- Why spinal mobility matters.
- 3D back movement pattern drills.
- Movement competency & chronic pain.
Essentials of Elite Performance April 17-19 Vienna, Austria
Essentials of Elite Performance June 12-14 and Oct 2-4 Bad Zurzach, Switzerland
Today we’re going to talk about exploring your spine.
Today I want to talk to you about your lumbar spine or low back. One of the things that I hear frequently are people complaining about sciatica issues, chronic sacroiliac joint dysfunction, lumbar spine dysfunction, and there are innumerous reasons that those things can occur. But one of the things we often talk about is movement competency. And one of the things that we believe, what we see regularly are people the have poor movement competency, meaning they don’t know really how to control or move different areas of their body, are more predisposed to injury or pain.
So we take a lot of time in the initial stages of Z-health going, “Hey, let’s develop good body maps.” We want to you to understand them. Where your spine is, how it moves, and we also want you to explore it in a very safe way.
So today, we’re just going to focus on your lumbar spine. So your lumbar spine, basically, the way I want you to think about it, if you find your hip bones and come all the way back to find those dimples on the back, that’s the top of your sacroiliac joint. So, about one hands width up from those dimples is roughly where your lumbar spine is. Now your lumbar spine is capable of a lot of different motions. However, the motions are small. And that’s one of the things we see a lot. People that are overdoing lumbar range of motion, often can predispose themselves to injury.
So what we’re going to do, is we’re going to go through a series of different movements. These are explorations. So when I say explorations, go slow, go safely, meaning don’t move into discomfort or pain. But the whole idea here is just to start practicing some lumbar mobilizations to give your brain a little bit better map of that area and hopefully give you some additional strength in mobility, depending on what you are normally doing.
So in order to work on this area safely, I typically like for people to go a little bit wider in their stance. So we can work in neutral, but I want you to go into slightly wider stance so you feel balanced and we’re going to bend the knee slightly. Now from here, we’re just going to lean or get nice and tall, lengthen up the spine. And what we’re going to start off with are simple lumbar rotations. So if you want to imagine your navel, or umbilicus, go about three inches below that and just rotate, right there.
And in essence, we’re just trying to focus on a spinal rotation, keeping the pelvis still.
You don’t have to go very far, you’re just trying to get an idea of what range of motion you have. And whether or not one direction is more stiff or more difficult to feel than the other. So that’s basic rotation. Now, we also want to do the same thing, laterally bending. Alright? Side to side. One of the things we often see in our courses is that people forget that the lumbar spine goes side to side.
So in this one we’re trying create kind of a “C” shape in that low back region. Again five to ten reps each direction. Alright so we’ve done some rotations, we’ve done some lateral bending, so now we’re going to do some basic flection and extension. Now notice how small the range of motion is here for now. I don’t want you to overdo it. Just very very small, almost a standing little crunch. And a little bit of an extension. Again, don’t press all the way down. You don’t have to go to maximal tension. Just try to move that area. Again, five to ten reps.
So we’ve downed on flection extensions, lateral flections, rotations, now we want to do lateral gliding. So we’re now going to just being trying to keep the pelvis still as we shift the lumbar spine side to side. So in essence our hips are here, spines moving to one side and then the other. Again, five to ten reps.
Alright now that we’ve covered our basics, what we want to do now is start combining them. That’s why I call it a spinal exploration. So what we’re going to do next is we’re going to glide to the right, rotate left, come back to the middle. Glide right, rotate left, back to the middle. Do that three or four times.
And now we’ll combine right rotations so glide right, rotate right, middle. Glide right, rotate right, middle. And you can go as slowly as you need to just to get an idea if these motions are new to you, I recommend going very carefully. Maybe half the range of motion that you think you’re capable of doing.
So, we’ve combined lateral glide with right and left rotations, so now, lets combine lateral glide with lateral tilting. So in this particular case I’m going to glide right, and bend left. Glide right, bend left. Glide right, bend left. One more. Glide right, bend left. Now we’ll do glide right, bend right. And a lot of times what you’ll find out here, is that this mobility and range is more restricted. One more. Glide right, bend right. Alright? So we’ve combined now, lateral gliding with rotation, lateral gliding with right and left lateral flection.
Now we’re going to glide right, flex, extend, middle. Glide right, flex, extend, middle. Two more. Flex, extend, glide, flex, extend. Alright? We can obviously do that all to the other side as well. By now we should already be feeling some significant differences. If you go back and just test your basic range of motion, they probably will have improved significantly just by doing the combinations of movement. And obviously we’ve just gone to one side.
Now, the three dimensional aspect of all this is to combine multiple motions in one direction. So, just as an example, this time we’re going to glide right, bend right, flex, extend. Glide right, bend right, flex, extend. Right? Glide, bend, flex, extend. Hopefully you’re getting the point here. (Laughs)
The whole goal for us is to gradually, over time, going lefts and rights, work through multiple combinations of three dimensional movements of the spine, and you notice in this whole process, we’re doing it in a very small safely restricted range. Because I don’t want this to be uncomfortable for you.
As you start to improve at that, you can start bringing the feet closer together. And now because of the narrowed stance your balance will be challenged more. So typically the way that we do this in our work is that we start off in this wide stance. We come to more of a neutral stance, then we’ll shift you into a lunge position so now I’m in a left lunge, maybe I do a left lateral glide, left bend, flex extend. Now maybe I add some rotation, more lateral bending, flex extend. So it’s kind of an endless variety of mobility drills that you can do just for this one area of the spine.
And obviously if we can do that in the lumbar spine, we want to be able to do it in the ribs, thoracic spine also, and the neck. Then you can start to put them all together, have them going in opposite directions, but that starts to get kind of complex and you need not have very many friends because that will take you some time. (Laughs) You’ll spend a lot of time alone going, “What happened?”
Uh, but what we find , is when we get people doing these basic spinal mobility explorations, very often these kind of more chronic issues that they deal with, with the low back, et cetera, tend to go away because you’re making that much smarter about movement. Primary goal here is it has to feel safe to you. So, if I was going faster than you could follow, or you felt off balance, you’ve got a lot of tension, or you had any twinges of pain, you have to decrease the range, decrease the speed, and literally work with what is comfortable and safe to you. Uh, one other thing we have people do regularly is hold on.
Because if your balance feels challenged you’ll tend to tighten up. Also, sometimes closing your eyes will allow you to feel the movement a little bit more. Uh, sometimes if you do better movement with eyes closed, that tell us we also to work on your eyes.
But for now, just thinking about your low back, start playing with some of these basic explorations. You can do any combination that you want. As long as you keep it pain free and the range of motion very small. After you finish, what I normally then recommend is take a five to ten minute walk to let your body kind of resettle after you’ve given it a little new information.
So give this a shot.
If you have any questions about it let us know. Otherwise good luck.
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