Good Vertebrations At The Lumbar Yard

First off, if you caught the Seinfeld reference, well done. Anyways, a few weeks back I stumbled upon an article by renowned strength coach Mike Boyle. The premise revolved around certain warm-up routines that are aimed at improving rotation of the lumbar spine and why these kinds of exercises can actually do more harm than good. Read the article -- it's interesting and though-provoking.

One of the exercises mentioned was the scorpion. Since this is an exercise Jeff and I both use in our warm-ups for classes, I decided to forward the article along to him. Jeff's a great coach, very enthusiastic, takes dodgeball way too seriously, and used to kick people in the face. Naturally, a nice dialogue emerged. We'll start with Jeff's reply to the email...

Solid article, i think the gist of it is saying if you do not have the strength at your full capable domain in range of motion (in this case the lumbar) you will be susceptible to injuries(?)

Now, if you were to practice minor resistance training at extended(not extreme) range of motion around any joint (in this case rotational lumbar).. would this negate this theory(?)

In a sense, you must be realistic that your body may experience, through voluntary or involuntary measures, a more extreme range of motion than the 3-5 degrees prescribed. Having a trained and strong "core", that alone will not "protect" you from not experiencing the extended range of motion at all times, so wouldn't it seem logical to still practice a somewhat extended range of motion movement, but instead all some resistance, so instead of a strict mobilization exercise, it now becomes an extended ROM strengthening exercise?

Definitely not applicable for a class size of 20, but maybe as far as giving preventative strength and mobility measures to private clients... JUST my brain running loose on thought, would love feedback, i'm gonna shoot this to Issa also, i know he does many of these in his rehab PT.



Firstly, since I found these videos, I figured I'd start with them:

Tiger Woods
Roger Federer
Albert Pujols

Three athletes, each arguably the greatest from his respective sport. Three sports that involve a lot of trunk rotation. Amazingly though, if you watch each video and simply stare at their lumbar spine, it's always in neutral. They rotate from the hips and shoulders and keep the low back stays neutral. This is the optimal way to exert force.

Now, regarding injuries, you said, "In a sense, you must be realistic that your body may experience, through voluntary or involuntary measures, a more extreme range of motion." This is true, but I think the best approach is to develop the necessary means to prevent these ranges, not to get the joint accustomed to them, even if in a passive manner.

Having a strong/stable core may not necessarily protect you from the potential occurrence of excessive rotation, but since the goal of the core is to stabilize the spine, it's likely the best preventative measure. Pushing your lumbar spine into a range-of-motion it's not designed or intended to achieve won't do you many favors. From an injury prevention standpoint, I think it'd be more beneficial to develop and improve stability in a joint's neutral position.

Look at it this way: to prevent a neck injury, you don't load up a neck harness and put your neck into an extended ROM. Instead, you strengthen the neck itself (and the traps and upper back muscles) at its appropriate range-of-motion. Same goes for any joint that requires stability. Hell, look at the knee. For instance: Willis McGahee. To prevent that injury, he wouldn't have put his knee into hyper-extension while training for the Fiesta Bowl. The best he could do would be to strengthen the muscles around the knee accordingly to ensure it was a stable joint. That's a tough example because there's really nothing that could've prevented that injury. Shit was gnarly. See what I mean, though?

If going by the joint-by-joint approach to training (which people should pay more attention to), I look at it like this:

1) Develop range of motion in the joints that require mobility, then ensure the muscles are strong at those ranges (this is why gymnasts are so goddamn awesome, they're as flexible as yogis but strong at every range).

2) Develop stability and strength at joints that require stability.

Now, don't get me wrong, some people need a LITTLE added range to stable joints i.e. if someone is missing knee extension by a few degrees, but generally speaking, this isn't the case. How often do you see a K-Starr video where he's trying to improve mobility at the elbow?

I'm liking this back and forth we're having, brother. Good speak.

Beautiful email. Thank you kind educated sir ;)

Thus concluded our email exchange. Good stuff. Since this electronic conversation, Jeff and I have removed scorpions from our warm-ups. This isn't to say that mobility work throughout the body is awful. To quote brilliant physical therapist Charlie Weingroff: "Every joints needs mobility AND stability. Some need more mobility, while some need more stability."

