As EricCressey.com has grown in popularity and my professional network has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, the amount of free stuff that’s mailed my way has become borderline absurd. From $1,000+ fitness equipment, to books and DVDs, to gift cards, I’ve seen it all. And, in a big chunk of those cases, I’ve seen items go right in the garbage – either because they were so wretched in theory and appearance that they didn’t deserve my time, or because I got nauseous only a few minutes into using/watching them.
Usually, the problem is that some schmuck just wanted to make a quick buck and really didn’t care about the quality, accuracy, or utility of the product he/she created. Or, that person was simply too flat-out unqualified to create anything of value. Sad, but true.
Every once in a while, though, a diamond in the rough arrives and I’m glued to it excitedly like a little kid on Christmas. And, instead of a used car salesman pushing snake oil on me, it’s someone with some credibility, innovation, passion, and perspective – all of which can make me better at helping my athletes, clients, and readers. Last week, one such product arrived. It was called “Rehab=Training, Training=Rehab” – and my “Santa Claus” was Charlie Weingroff.
This is no jolly old fat man, though. In reality, he’s a super intelligent physical therapist and strength coach who has a knack for taking complex terms and relating them in understandable terms for up-and-coming fitness professionals. Oh, and he’s strong as an ox – to the tune of an 800-pound squat, 510-pound bench press, and 605-pound deadlift.
Beyond just the passion and knack for lifting heavy stuff, Charlie and I have conversed in the past about how similar our overall perspectives are with respect to the “blending” that takes place in the gray area between healthy training and physical therapy. So, I can say without wavering that if you enjoy reading my stuff (and have liked products from Robertson, Hartman, and I), then Rehab=Training, Training=Rehab will be right up your alley, as I watched it straight through (first time I have done that with a DVD set in years).
And, if you want a chance to get a feel for Charlie’s perspective, he’s offering a free webinar called “The Core Pendulum Theory” on Wednesday night at 6pm; click here for details. The product will then “go live” at 7pm – right after the webinar is complete – at an introductory rate of $147 (through Monday night only).
Introductions and product information aside, I asked Charlie what he thought the top eight general things were that one could take away from the DVD set, which lasts right about 12 hours – and these were his responses:
1. The only difference between "Training" and "Rehab" is the clinician's skill set. The goals are really all the same.
2. If you don't know how to treat someone in pain, team up with someone who can.
3. The Joint by Joint Theory tells you if the exercise has integrity.
4. The Core Pendulum Theory tells you why some positions are okay to establish movement, but not okay for exercise.
5. Creating Intra-Abdominal Pressure is the objective criterion for a "strong core."
6. The Functional Movement Screen is a screen, not an assessment. The Selective Functional Movement Assessment is not useful for someone without pain.
7. The body does not react reliably in the presence of pain.
8. Restoring mobility in the painful patient/client is the key to total body integrity.
Again, these are all very general principles – but over the next few days, I’m going to bring to light some of the outstanding “impact” points that Charlie made in Rehab=Training, Training=Rehab. For now, though, I’d encourage you to sign up for the free webinar HERE; you won’t be disappointed.
In part 1, I made the case for long toss as an effective addition to a throwing program. Today, we answer the question, “Why don’t some pitchers respond well to long toss?” Let’s look at the top four reasons why someone may not be approaching long toss optimally.
1. They structure it incorrectly.
By far, the biggest mistake I see from pitchers when they’re long tossing is that they don’t utilize compression/pull-down throws at the end of the session. These throws teach the pitcher to get on top of the ball and bring the release point down to where it should be with pitching – but they do all this with the increased arm speed you get from long tossing. Effectively, you use compression throws to transition from your longest throwing distance to a flat ground session (this is a practice you’ll see from a LOT of MLB starting pitchers in pre-game warm-ups before they ever step foot on a mound).
