Home Posts tagged "correcting bad posture" (Page 3)

Corrective Exercise: Muscle Imbalances Revealed Review – Upper (Part 2)

This marks Part 2 of my write-up on Muscle Imbalances Revealed - Upper Body, a product that really impressed me.  In my first post, I highlighted some of Dean Somerset's great contributions to the project, and today, I thought I'd bring to light seven more great corrective exercise lessons from another excellent presenter on this resource.

Dr. Jeff Cubos is an Alberta-based chiropractor with an outstanding skill set that not only encompasses his clinical work, but also an excellent ability to relate how what he does in the clinic applies to those in the strength and conditioning field.  This "dual proficiency" was readily apparent in his presentations, too.

Here were a few highlights:

1. From an alignment standpoint, you can envision the core like a house - where the diaphragm is the ceiling, and the pelvic floor is the floor.  Just like with the house, too, the ceiling and floor should be parallel.  Having an anterior pelvic tilt and rib flair dramatically alters this:

2. Good training to address this issue isn't just about stretching hip flexors and activating glutes, though; it's about retraining breathing, "owning" one's breathing in various positions, and progressing that respiratory function (and, in turn, rib positioning) into more comprehensive strength exercises.

3. Jeff does the best job I've seen of discussing breathing drill progression - and how to sync them up with progressive strength training programs.  Just as importantly, though, he does a great job discussing the role of the diaphragm, utilizing an excellent video to show exactly how it works (as you watch it, be sure to check out how the right diaphragm attachment point is more prominent on the spine).  I've mentioned many times in the past in the blog about how we utilize breathing drills, and folks always want to know what they are.  Unfortunately, you can't really just describe a breathing drill; you need to show it and add specific cues.  Jeff does exactly that.  Here's a good excerpt on the assessment side of things, too:

4.  Dr. Cubos also discusses bits and pieces of both the Dynamic Neuromuscular Stability (DNS) and Postural Restoration Institute (PRI) philosophies.  Having been to seminars for both disciplines, I can tell you that Jeff does a great job of presenting this valuable, but sometimes confusing information in as user-friendly a format as one possibly can.  It's a cursory overview, but enough to give you an introduction to these philosophies to find out if they're right for you.

5. Even if you aren't planning to delve deeply into these disciplines, Jeff covers a few specific cues that you can apply to breathing correctly on every exercise you do - especially if you (or your clients) are stuck in anterior pelvic tilt, lordosis, and an elevated ribs posture.  For instance, Jeff uses the cue of performing a few diaphragmatic breaths at the point of greatest tension in a movement; this will enable an athlete to "own" that position more quickly.  He uses the example of holding for a count of "one-one-thousand" at the top position of the quadruped extension-rotation:

6. I've got to great lengths in several previous blog posts to distinguish between tendinitis (inflammatory) and tendinosis (degenerative) - and Dr. Cubos did a good job of reaffirming things on that front (tendinosis is much more common than tendinitis).  However, he took it even further with some excellent information on the "continuum" of tendinopathies.  I've spoken about how we're all waiting to reach "threshold" (presentation of symptoms), but haven't paid a lot of attention to sub-clinical tendinopathies.  Here's how Jeff portrayed the continuum:

Reactive Tendinopathy - This is acute overload (too much, too soon).  Soft tissue treatments are beneficial, but not locally to the tissue in question.  An example that immediately comes to my mind is a supraspinatus tendinosis; manual therapy to the pec minor, posterior rotator cuff, etc. would be very helpful, but working directly on the supraspinatus could exacerbate the problem significantly.

Tendon Dysrepair - Dr. Cubos referred to this as "a failed attempt at healing, and a disorganization of the connective tissue matrix."  Immediately, I thought of someone with chronically crank hamstrings following a previous strain.  Direct soft tissue work has much more immediate and profound benefits.

Degenerative Tendinopathy - This is the obnoxious, long-term tendinosis we've come to know - whether it's an Achilles tendon or common extensor tendon (Tennis Elbow).  Here we have cell death, disorganization of the connective tissues, and less collagen.  Unfortunately, full resolution isn't that common - but most people can respond over time to the right kind of rehabilitation programs.

7. Last, but certainly not least, Jeff introduces his audience to several common soft tissue treatment approaches, including Active Release Technique, Fascial Manipulation, Functional Range Release, and the various modalities of Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization.  In describing each, he outlines why some may be better for others in certain instances, as well as the differences between approaches.  I think this is a "must-watch" for trainers to understand the skills of the manual therapists to whom they refer, and also up-and-coming rehabilitation specialists to decide which approaches they'll utilize in their professional careers.

