Spinal rotation

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D-Rock

Level 5 Valued Member
Curious to see other's thoughts on this.

IF someone moves well, are minimalist type programs enough to maintain spinal rotation mobility and strength? (Maintain and support baseline rotation, not necessarily improve) I'm talking about things like NW, minimalist powerlifting, press and deadlift, etc. A good majority of "the basics" don't have very much spinal rotation.

I have read people say that kettlebell presses IN GOOD FORM make a pretty tough thoracic spine. Does that include the ability to rotate if called upon?

I'm thinking along the lines of if you move well, you don't need much mobility work. If you have superb biomechanics in the main lifts, things won't have much reason to lock down, and you should have enough strength and stability to support mobility. And the big full body main lifts work nearly everything...so it would be working the muscles used for rotation. Rotation would then become a matter of coordination, the right things moving, stabilizing, and giving at the right time.
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
I'm thinking along the lines of if you move well, you don't need much mobility work.
I would sort of disagree... Even once a good range of motion is obtained, the soft tissues, particularly muscles and fascia, need some external stimulation from time to time to continue to glide and move well. Mobility drills, SMR with foam rollers and balls, massage, and targeted stretching all help with this. But we may be saying the same thing. What is "much"? I might spend 10% as much time on mobility that I spend in other training activities, counting part of my yoga time in that.
 

pet'

Level 8 Valued Member
Hello,

I'm thinking along the lines of if you move well, you don't need much mobility work.
As @Anna C said, everything is relative. Some folks are naturally more mobile than other. Maybe these ones will less work mobility than the more "rigid" people.

@Steve Freides gave you the best moves for spinal mobility and strength.

However, mobility is something we lose (at least, I lose) fast. For example, spending various day chopping wood or heavy DIY can reduce mobility to a certain extent. Plus, having strength without a good mobility in everyday life does not permit us to use our body the most optimal way.

From my experience, 15 minutes mobility and flexibility a day are a good balance, easy to maintain on the long run.

Then, I am recently involved in yoga. There are plenty of moves which require spinal mobility, strength and balance, using only bodyweight. Maybe it could be an interesting option to reach your goals ?

Kind regards,

Pet'
 

Kettlebelephant

Level 6 Valued Member
What do you guys and gals think, is achieving and afterwards maintaining a proper bent press and TGU combined with the anti-rotation from 1H-swings all you'll ever need in terms of spinal health and mobility?
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
What do you guys and gals think, is achieving and afterwards maintaining a proper bent press and TGU combined with the anti-rotation from 1H-swings all you'll ever need in terms of spinal health and mobility?
I'll say, no. For example, simple extension as with yoga's sphinx, cobra, or upward dog poses... we definitely need this. And I also think we need a strengthener with the spine in a stable position, such as the deadlift.

But I'll agree that the bent press (if I can ever get to "proper"... maybe after SFG II!) and TGU are definitely good ones for spinal health and mobility!
 

North Coast Miller

Level 7 Valued Member
I'll add to the above good responses, a bit of this will come down to basic rotational mobility vs rotational mobility under load.

Personally I avoid day to day applications of rotational load moving even though I train it in almost every workout. Some of this is unavoidable, but I always try to set myself up when lifting ordinary objects or negotiating environment so I have the minimum of that sort of spinal activation.

Eg I will turn my entire body 45 ° and lift from the side before I will rotate just my upper body to address a load.

In general though, a minimum of mobility work would be sufficient for 80% of normal needs. I'd think people into MA would need more, even if only maintaining.

The other half of the question - for basic fitness, if one is doing heavy rotational lifts (bent press to a low squat / windmill), do the more direct, squared off lifting (DE, front squat, etc) offer anything that isn't being addressed by the rotational lifts?
 

elli

Level 9 Valued Member
Only rotation under load: the tgu.
Maybe bouldering can count as loaded ratations, too?!
Yoga for mobility.
And in my experience, playing different sports and moving the body in many different ways is the best feedback for recognizing if you miss certain aspects when going through life.
 

D-Rock

Level 5 Valued Member
@Anna C thank you for your experience and insight. I think we may be saying somewhat of the same thing, as I would consider 10% of training time not much at all! I have found that when I do basic movements with proper form and things like OS resets, things tend to open up for me automatically. Reading some mobility/pre-hab stuff one can easily start adding hours of work to their training. Where's the time!? When are you actually going to train!?

I was also coming up with a wild guess to explain why the lack of rotation in some training programs may be justified to help get the discussion started (but it may not be justified, I don't know). And my guess may be wrong too. Reading these responses, rotation seems to be an important thing to include. I am trying to understand why there is a lack or rotation in alot of programs and if that is okay or do we need to add at least a little bit of rotation work (or a lot). I've done exclusively sagittal plane exercises for a long long time and am just now starting to explore if there is a gap in training when it comes to rotation.

Maybe it's left out because it seems somewhat tricky to train without complicated equipment and exercises? Maybe some people don't want to put in the effort to teach/learn such a move? The kettlebell exercises mentioned get rid of the need for complicated equipment, and well we are after skill mastery here.
 