Typically, our guys use a compression throw every 45-60 feet on the way back in (it almost amounts to a brisk walk back in). So, if a pitcher went out to 300 feet with his long toss, he’d take compression throws at about 250, 200, 150, 100, and 60 feet. I joke with guys that the last throw at 60 feet should pretty much scare the crap out of their throwing partners. If you've seen Trevor Bauer crow-hopping downthe mound for his last warm-up pitch prior to every inning, you know what I mean. Not surprisingly, Bauer is an Alan Jaeger/Ron Wolforth long toss disciple. Here’s what Baseball America had to say about it: “[Bauer] starts behind the rubber, runs over the mound and throws as hard as he can to the plate, from about 54 feet. I've heard reports that those throws have registered 100 mph…”
Some guys – particularly those with a history of control issues and the guys who are trying to tinker with their mechanics – are wise to go into a brief flat-ground (or regular) bullpen right after these compression throws. It’s a good chance to transfer the arm speed and athleticism of long toss into a little more of a sport-specific action. I’ve also seen quite a few pitchers who have improved their change-ups considerably by long tossing for part of the session with their change-up grip, and then integrating it into one of these post-long-toss flat ground or bullpen sessions. It helps with keeping the arm speed up in pitchers who tend to slow down the arm for change-ups.
2. They become good throwers and not good pitchers.
I’ll be straightforward with this one.
If you can long toss 350 feet, but pitch at 80-82mph, you can definitely stand to cut back a bit on your long tossing to spend more time focusing on mound work to sync things up and use that general motor potential to your advantage.
If you can long toss 350 feet, but have a 1:6 strikeout:walk ratio and have pitches hitting the backstop, you can definitely stand to cut back a bit on your long tossing to spend more time focusing on mound work to sync things up and actually throw strikes.
If you can long toss 350 feet, but are getting shelled because you just throw a very straight 93mph and don’t have any secondary pitches, you can definitely stand to cut back a bit on your long tossing to spend more time focusing on mound work to sync things up and learn some other pitches. The average fastball velocity is higher in low-A than it is in the big leagues, you know…
3. They think long toss covers all their needs.
There are a ton of different factors that contribute to pitching success and longevity. Once you can throw a ball a long way, there is a tendency to think that you’ve done what you need to be successful, but in reality, there are a lot more things to address to prepare your body and long toss is still pretty specific, in the grand scheme of things. As is often the case, the greatest benefits are usually derived from doing the things that you don’t do particularly well (yet). Bartolo Colon, for instance, might be able to long toss 330 feet, but he might have a heart attack on the light jog to the outfield to partake in that long tossing session.
4. They don’t long toss on a straight line.
It seems like a no-brainer, but you should throw on a straight line. If the guy 250 feet away is 20-feet to the left of “center,” you’re teaching yourself to either stay closed or fly open with your delivery. Stand on the foul line or line yourself up between foul poles, if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to “get aligned.”
As you probably appreciate now, while long toss is usually a tremendously valuable inclusion in most throwing programs, it isn’t a perfect fit for everyone – and that’s why each unique case must be considered individually.
Don't forget that long toss guru Alan Jaeger has put his popular Thrive on Throwing DVD on sale for 25% off for my readers for a limited time only. Click here to learn more.
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Long toss may have been scorned by quite a few baseball traditionalists, but I am a big fan of it – and our guys have responded outstandingly to the way we’ve used it. Perhaps it’s just my “1+1=2” logic at work, but I just feel like if you can build up the arm speed to throw the ball a loooonngggg way, then you’ll be able to carry that over to the mound as soon as you get your pitching mechanics dialed in. And, this has certainly been validated with our athletes, as we have loads of professional pitchers who absolutely swear by long toss (both off- and in-season).
So, you can understand why I got excited when my good buddy, Alan Jaeger – a man who has devoted a big chunk of his life to getting long toss “accepted” in the baseball community – was featured in this article at MLB.com about what a difference it makes - including for the Texas Rangers on their road to the World Series a few years ago.
I was, however, not a fan of this paragraph in the article:
“Former Red Sox pitcher Dick Mills has a business built around teaching mechanics and maximizing velocity, and he is a staunch opponent of long tossing. He has released countless YouTube videos angrily decrying this practice. In his latest, ‘How Long Toss Can Ruin Your Pitching Mechanics and Your Arm,’ he says, ‘Why would you practice mechanics that are totally different and will not help a pitcher during a game? And why would you practice throwing mechanics that are clearly more stressful where the arm does most of the work?’"