All in all, Dr. Cubos was another new name (for me, at least) that I was glad to come across - and I'll definitely be following him more moving forward.  And, in addition to Cubos and Somerset's contributions, there are a host of other great professionals who have contributed to the entire Muscle Imbalances Revealed - Upper series, which is currently on sale with a 60-day money back guarantee, too, so check it out here.

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Corrective Exercise: Muscle Imbalances Revealed Review – Upper (Part 1)

Last summer, Rick Kaselj sent me the eight webinars from his new collaborative product, Muscle Imbalances Revealed - Upper Body, to review.  I was really excited to check them out, as I'd enjoyed the initial version of the Muscle Imbalanced Revealed (MIR) series.

Unfortunately, my enthusiasm to watch it was overtaken by a crazy busy summer schedule and I only got around to looking it over a few months later.  I regretted that it took me so long, as I really enjoyed what I viewed.  That said, I thought I'd use today's piece to comment on my favorite take-homes from one presenter, Dean Somerset, who I thought did an exceptional job.  Be sure to read through to the end, as Rick has a great discount on the entire Muscle Imbalances Revealed series in play this week.

Anyway, Dean's presentation was a pleasant surprise for me in the initial Muscle Imbalances Revealed collection, as I had not been familiar with his work prior to the product.  As it turned out, he did a great job of delving into the fascial system, which is no easy task, considering that even the foremost experts on "fascial fitness" recognize that we still have a tremendous amount to learn in this regard.

His presentations this time around didn't deviate from that initial trend, either; I really enjoyed them for a number of reasons; here are my top seven:

1. Dean did the best job of outlining a clear rationale for foam rolling that I've seen in the industry thus far - and did so in a very layman-friendly format.  In highlighting the role of Ruffini endings - which are slow adapting, low threshold mechanoreceptors that respond to direct pressure (like foam rolling) - Dean showed that they can decrease tone of tissues in the presence of stretch and inhibit sympathetic nervous system activity.

2. Another way he made his point was with a great analogy.  Much like we have fast-twitch and slow-switch muscles, we have receptors that may act in similar ways.  On one hand, we have "fast twitch" receptors like golgi tendon organs and muscle spindles that function with the musculotendinous units.  On the other hand, we have "slow twitch" receptors like Ruffini endings and Pacini fibers that exist in the fascial tissues.  Because the muscules, tendons, ligaments, and fascial tissues are really all continuous with each other, there exists a great amount of interaction between these slow and fast twitch receptors - much like the interaction of different muscle fiber types.  They are all responsive - in both positive and negative directions - to chronic training stimuli - and sitting on your arse in front of a computer screen for years on-end.

3. Dean noted that fascia carries an electrical charge that is never off; it’s just "on" at different levels.  Certainly, it's far more "on" with exercise than at rest - and it's the reason that contractions can last for hours post-exercise.  If you have an individual who isn't able to tone down (pun intended) that contraction in the post-exercise period, you're likely dealing with someone who'll have chronic movement impairments.  If this electrical charge is always present, it can ultimately alter movement to the point that joint structure can actually change (think of the reactive changes in an acromion process, as an example).  Appropriate training enables one to get the benefits of exercise without creating negative long-term adaptation in this regard.

4. What is appropriate training for fascial fitness, though?  Dean cites the same seven components to an appropriate program that I outlined here, but he does so with a very valuable qualifications: adequate hydration status is absolutely crucial to making the most of any training status.  Repeated stretch bouts during the warm-up period allows for more water content for the fascia; each successive stretch improves hydration to allows for better elasticity and tensile strength, which in turn provides better joint stability and force production.

5. I like guys who solve problems.  I love using spiderman variations in our warm-ups, as they are great hip mobility drills.  Unfortunately, though, they don't always look so hot when you have someone with poor thoracic mobility trying to get their elbow down to the inside of their thighs.  Many folks will wind up rounding over - which is certainly not ideal.  Imagine Quasimodo doing this drill and you'll get what I mean.

Dean's solution - which provided me with a "why didn't I think of that?" moment - was to bring the thigh up to the torso.  In other words, do the forward lunge component onto a 12-inch plyo box so that folks can get the hip mobility benefits without compromising thoracic positioning.  Sweet.