D-Rock

Level 5 Valued Member
What do you all think about cycling through programs, some with a rotation exercises some without? Like say a 6-8 weeks of a minimal powerlifting style program, then a few weeks of a different program that includes a windmill or bent press, then on to the next? Is it okay to set a rotation exercise aside to work on something else for a few weeks/months just like you would other movements?

Also just was reminded of this blog again!
The Seven Basic Human Movements
 

D-Rock

Level 5 Valued Member
I'll say, no. For example, simple extension as with yoga's sphinx, cobra, or upward dog poses... we definitely need this. And I also think we need a strengthener with the spine in a stable position, such as the deadlift.
Good point! As a side note, does anybody have any loaded flexion moves they like? I actually am tipped more into extension, and it's the flexion that I need to work on.
The Scapula and Thoracic Spine: A Classic Love Story To Improve Your Overhead Position - Juggernaut
Why wouldn't my thoracic spine not extend no matter what I did? Because as the article states it's really hard to increase a range of motion that is already maxed out!

And if you are having a hard time rotating, check if you are stuck in either extension or flexion.

And a side note to a side note! Watch your cueing! What happens when a guy with decent posture and a normal spinal curve gets told to stand up straight, arch the back hard during squats and deadlifts, and everyone slouches these days so fight it with all you've got? Someone maxed out and stuck in extension. A general population cue won't work for someone who doesn't fit the general population.
 

Kettlebelephant

Level 6 Valued Member
@D-Rock regarding flexion moves:
loaded hyperextentions, but put the pad higher up your hip/belly so you bend at the spine and
not at the hips (hinge)
or
Atlas stone lifting
 

Zack

Level 5 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
I suppose it depends on how exactly one "grades" rotational mobility and strength.

In any case, I've been a huge proponent of 90/90 breathing since attending a Juggernaut workshop and consider the side plank an under-valued t-spine mobility drill.
 

pet'

Level 8 Valued Member
Hello,

@D-Rock
Do you preferentially look for bodyweight moves or kettlebell moves ? Depending on that, did you consider incorporating yoga stances ?

Kind regards,

Pet'
 

D-Rock

Level 5 Valued Member
@Zack how do you "grade" them? What is the mechanism behind the side plank helping thoracic mobility?

@pet' I am open to either, but bodyweight moves are always handy to have in your back pocket!

I sometimes forget about yoga, but it is on the list of things I want to learn. I suppose one can learn faster if they do what @Anna C does and doubles yoga for her mobility work. 2 for 1, now that's smart training!

And a side note to a side note! Watch your cueing!
And just to clarify, this wasn't against anyone in particular. Just something for us to watch out for in general. I have given myself and others generic and popular cues for some of the big lifts, sometimes without regards to the individual biomechanics going on.
 

Shahaf Levin

Level 5 Valued Member
Maybe it's left out because it seems somewhat tricky to train without complicated equipment and exercises? Maybe some people don't want to put in the effort to teach/learn such a move? The kettlebell exercises mentioned get rid of the need for complicated equipment, and well we are after skill mastery here.
As you said, no complicated equipment required to train rotation: KB, floor, broomstick, nothing at all.

I think they are absent from many programs because people don't know about them, think rotation is bad (while forgetting that human locomotion is contra-lateral and a fine balance between rotation and counter-rotation), don't know how to teach them, and because most people don't train strength as a skill they can't figure out which showy muscles they work...

In addition, rotational (& counter...) work exposes you weaknesses and is humbling. An individual with limited T-spine mobility can lean backward excessively when pressing and by that cheat his way through the immobility, but one can't hide it in the bent press. Weak trunk stability will make TGUs impossible. Most trainees don't like to get exposed, so they keep to the things they don't have to go back to the basics for. We just have to keep convincing people that strength is a skill...
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
What do you guys and gals think, is achieving and afterwards maintaining a proper bent press and TGU combined with the anti-rotation from 1H-swings all you'll ever need in terms of spinal health and mobility?
IMHO, we should never forget that strength is the most important, most foundational physical attribute. If I had to do only one thing, it would be the barbell deadlift for the health of my spine.

As I've mentioned here before, I spent close to a decade after my back injury without doing back stretching. It didn't feel great - back was stiff - but it sure felt a whole lot better than it did when I was bed-ridden and taking Percoset 24/7.

Strong. First.

-S-
 

wespom9

Level 6 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
My two cents, certain areas of the spine are biased to needed some more mobility - thoracic, cervical. Lumbar spine more biased towards stability, or limiting movement. Smarter minds than I have discovered this.

Unloaded - explore your ranges. Flex, extend, rotate. Keep your t-spine mobile.
Loaded - limit lumbar movement, in general limit cervical movement (there's a reason you don't turn your head side to side when you swing!) The t-spine will move under load - think any rotational sport, eg golf/baseball. Hips turn, "core" stiffens to retain kinetic energy, t-spine rotates, energy transferred to limbs where it accelerates. Also applies to med ball work.

Practice main movements in cycles, monitor weaknesses, and you have a pretty good recipe.
 

Zack

Level 5 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
@D-Rock - I personally don't. A blunt approach is observing the ROM with a simple upper body twist from a quadruped position or Brettzel stretch.

T-spine mobility is often limited by the mechanics of everything going on below it. Side planks and diaphragmatic breathing drills serve to get core function up to snuff.
 
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