you so you will see that they are all part of the tapestry and when they are woven together in your fitness, you will get a tapestry of amazing results! (Click here if you need to read the last few posts in this series)

In light of that, this week’s point is a very important one and is often not applied well or it is taken too far. That principle is the overcompensationprinciple. This concept is absolutely essential if you want to get any results from your fitness. So ignore it at your own frustration and lack of results.

Before we begin to apply this principle to our training we need to understand how the body works. It is a basic exercise principle that our body has two phases when it comes to exercise, it is either at rest or being challenged by something that taxes it as we exercise. Then the body’s response to the eu-stress, it will then adapt and adjust to the stress. The result is more conditioning and strength and a leaner and better physique as well.

Now a failure to do so will lead to a lack of results and not breaking out of the rest zone as you train. That is why it is easy to get results when someone goes from the couch to doing anything, due to your threshold being so low. However as you go along, you will need to continually overload or use the progressive overload principle to continue to change and get to your goals.

So the choice is yours, you can either overload and get results and continue to do so in conjunction with the other principles that I have given and will in the next few posts. (If you don’t want to miss out on the fun subscribe.)  Or you can try to seek ease and comfort and end up not getting results. Then you can play the blame game by blaming others and your genetics. I hope that you choose to overload progressively friends!

Stay tuned to this blog and subscribe if you haven’t yet, because next week we will apply this principle with the overload concept. You will not want to miss out on it!

A huge part of my adult life has been spent either training myself and others in the gym. I have seen all kinds of interesting things and have learned a lot about not only training but life in general as well by spending a lot of time there. One of the biggest and very important lessons I learned was that many people unfortunately have no idea how to get results from their time in the gym.

There are the people whom don’t work hard enough and as a result never really get anywhere in their training. These are the type of people whom you wonder why they are even spending time and money at your local fitness center. They are the ones who talk on the phone as they exercise; take too long of a rest period for their loading on a move. Never embrace that difficulty in their workouts and try to ruin yours by blabbing to you.

Then of course there are the individuals who believe that more is better and usually end up injured or burnt out and “stuck” in their fitness or are experiencing the law of diminishing returns in any fitness levels that they may have once had. These type of fitness buffs realize that one must work hard in order to get anywhere in their fitness; yet, they neglect a basic tenet of fitness and today’s command or principle: Thou shalt recover and rest.

Before I get into the break down and application of today’s post, I want you to understand what I am referring to when I say recovery. Recovery is not only a rest day, but sleep as well (naps also work if you don’t have an infant :)) and of course getting the right nutrition to optimize your training efforts.

Now let’s get into today’s command:  Thou Shalt Recover

Training for results ends up breaking the body down and also beats up your central nervous system depending on the type of training that you do form Olympic weightlifting to running and everything in between. The severity of this comes in to when one does more complex lifts and with heavier loading and so on. This leads to fatigue and if that is not managed well it will lead to the person de-conditioning and even get weaker in their training, There can also be other health related issue that can stem from this state often referred to as over-training. This can be avoided by a few different approaches and getting the right amount of rest for you and the type of training that you are doing.

This will lead to you making more results in your fitness training then just blindly and obsessively trying to make something happen without having the energy to do so. Recovery is equal to training when trying to achieve a goal in your fitness. So spend time recovering from your training so that you can kill it again without hurting your health in the process. As I have been saying the last week, “Thou shalt rest!”

If you want to see the last few posts, Click here.