Taking it a step further, here’s a Dick Mills quote I came across a few years ago:
“Training will not teach you how to apply more force…only mechanics can do that. And pitching is not about applying more effort into a pitch but is about producing more skilled movements from better timing of all the parts. That will help produce more force. No matter how hard you try, you will not get that from your strength training program…no matter who designed it, how much they have promised you it would or your hope that it will be the secret for you.”
While I agree (obviously) on the importance of mechanics and timing, effectively, we’re still being told that long toss, strength training, and weighted balls are all ineffective modalities for developing the pitcher – which leaves us with what, bullpens and stretching? It sounds like every youth baseball practice in the country nowadays – and all we’re getting now are injured shoulders and elbows at astronomical rates. Something isn’t right – and the message is very clear: specificity is a very slippery slope.
On one hand, when it comes to mechanics, you need to throw off the mound to get things fine-tuned to achieve efficiency.
On the other hand, research has shown that arm stress is higher when you’re on the mound (there is less external rotation at stride foot contact with flat ground throwing). Additionally, every pitch that’s thrown is really a step in the direction of sports specialization for a youth baseball player – and something needs to balance that out. Why?
Well, specializing at a young age is destroying kids. As a great study from Olsen et al. showed, young pitchers who require surgery pitched “significantly more months per year, games per year, innings per game, pitches per game, pitches per year, and warm-up pitches before a game. These pitchers were more frequently starting pitchers, pitched in more showcases, pitched with higher velocity, and pitched more often with arm pain and fatigue.” And people think that kid need more work on the mound? What they need are more structured throwing sessions (practice, not competition) and a comprehensive throwing and strength and conditioning program to prepare them for the demands they’ll face.
But those aren’t specific enough, are they?!?!?! Well, let’s talk about specificity a bit more. Actually, let’s read – from renowned physical therapist Gray Cook, a guy who certainly knows a thing or two about why people get injured:
The physical presentation of differently trained bodies often provides a signature of the type and style of activity that developed it. Those who are exclusive in their activities seem more often be molded to their activities, and sometimes actually over-molded. These individuals can actually lose movements and muscles that would make alternate activities much easier.
Specialization can rob us of our innate ability to express all of our movement potential. This is why I encourage highly specialized athletes to balance their functional movement patterns. They don’t so much need to train all movement patterns, they just need to maintain them. When a functional movement pattern is lost, it forecasts a fundamental crack in a foundation designed to be balanced. The point is not that specialization is bad—it only presents a problem when the singular activity over-molds to the point of losing balance.
While there are probably 15-20 awesome messages we can take home from the previous two paragraphs, here’s the big one I want to highlight: it’s our job as coaches to find the biggest window of adaptation a pitcher has and bring it up to speed – while simultaneously keeping other qualities in mind.
If he’s stiff, we work on mobility. If he’s weak, we get him strong. If he’s a mechanical train wreck, we get him more bullpens. If his arm speed isn’t good, we work more on weighted balls and long toss. If you just take a 5-10, 120-pound 9th grader and have him throw bullpens exclusively, he’ll get better for a little bit, and then plateau hard unless you get him bigger and stronger.
How does this work? It’s a little principle called Delayed Transmutation that Vladimir Zatsiorsky highlighted in Science and Practice of Strength Training. Zatsiorsky defines delayed transmutation as “the time period needed to transform acquired motor potential into athletic performance.” In other words, expand and improve your “motor pool” in the off-season, and it’ll be transformed into specific athletic performance when the time is right.
And, as I wrote in The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual, “the more experienced you are in a given sport, the less time it will take for you to transform this newfound strength and power [and mobility] into sporting contexts.” This is why professional pitchers can find their groove each year MUCH easier than high school pitchers in spite of the fact that they probably take more time off each year (2-3 months from throwing) than the typical overused kid who plays on 17 different AAU teams.
That said, there’s a somewhat interesting exception to this rule: really untrained kids. I’ll give you two examples from the past week alone at Cressey Performance.