This is even further exhibited/explained by Ido Portal, a master of human movement, below:

Obviously, what Charlie and Ido are saying makes a lot of sense and I think this is what Jeff had in mind. I certainly see the benefit of this concept, but in the population I see in typical CrossFit gyms most clientele exhibit classic movement dysfunction. This includes things like poor posture, tight hamstrings, short hip flexors, gross extension at the lumbar spine, and so on. I think for the general fitness enthusiast (CrossFit, especially) it's more important to fix these problems and strengthen the individual accordingly before worrying about things like improper alignment training. Ido commented on his philosphy expressed in that video and I will post that below.

Before this devolves into even more rambling, I will cut myself off. The purpose of this post was to give you some insight into the balance between mobility/stability and to let you know that your coaches are always focused on learning, adapting, researching, and adjusting to ensure your performance improves.


Control, Pt. 2

I briefly touched on the topic of control back in December. Despite my efforts, some of you still insist on working out like the goddamn Techno Viking. Note: That's not a good thing.

Some CrossFit trainers will argue the "20% slop rule" i.e. technique can break down about 20% so long as the intensity of the movement stays high. A direct quote from famed CF instructor, Pat Sherwood: "Technique only has to be good enough to increase the intensity. The goal is never perfect form. Remember, it's the speed of the set that is the goal." Now, Pat was the head coach at my Level 1 certification back in 2008 and he's a really nice and funny-ass dude, but I whole-heartedly disagree with this concept. Bryan Krahn from T-Nation offered this counter-point:

"To my mind, lifting is a learned endeavor. You practice perfect form over and over until it becomes second nature. That's especially true for Olympic lifting. How can you get good at an exercise if you force yourself to keep a set going past the point of technical breakdown? Aren't you just creating poor muscle-recruitment patterns that compete with the correct patterns?"

Speed is important; safety is more important. Intensity enhances progress, but without control, intensity is useless. The bottom line: 20% slop is a bullshit excuse to convince one's self that it's okay to move around like an idiot.

If you watch anyone who is truly elite in his or her chosen endeavor, there is one thing you will always notice: their movement is flawless.

Are you seeing a pattern here? It's called perfection. There is no wasted effort in any of their movements. Everything is fluid and smooth and relaxed and perfect. Very few people ever get to that level, but we should all always be striving for it. Everyday.


Get Some Fucking Perspective

Annoyed. And it starts here...

That's Noah. He's one of the coaches from District CrossFit, formerly of Potomac CrossFit. I've met Noah, he's a nice guy and a legit athlete/CrossFitter. He did a workout, jumped really high, and then whoever recorded it, uploaded it to youtube and labeled it a "world record." No big deal. So it goes. Normally, I avoid youtube comments like I avoid donating to charity, but I couldn't avoid this:

Those comments are courtesy of Ryan Moody, the self-proclaimed World Record holder for jumping on top of boxes. Or something. Basically, Ryan contacted Guiness, sent them video of his jumps, they looked into it, and he got a new world record. It was new because... ya know, no one had ever tried it before.

Look, if this guy wants to achieve a world record and go through the process of training, filming, contacting the Guiness Book of World Records, etc, then fine. That's his right. More power to him, since that all seems like a real pain in the ass. My problem with the entire endeavor is taking to youtube like an 8-year-old with a skinned knee.

"NO! That's not the world record. I have the world record!!" Dude, you're arguing over a record that NO ONE BUT YOU is trying to obtain. This isn't like the 100m dash or the fastest marathon or the long jump or whatever. This kid went to Guiness himself to be put into the record books. Meanwhile, you have this:

Steve Langton, USA bobsledder

An Olympic bobsledder hit a 62" box jump with no running start, no fan fare, no comments about him being the best box jumper, no stupid fucking celebration afterwards, and he wore a shirt the whole time. You know why? Because a max effort box jump like this is a parlor trick for him. You do it for fun just to see what you can do. You know what Langton does with the rest of his time? He devotes his life to an actual sport with real accomplishments!

This is classic CrossFit-moving-the-goalposts shit. This kid will never be an Olympian, realized he'll never win the CrossFit Games, so instead of just accepting that he'll never achieve true greatness, he decides to pursue a new world record... of jumping on stuff. Should he be proud of his jumping ability? Absolutely -- I'm assuming he's worked real hard to achieve it and that's commendable. But should he be scouring youtube trying to refute all claims of "world record" box jumps? I mean, yeah, he can, I guess... if he's a fucking loser.