Do you have back pain? If the answer is yes, then no, don't bother trying to get a flexible back. If the answer is no, then no don't bother stretching or doing silly exercises in an attempt to gain more range of motion. There appears to be no benefit to having a greater range of motion or flexibility of the trunk. There is some evidence to suggest that having less range of motion is actually more protective of back pain. So what's a guy or gal to do?
Seek good flexibility in your hips. The hip is a ball and socket joint and, therefore, by design has the capacity for a lot of range of motion.
There are many ways to train flexibility including stretching via contract/relax or holding positions for 30-120 sec, mobilizations or even core stability exercise. Yes even core stability exercises! A study a few years back found that people gained range of motion in the hip muscles by strengthening the core. I consistently see this using Redcord in practice.
Another thought - the knee to chest stretch for back pain - it may irritate a sensitive back as well depending on the particular type of sensitivity. People with flexion intolerance will not tolerate this stretch well.
- back pain? identify the postures, loads and motions that irritate your back
- greater range of motion is of no benefit to back pain or prevention
- core strengthening helps increase range of motion in the hips
What's your favourite activity for fitness? I love exercising outside this time of year.
Yesterday I did a short aerobic workout on the deck
3 sets of:
10 box jumps, 30-in. box
10 kettlebell swings, 36 kg
10 Redcord prone hip flexion
10 wall-ball shots, 30-lb. ball
Rest b/w each set same as work interval
Goal - same pace each set
Yes, energy system work can be done through gymnastics and weight training exercises.
I came up short on this one. Went out to hard. Learning pacing with mixed modal work. Looking forward to it!
Well it depends. In this study by Mcgill and Marshall they found reasonably low compression forces on the spine but higher shear forces at the last couple of lumbar vertebrae.
Compression forces are sort of like 2 vertebrae squeezing or pushing down upon one another. High compression forces are a risk factor for spinal fractures for folks living with conditions like osteoporosis. A common exercise with high compression forces is the sit-up (it can also irritate a spine that's sensitive to flexion).
As opposed to compression forces squeezing 2 vertebrae together, shearing forces are where one vertebra slides on top of the other. Spondylolisthesis is a low back condition often sensitive to shearing forces.
So in reference to the original question, kettlebell swings can be ok for people who may be sensitive to compressive forces but painful to those who may experience sensitivity to shear forces. On the other, you may be sensitive to spine flexion, in which case, I would ensure that you have the ability to hip hinge prior to initiating the kettlebell swing. The ability to hip hinge means that you can bend from the hip as opposed to flexing through the low back. This is important given that the way we move often changes in response to low back and generally requires some retraining if you wish to load that pattern (i.e. people who are sensitive to flexion frequently flex through the low back). Otherwise you will likely continue irritating the sensitive structures (nerves, disc, etc.).
Thanks for reading. Drop me a line if you require some clarification.
Q: I've been dealing with an injury (pain) now for a while and I can't seem to get back to the things I want to do. Any tips?
A: I put this question up as a broad stroke on how to get back to doing the things that you want to do. I work with a number of people that sustain injuries and are unable to do the things that they want to do whether it's running, Crossfit, lifting their grandkids, etc. When we experience pain we might try to push on for a while until it only seems to get worse and then, after no relief, remove the aggravating movements or activities with the hope that we can return to the activity later. That approach will work for acute injuries but, generally speaking, this approach leads to frustration and fails to deliver for persistent pain. Why is that?
Acute injuries are somewhat of a self-limiting thing. The pain is of an inflammatory nature directly related to a known cause (i.e.) fell down the stairs. In this case there is a relatively predictable response to the injury, which means that the painful response should resolve after a period of time and you should be able to get back to doing everything. However, in most of the cases that I'm referring to there is no direct injury and/or the pain extends beyond the predicted time frame. In these sort of cases the mechanisms are different and therefore the approach must differ as well.
So what can you do? A couple of things:
1. With persistent pain, contrary to common belief, as long as red flags are ruled out it usually doesn't mean that something is broken or damaged. It's more appropriate to think of it as being overly sensitive. With that in mind try approaching the problem from the perspective of gradually exposing the painful area to more work. This could be slowly increasing the load (weight or resistance) or range of motion (from less to more). In some cases simply thinking about moving the body or using a mirror can actually be the place to begin!
2. If there are specific ways of moving or limited range of motion address that as well. Range of motion in and of itself may not be telling but if it limits a performance objective then you're going to run into problems. For instance, if you lack the ability to bend forward to pick up your kids then you will need to address the strength or necessary range of motion. If you lack full shoulder flexion (arms overhead next to ears) and/or have a discrepancy from one side to the other then bilateral exercises like pull-ups, bench presses, barbell shoulder presses, etc are probably not on the menu. Shift the emphasis of your exercise to work on the required range of motion or strength. You could add in some stretching and foam rolling for mobility and things like planks for static shoulder stability.
3. Research in pain science informs us that pain changes the way we move and the patterns of muscle activity. Although the pain may go, the odd muscle activity and movement habits tend to hang around. In that case, introduce some low load drills that will "retrain" that movement.
I use Redcord Neurac for all of these issues as we can identify "weak links" and gradually exposure the muscles to greater load and range of motion with great results.
Have you cut back on some things because of pain or injury and struggling to get back at it? Try these things and let me know how it goes.
Given that I'm often a major pain the ass, I have a special interest in learning about pain. Well that and that I help a lot of people in the clinic for pain. So I'm curious, if you've experienced pain, what do you think is the cause of your pain or have you been told that was the reason or cause of your pain and what helped you get relief?
And if you didn't get relief? I'm interested in your responses as well. What do you think is the reason for your pain and what have you tried that didn't help? Also, how confident are you that you will get relief?
Are you tired, have low energy and generally worn down but you still struggle to sleep at night? If so, I just came an interesting article that may offer a solution.
Preparing healthy meals when short on time can be a problem. If you're looking for a solution check out this awesome infographic by Precision Nutrition.
If you're interested in either, this workout will do it. It's what I did today.
Pillar prep - Redcord
2 x 5 each side
Supine pelvic lift
Trap bar dead-lift - 5 reps every 2 minutes x 5 sets @ 80-85% of 5 RM
3 sets @ 80-85% relative effort
Trap bar dead-lifts x 10 @ 50-60% of 10 RM
Redcord prone hip flexion with rotation x 8/side
Rest 3 min b/w sets
I was just at an education conference this past week and a real interesting conversation came up on the relationship between posture and pain. More specifically, one of my colleagues reported having a history of neck pain while the other two reported having a history of shoulder pain. Interestingly, although the pains were slightly different, all three indicated that they had been told at some point that their pain was related to poor posture. Have you been told the same? Oddly enough, despite this long held belief, the evidence doesn't seem to hold up.
Deadlifts and ring dips are a nice pairing for a circuit. Much like steak and eggs.
How many reps and sets? Depends on things like your goals, training experience and fitness level. Can't do those exercises? Grade it. Make it easier with a push-up and back extension.
INTERESTED IN RELIEF FROM PAIN?
READY TO GET IN THE BEST SHAPE OF YOUR LIFE?