We had a high school senior and a high school junior who both just started up their winter throwing programs to prepare for the season.
The first told me that he was sore in his legs after throwing for the first time in his life. Effectively, without throwing a single pitch or really doing any lesson work (or even throwing off a mound), this kid has managed to change the neuromuscular recruitment patterns he uses to throw the baseball. Strength, power, and mobility took care of themselves: delayed transmutation.
The second told me that his arm feels electric. Ask any experienced pitcher, and they’ll tell you that your arm is supposed to feel like absolute crap the first 4-5 days after an extended layoff, but it always gets better. However, when you’re a kid who has gotten more flexible and packed on a bunch of muscle mass, it’s like all of a sudden driving a Ferrari when you’re used to sharing a minivan with Mom: delayed transmutation.
Specificity is important in any sport, but a it really is just the work as far to the right as you can go on the general to specific continuum. Elite sprinters do squats, lunges, Olympic lifts, jump squats, and body weight plyos as they work from left to right on the general-to-specific continuum to get faster. So, why do so many pitching coaches insist that pitchers stay as far to the right as possible? Symbolically, long toss is to pitchers what plyos are to sprinters: specific, but just general enough to make a profound difference.
In a very roundabout way, I’ve made a case for long toss as something that can be classified as beneficial in much the same way that we recognize (well, most of us, at least) that mobility drills, foam rolling, strength training, movement training, and medicine ball drills to be excellent adjuncts to bullpens. In the process of learning to throw the baseball farther, we:
1. push arm speed up
2. train in a generally-specific fashion
3. improve contribution of the lower half
4. realize another specific, quantifiable marker (distance) of progress
5. keep throwing fun
6. train the arm with just enough LESS specificity to help keep pitchers healthy, as compared with mound work
The question then becomes, “Why don’t some pitchers respond well to long toss?” In part 2, I’ll outline the most common mistakes I’ve seen:
When I told Alan Jaeger that I was sending this article out, he graciously offered to set up a 25% off discount code on his Thrive on Throwing DVD set for my readers. This outstanding DVD set thoroughly teaches players and coaches how to approach long tossing, and Alan has also applied a discount to his J-Bands and his Getting Focused, Staying Focused book for pitchers. Here's a link to the discount page.
Sign up for a Free Copy of the Cressey Performance Post-Throwing Stretches:
This wraps up a four part series on key points to consider and techniques to utilize for correcting bad posture. In case you missed them, check out the previous three installments of this series:
Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture - Part 1Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture - Part 2Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture - Part 3
We'll pick this up with tips 13-16.
13. Look further down the kinetic chain.
I spent much of the last installment discussing the role of the thoracic spine and glenohumeral joint in distorting upper body posture. However, the truth is that it goes much further down than this, in many cases, and isn't quite as predictable. As the picture below shows, a posteriorly rotated pelvis (swayback posture - third from left)) can kick off a nasty thoracic kyphosis, but an excessively lordotic posture (second from left) can do the exact same thing; it really just comes down to where folks compensate.
In the swayback posture, we see more flexion-based back pain (in addition to the classic upper body injuries/conditions), whereas the lordotic posture kicks off extension-based back pain. Stretching the hip flexors a ton will help the lordotic folks, but usually have minimal effect for the swayback folks. So, you really have to assess the hips individually and contemplate how they impact what goes on further up.
Likewise, you can look even further down the chain. Overpronation at the foot and ankle kicks on excessive tibial and femoral internal rotation, which encourages more anterior pelvic tilt - which goes hand-in-hand with a lordotic posture. Further up, we may compensate for this lordosis by getting more kyphotic to reposition our center of mass and remain "functional" and looking straight ahead.
14. Get ergonomic...conservatively.
While some ergonomic adjustments to your work station can be extremely valuable, simple modifications often yield the quickest and most profound results. I've known folks who have gotten symptomatic relief by going to a standing or kneeling desk to get away from extended periods of time in hip flexion - and by getting the computer screen up to eye level.
Likewise, I always remind people that the best posture is the one that is constantly changing. So, regardless of how "correct' your posture may be, it should always be a transient thing.