6. I thought Dean did an excellent job of highlighting that it can take years to improve fascial fitness substantially.  Super-immobile individuals usually take years and years of either sedentary lifestyles or terrible training habits to get to that point, and unless they're ready to dramatically overhaul their mindsets and daily habits, it can be like swimming upstream when correcting bad posture.  Be consistent when addressing these limitations, but also be patient.

7. I love the fact that he commented on all the normal roles of the core - force transfer, resisting movement, returning from a position outside of neutral - but also highlighted that optimal core function is essential for optimal respiratory function.  Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that we use a lot of specific breathing drills, so I was glad to see a bright dude in the industry backing me up on this one!

This is really just the tip of the iceberg with respect to not only Dean's two presentations, but the entire Muscle Imbalances Revealed - Upper Body package, which also includes webinars from Rick Kaselj, Jeff Cubos, and my business partner, Tony Gentilcore.   I'll highlight a few more of my favorite takeaways in my next post, but in the meantime, I'd strongly encourage you to check this great resource out for yourself.

To sweeten the deal, Rick has put the entire Muscle Imbalances Revealed product on sale for $210 off the normal price through tomorrow (Friday) at midnight.  It's a fantastic deal on a product that I highly recommend - and one that comes with a 60-day money-back guarantee, plus several cool bonus features (including two interviews Rick did with me).  Click here to check it out.

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Corrective Exercise: Sequencing the Law of Repetition Motion Sequence

When it comes to corrective exercise programs, everyone simply wants to know "what" is and isn't included - and rightfully so. Picking the right strength exercises and mobility drills - and contraindicating others - is absolutely crucial to making sure you get folks to where they want to be. However, very rarely will you hear anyone specifically discuss the "when" in these scenarios, and as I'll demonstrate in today's piece, it's likely just as crucial to get this aspect correct. To begin to illustrate my point, I'm going to reuse a quote from an article I wrote a few weeks ago, Correcting Bad Posture: Are Deadlifts Enough?, on the Law of Repetitive Motion : Consider the law of repetitive motion, where “I” is injury to the tissues, “N” is the number of repetitions, “F” is the force of each repetition as a percentage of maximal strength, “A” is the amplitude (range of motion) of each repetition, and “R” is rest.  To reduce injury to tissues (which negative postural adaptations can be considered), you have to work on each of the five factors in this equation.

You perform soft tissue work – whether it’s foam rolling or targeted manual therapy – on the excessively short or stiff tissues (I).  You reduce the number of repetitions (length of time in poor posture: R), and in certain cases, you may work to strengthen an injured tissue (reduce F).  You incorporate mobility drills (increase A) and avoid bad postures (increase R). What I failed to mention a few weeks ago, though, was that the sequencing of these corrective modalities must be perfect in order to optimize the training/corrective effect and avoid exacerbating symptoms.  Case in point, we recently had a client come to us as a last resort with chronic shoulder issues, as he was hoping to avoid surgery.  Physical therapy had made no difference for him (aside from shrinking his wallet with co-pays), and following that poor outcome, he'd had a similar result with soft tissue treatments twice a week for six weeks.  In a single four-week program, we had him back to playing golf pain free.  What was the difference?

In the first physical therapy experience, he'd been given a bunch of traditional rotator cuff and scapular stabilization exercises.  There had been absolutely no focus on soft tissue work or targeted mobility drills to get the ball rolling.  In other words, all he did was improve stability within the range of motion he already had.  In the equation above, all he really worked on was reducing the "F" by getting a bit stronger. In his soft tissue treatment experiences, he felt a bit better walking out of the office, but ran into a world of hurt when his provider encouraged him to "just do triceps pressdowns and lat pulldowns" for strength training.  In other words, this practitioner worked on reducing "I" and increasing "A," but totally missed the boat with respect  to enhancing strength (reducing "F") and increasing rest ("R") because of the inappropriate follow-up strength exercise prescription.  Doh!

What did we do differently to get him to where he needed to be?  For starters, he saw Dr. Nate Tiplady, a manual therapist at CP, twice a week for combination Graston Technique and Active Release treatments (reducing "I") at the start of his training sessions.  He followed that up with a specific manual stretching, positional breathing, and mobility exercise warm-up program (increase "A") that was designed uniquely for him.  Then, he performed strength training to establish stability (decrease "F") within the new ranges of motion (ROM) attained without reproducing his symptoms (decreasing "N" and increasing "R). The sequencing was key, as we couldn't have done some of the strength exercises we used if we hadn't first gotten the soft tissue work and improved his ROM.  He may have had valuable inclusions in his previous rehabilitation efforts, but he never had them at the same time, in the correct sequence. This thought process actually closely parallels a corrective exercise approach Charlie Weingroff put out there much more succinctly in his Rehab = Training, Training = Rehab DVD set: Get Long. Get Strong. Train Hard.

Keep in mind that there are loads of different ways that you can "get long."  You might use soft tissue work (Active Release, Graston Technique, Traditional Massage, etc.), positional breathing (Postural Respiration Institute), mobility drills (Assess and Correct), manual stretching, or any of a host of other approaches (Mulligan, DNS, Maitland, McKenzie, etc).  You use whatever you are comfortable using within your scope of practice.

When it's time to "get strong," you can do so via several schools of thought as well - but the important thing is that the strength exercises you choose don't provoke any symptoms.

It's interesting to note that this corrective exercise approach actually parallels what we do with our everyday strength and conditioning programs at Cressey Performance - and what I put forth in Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better.  We foam roll, do mobility warm-ups, and then get cracking on strength and stability within these "acutely" optimized ranges of motion to make them more permanent.

Related Posts

Corrective Exercise: Why Stiffness Can be a Good Thing Strength Training Programs: Lifting Heavy Weights vs. Corrective Exercise - Finding a Balance

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Correcting Bad Posture: Are Deadlifts Enough?

Earlier this week, I received an email from a reader who was wondering whether deadlifts executed in perfect technique could be all one needs for correcting “bad posture.” It got me to thinking about just how ideal the deadlift really is.  Working from the ground up: 1.You’re teaching folks to keep their weight back on their heels, and (ideally) executing the lift in minimalist or no footwear – thereby increasing dorsiflexion range-of-motion. 2. You increase stiffness in the hamstrings and glutes, which extend the hip and posteriorly tilt the pelvis.

3. You get a great co-contraction of all the muscles of the core to effectively handle all shear and compressive forces on the spine.  In the process, you lock the rib cage to the pelvis and establish a solid zone of apposition (learn more here) for the diaphragm to function optimally. 4. You establish stiffness in the thoracic erectors, thereby minimizing a thoracic kyphosis.  As I noted a few weeks ago, stiffness can be a great thing. 5. You pull the scapulae into retraction and depression, thereby increasing stiffness in the lower trapezius. 6. You pack the neck, ingraining the ideal cervical posture.

It’s no surprise that the deadlift is an outstanding strength exercise when it comes to correcting bad posture.  However, is it enough?  I don’t think so. Why? Well, first, you have to remember that postural considerations must be multiplanar.  Just because we’re moving in the right direction in a bilateral, sagittal plane motion doesn’t mean that we’re ironing out issues in the frontal and transverse planes.  Is there adequate control of femoral internal rotation and adduction by the hip external rotators/abductors?  Do you see a big rib flair on the left side and a low shoulder on the right?  Does an individual have adequate thoracic rotation to match up with the thoracic extension that’s been improved?

We really never work in a single plane during functional activities; life is a combination of many movements.  Bad posture – to me at least – isn’t just characterized by how someone stands in the anatomical position, but how he or she is gets into specific positions.  In other words, “posture” isn’t much different than “mobility.”  Very simply, these terms imply stability within a given range-of-motion. Second, consider the law of repetitive motion, where “I” is injury to the tissues, “N” is the number of repetitions, “F” is the force of each repetition as a percentage of maximal strength, “A” is the amplitude (range of motion) of each repetition, and “R” is rest.  To reduce injury to tissues (which negative postural adaptations can be considered), you have to work on each of the five factors in this equation.

You perform soft tissue work – whether it’s foam rolling or targeted manual therapy – on the excessively short or stiff tissues (I).  You reduce the number of repetitions (length of time in poor posture: R), and in certain cases, you may work to strengthen an injured tissue (reduce F).  You incorporate mobility drills (increase A) and avoid bad postures (increase R). Deadlifts certainly work in some of these capacities, but to say that they alone are enough overlooks the fact that adequate “abstinence” from poor postures is essential to making things work.  To easily appreciate this, just ask: “Which is easier to address, an anterior pelvic tilt or a thoracic kyphosis?” The answer is unquestionably “thoracic kyphosis.”  Why?  It’s a lot easier to adjust your upper extremity posture than it to change the way your pelvis is positioned during weight-bearing.  Every step re-ingrains faulty posture and “cancels out” your deadlifts unless you’re really careful. At the end of the day, deadlifts are arguably the single-most effective out there for correcting bad posture.  However, in isolation, they simply aren’t enough, as you need everything from multiplanar mobilizations and strength exercises, to manual therapy, to breathing drills in combination with avoidance of bad posture during your daily life.  These additions take “effective” and make it “optimal.”