If you're doing the program, chance are that you've noticed that there are quite a few unilateral upper body strength exercises - often one in each upper body training session. The reason is pretty simple; you train thoracic rotation and scapular protraction/retraction on each and every rep.
If we are doing thoracic mobility work and lower trap/serratus anterior activation drills in our warm-ups, this is a perfect opportunity to create stability within that new ROM and solidify the neural patterns we've hoping to establish (and get an added core training benefit). You simply can't get this with bilateral exercise, particularly in a supine (bench presses) or prone (chest-supported rows) position.
16. Add range of motion - not just load - to your weight training program.
This note is one that anyone with a decent power of observation could make. Walk in to any gym, and notice the people with the absolute worse posture as they go through their workout routines. What do they do?
They move as little as possible on every single rep. They squat high, don't go anywhere near the chest on bench presses, or just make up "strength exercises" that amount to violent spasms. And that's just the ignorant folks.
Among advanced lifters, you'll see a lot of folks with terrible shoulder mobility and posture sticking with board presses and floor presses (which are certainly justified in limited volumes at specific training times), and doing rows with crazy heavy weights that force them to substitute forward head posture in place of anything even remotely close to scapular retraction.
In short, these folks keep working to add load, when they really should be maintaining or even lowering the load while adding range of motion to their weight training programs.
Hopefully, this series brought to light some concepts that you can put into action right away. Down the road, I may "reincarnate" this series as I think up some more strategies - or based on reader feedback. Are there other areas you'd like covered? If so, post in the comments section and there may be a Part 5 afterall!
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Here are a few recommended reads for the week:
Shoulder Pain vs. Neck Pain - This old post highlights a simple, but very accurate observation from Mark Comerford.
28 Synergistic Factors for Success - I wrote this article at T-Nation back in 2005, but it still holds water and will make you appreciate how many differen factors are impacting your progress.
Too Much Vitamin D? - This great Q&A from Brian St. Pierre addresses this new question that seems to be popping up quite a bit.
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This is one of life’s most cruel jokes. With age comes wisdom (hopefully) and reflection. I often think about going back and changing certain things that happened in my past and how the outcome would have been so different.
I never would have stolen that cop car…
I never would have married a stripper…
I never would have pulled out my own tooth with a pair of pliers…
You know, stuff like that.
When you’re drunk and are hopped up on GHB, you do crazy things. Things that you want to take back; if you could just remember them.
You can’t change the past, you can just move forward, continue to educate yourself and not make the same mistakes again.
Training is the same way. I’m sure if you look back at the stuff “you used to do” in the weight room you’d probably laugh. And that is a good thing. You had to start there to get to where you are now. Progression and working to always be better is the key to success.
I’m no different. I’ve made many mistakes in the weight room not only with my training but the programs of my athletes. I’ve done things that worked and some things that didn’t work. But I kept learning. I kept going to seminars. I kept corresponding with other coaches in the industry. And I got better and learned a few things along the way. Here are a few of those innovations that I know will help you reach your goals in the gym.
Flow is the New Warm-up
Gone are the days of just hitting a few arm crosses and jumping jacks before your workout. Other staples like bodyweight squats and lunges, while very effective, aren’t really time efficient. Also, do they hit every articulation of the lower body for a complete prep?
Imagine this flow:
bodyweight squat => lunge forward right leg => fall into glute stretch
push back to lunge on the right leg => back to bodyweight squat
Repeat on left leg
Or how about this:
inchworm => push-up => push-up plus => inchworm back - Repeat
Now you’re getting the idea. Fast, efficient and encompassing as many movements as possible.
Stiffie or Softie?
When I say stiffie or softie, are you thinking about that Jimmy Johnson commercial for ED? I am! Man his hair is so cool.
We both should be thinking about some of the “tools” we use in the gym. Some tools or implements just aren’t the best choices for certain individuals when performing certain exercises.
Let’s talk about broomsticks. How do we use them? Two immediate examples are broomstick dislocates and broomstick wall squats. Both are great movements to open up the shoulders, chest and upper back as well as the wall squats drilling good squat form. But is the broomstick really the best tool for the job?
When we are talking about individual differences, limitations and mobility, no, it is not. I want you to think about replacing the broomstick with an elastic band.
The elastic band is perfect because it adjusts; it stretches and relaxes according to the individuals limitations. It does NOT force the lifter or athlete into a movement pattern. As the lifter hits a limitation the band stretches and allows the movement to continue while dynamically stretching the limitation. Overhead wall squats with elastic bands are great too for all the same reasons. You’ve probably abandoned dislocates because of how bad they feel with a broomstick. Try out these new variations and you’ll feel the difference.
Learn from my mistakes and continue to evolve with your training. This will ensure you continue to progress and bring efficiency into your workouts. No one wants to spend hours and hours in the gym. But when you are in the gym, you need to most bang for your buck and these new variations will help.
Innovations and versatility like this are what make my new product, Accelerated Muscular Development 2.0, a complete training system. Unlike most programs, it doesn’t just provide 12 weeks of workouts and leave it at that. In addition to giving you two 12 week programs, I also show you how to create your own programs moving forward – which puts you in a position to innovate for yourself and build your own programs.
Years and years of trial and error have led to the creation of the AMD 2.0 program template. It breaks the workout down into its essential components (most programs are missing these pieces) so that each section has its own priority and its own focus. From there, it is very simple. In fact, once you see the template and apply it to your first workout, you will never forget it. It is so easy. And like I said, I have been training for many years and have done a lot of things wrong. I really feel like AMD 2.0 is the next step because anyone can apply the template to whatever program they are on. So as you progress and finish the AMD workouts, you can repeat them or use the template with any program you want to try.
The AMD 2.0 template incorporates soft-tissue work, dynamic warm-ups, the primary workouts, core training and finally a rehab component. If you have purchased other programs, you’ll probably have noticed that you received the primary workouts ONLY. Unfortunately, this isn’t the right way to train. You must prepare your body to workout. Coming into the gym from the car after a long day and not warming up will always have a negative impact on your ability to move, train to your potential and remain injury free over the long term. There is a definite flow to a good workout and if you know how to do it, you can actually cut your workout time down significantly. We are going for high impact and short duration workouts. No one wants to spend 4-5 days a week in the gym with 2 hour workouts. With AMD you’ll have 3 training sessions a week lasting 45min to 1hr. Get in the gym, kill it and get out.
For more information – and a big introductory discount (this week only) with lots of bonuses – check out Accelerated Muscular Development 2.0.
Just a quick "heads-up" for today's blog. Last week, BJ Gaddour did a phone interview with me - and it's now available. You can check it out online HERE, or download the file for it HERE.
BJ has done some great stuff with Workout Muse, and they've got a pretty cool new iPhone application coming out soon that looks to be pretty sweet.
This is the third installment of my Correcting Bad Posture series. In case you missed the first two installments, you can check them out here:
Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture: Part 1Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture: Part 2
Today, we pick up with tip #9...
9. It's not just the strength exercises you perform; it's how you perform them. Often, people think that they just need to pick a bunch of "posture correction" exercises and they'll magically be fixed. Unfortunately, it's not that simple, as making corrections takes time, patience, consistency, and perfect technique. As an example, check out the following video of what some bad rows often look like in someone with a short pec minor, which pulls the coracoid process down and makes it tough to posteriorly tilt and retract the scapula. The first substitution pattern you'll see (first three reps) is forward head posture replacing scapular retraction, and the second one (reps 4-6) is humeral (hyper)extension replacing scapular retraction.
Ideally, the chin/neck/head should remain in neutral and the scapula should retract and depress in sync with humeral movement.
Of course, these problems don't just occur with rowing motions; they may be seen with everything from deadlifts, to push-ups, to chin-ups. So, be cognizant of how you're doing these strength exercises; you may just be making bad posture worse!
10. Get regular soft tissue work. I don't care whether it's a focal modality like Active Release, a mid-range modality like Graston Technique, or a more diffuse approach like general massage; just make sure that you get some sort of soft tissue work! A foam roller is a good start and something that you can use between more targeted treatments with a qualified professional. A lot of people really think that they are "breaking up scar tissue" with these modalities, and they certainly might be, but the truth is that I think more of the benefits come from altering fluid balance in the tissues, stimulating the autonomic nervous system, and "turning on" the sensory receptors in the fascia.
11. Recognize that lower body postural improvements will be a lot more stubborn than upper body postural improvements. Most of this series has been dedicated to improving upper body postural distortions (forward head posture and kyphosis). The truth is that they are always intimately linked (as the next installment will show) - however, in the upper body, bad posture "comes around" a bit sooner. Why?
We don't walk on our hands (well, at least not the majority of the time).
Joking aside, though, the fact that we bear weight on our lower body and core means that it's going to take a ton of time to see changes in anterior pelvic tilt and overpronation, as we're talking about fundamentally changing the people have walked for decades by attempting to reposition their center of gravity. That's not easy.
So why, then, do a lot of people get relief with "corrective exercises" aimed at bad posture? Very simply, they're creating better stability in the range of motion they already have; an example would be strengthening the anterior core (with prone bridges, rollouts, etc.) in someone who has a big anterior pelvic tilt and lordosis. You're only realigning the pelvis and spine temporarily, but you're giving them enough time and stability near their end range to give them some transient changes. The same would be true of targeted mobility and soft tissue work; it acutely changes ROM and tissue density to make movement easier.
Long-term success, of course, comes when you are consistent with these initiatives and don't allow yourself to fall into bad posture habits in your daily life. In fact, I have actually joked that we could probably improve posture the quickest if we just had people lie down between training sessions!
12. Add "fillers" to your weight training program. Mobility drills aimed at correcting bad posture are often viewed as boring, and in today's busy world, they are often the first thing removed when people need to get in and out of the gym quickly. To keep folks from skipping these important exercises, I recommend they include them as "fillers." Maybe you do a set each of ankle and thoracic spine mobility drills between each set of deadlifts (or any strength exercise, for that matter) - because you'd be resting for a couple of minutes and doing nothing, anyway. These little additions go a long way in the big picture as long as you're consistent with them.
I'll be back next week with Part 4 of the Correcting Bad Posture series.
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Today, we move forward with more strategies for correcting bad posture. In case you missed it, be sure to check out Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture: Part 1. We pick up with tip #5...
5. Don't overlook a lack of glenohumeral (shoulder) joint internal rotation. When it comes to bad posture, everyone thinks that the glenohumeral joint is only a "player" when it's stuck in internal rotation; that is, the ball - or humeral head - is rotated too far forward on the socket - or glenoid fossa - meaning that the individual just doesn't have adequate external rotation. And, this is often true - especially in non-athletic populations.
However, you'll also very commonly see poor posture folks who present with big glenohumeral internal rotation deficits (GIRD), particularly on the right side (for very legitimate reasons that go well beyond the scope of this article). This is much more common in athletes, particularly overhead throwers (read more: Static Posture Assessment Mistakes). When the posterior rotator cuff is stiff/short and there is an internal rotation deficit, we have to substitute excessive scapular protraction (winging) or thoracic flexion/rotation each time we reach for something.
So, for many folks, posterior shoulder mobility and soft tissue work is an important inclusion in cleaning things up in terms of appearance, function, and shoulder health. If - and only if - you've been assessed and it's been determined that you have an internal rotation deficit that compromises your total motion at the glenohumeral joint, you can integrate some gentle sleeper stretches (scapula stabilized!) to get a bit more ROM in the posterior cuff.
6. Don't overlook a lack of glenohumeral (shoulder) joint flexion. The shoulder is a tremendously mobile joint, so we need to appreciate what goes on outside the transverse plane as well. In particular, I see shoulder flexion limitations as a big problem. These limitations may come from the lat, teres major, long head of the triceps, or inferior capsule. Another overlooked cause can be posterior cuff restrictions; it's not uncommon to see both GIRD and major shoulder flexion limitations on the same side. As the picture below shows, the infraspinatus and teres minor run almost vertically when the arm is abducted a mere 90 degrees - which means that they're struggling to lengthen fully to allow full shoulder flexion (and abduction, for that matter).
These restrictions that can contribute to both faulty compensation patterns in certain positions, as well as overall bad posture chronically. Let's have a look at what these issues look like in the real world. First, in someone with a shoulder flexion limitation, you'd first want to check them in the supine position, with the knees flexed and back flat (to avoid substituting lumbar extension for shoulder flexion). Ideally, the arms should rest flat on the table - so this would be a "not-so-hot" result (especially since the arms "fall" to the sides a bit instead of staying in "attempted flexion"):
Next, let's take this same shoulder flexion limitation, and look at what would happen actively. In the first three reps of the video below, take note of the position of our subject's head at the start and finish of each rep; you'll see that as he "runs out" of shoulder flexion, he substitutes forward head posture. On the next three reps, after I cue him to keep his cervical spine in a more neutral posture, he has to arch his back excessively (lumbar hyperextension) to complete the movement.
Now, imagine taking this walking disaster (only kidding; I had Dave fake it for the video, as he's actually a finely tuned trained killing machine who can't be stopped by conventional weapons - and he's single, ladies) taking up overhead pressing, Olympic lifting, or just reaching for a glass on the top shelf. Then, imagine him doing those tasks over and over again. Obviously, the posture will get worse as he reinforces these compensation schemes - but something is going to surely break down along the way; it's just a question of whether it's his low back, shoulder, or neck!
Correcting these issues is easier said than done; as I noted, there are several structures that could be the limiting factor. However, for those looking for a relatively universal stretch they can use to get a bit of everything, I like the wall lat stretch with stabilization, one piece of a comprehensive (but not excessive and boring) static stretching program included in Show and Go.
7. Don't ignore the thoracic spine. The previous two examples focused exclusively on the glenohumeral joint, but the truth is that it is tremendously dependent on thoracic spine positioning. Ask any physical therapist, and they'll tell you that if they can get the thoracic spine moving, they can instantly improve glenohumeral joint range-of-motion without even touching the shoulder (this is incredibly valuable with folks who may have stiff glenohumeral joints that can't be mobilized aggressively following shoulder surgery; they need ROM in any way possible). And, truthfully, you can substitute a lack of thoracic spine extension for the shoulder flexion problems and compensation schemes above, and a lack of thoracic spine rotation can work in much the same way as a GIRD (substitute excessive scapular protraction with reaching tasks).
If you ever want to quickly check to see what limiting thoracic extension does to someone's upper body posture, just put them in supine position and push the sternum/rib cage down - which will bring the thoracic spine into flexion. Watch what happens to the position of his chin, and the size of the "gap" between his neck and the table:
Now, just consider what kind of "yank" this puts on the sternocleidomastoid chronically...
...and you'll understand why a lack of thoracic spine mobility can give people enough neck pain and tension headaches to make Lindsay Lohan's hangovers look like a walk in the park. And this doesn't even consider what's going on with scalenes, suboccipitals, levator scapulae, subclavius, and a host of other muscles that are royally pissed off! Also, think about all those folks in your gym doing hours and hours of crunches (especially while tugging on the neck). Ouch.
For that reason, we need to get our thoracic spine moving - and more specifically, we need to get it moving in both extension and rotation. I've mentioned in the past that the side-lying extension-rotation is one of my favorites (assuming no symptoms); remember that the overwhelming majority of the range-of-motion is coming from the upper back, not just the shoulder:
Here's another we're using quite a bit nowadays in our folks who have good internal rotation (which we want to keep!):
8. Watch your daily habits and get up more frequently. I'm at 1,140 words for this post right now - plus several pictures and videos. In other words, some of you might have been hunched over your computer screens trying to figure out what I'm saying for over 20 minutes now - and that's when "creep" starts to set in an postural changes become more and more harmful (both aesthetically and functionally).
With that in mind, make a point of getting up more frequently throughout the day if you have to be sitting a ton. Likewise, "shuffle" or "fidget" in your chair; as Dr. Stuart McGill once said, "The best posture is the one that is constantly changing." Now, shouldn't you get up and walk around for a few minutes?