Looking to learn more?  Check out Functional Stability Training of the Lower Body, where I have an entire presentation, 15 Things I've Learned About the Deadlift.


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How to Deadlift: Which Variation is Right for You? – Part 1 (Conventional Deadlift)

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the deadlift.

It’s a great strength exercise for the posterior chain with excellent carryover to real life – whether we’re talking about athletics or picking up bags of groceries.

It’s among the best muscle mass builders of all time because it involves a ton of muscle in the posterior chain, upper back, and forearms.

It’s a tremendous corrective exercise; I’m not sure that I have an exercise I like more for correcting bad posture, as this one movement can provide the stiffness needed to minimize anterior pelvic tilt and thoracic kyphosis.


These benefits, of course, are contingent on the fact that one can perform the deadlift correctly to make it safe.  And, sadly, the frequency of what I’d consider “safe” deadlifts has diminished greatly as our generation has spent more and more time a) at computers, b) in high-top sneakers with big heel lifts, and c) watering down beginner fitness programs so much that people aren’t taught to deadlift (or do any valuable, compound exercises) when starting a strength training program.

To me, there are two ways to make things “safe.”  The first is to teach correct deadlift technique, which I already did with a 9-minute video that is free to anyone who subscribes to my newsletter (if you missed it, you can just opt-in to view it HERE).  This video troubleshoots three common variations of the deadlift: conventional, sumo, and trap bar.

The second is to educate lifters on which deadlift versions are the safest versions for different individuals with different injury histories and movement inefficiencies.  That’s the focus of today’s piece.  We’ll start with the conventional deadlift.

While this version of the deadlift is undoubtedly the “one that started it all,” it’s also the most technically advanced and potentially dangerous of the bunch.  Shear stress on the spine is going to be higher on the conventional deadlift than any other variation because the bar is further away from the center of gravity than in any other variation.  Additionally, in order to get down to the bar and maintain one’s center of gravity in the right position while maintaining a neutral spine, you’ve got to have excellent ankle, hip, and thoracic spine mobility.  Have a look at the video below, and take note of the position of the ankles, hips, and thoracic spine:

You’ll notice that the ankles are slightly dorsiflexed (knees out over toes).  If you are crazy restricted in your ankles and can’t sufficiently dorsiflex, two problems arise:

1. You can’t create a “space” to which the bar can be pulled back toward (a lot of the best deadlifters pull the bar back to the shin before breaking the bar from the floor).  You can observe this space by drawing a line straight down from the front of the knee to the floor at the 2-second mark of the above video:

2. Those who can’t dorsiflex almost always have hypertonic plantarflexors (calves). These individuals always struggle with proper hip-hinging technique, as they substitute lumbar flexion for hip flexion in order to “counterbalance” things so that they don’t tip over.

You’ll also notice that the hips are flexed to about 90 degrees in my example.  I have long arms and legs and a short torso, so I have a bit less hip flexion than someone with shorter arms would need.  They would utilize more hip flexion (and potentially dorsiflexion) to be able to get down and grab the bar.

Regardless of one’s body type, you need to be able to sufficiently flex the hips.  You’d be amazed at how many people really can’t even flex the hips to 90 degrees without some significant compensation patterns.  Instead, they just go to the path of least resistance: lumbar flexion (lower back rounding).

Moving on to the thoracic spine, think about what your body wants to do when the ankles and hips are both flexed: go into the fetal position.  The only problem is that the fetal position isn’t exactly optimal for lifting heavy stuff, where we want to maintain a neutral spine.  Optimal thoracic spine mobility – particularly into extension – brings our center of gravity back within our base of support and helps ensure that we don’t lose the neutral lumbar spine as soon as external loading (the lift) is introduced.

As you can see, having mobility in these three key areas is essential in order to ensure that the conventional deadlift is both a safe and effective strength exercise in your program.  The problem is that in today’s society, not many people have it.  So, what do we do with those who simply can’t deadlift effectively from the floor?

We’ve got two options:

1. We can simply elevate the bar slightly (or do rack pulls) to teach proper hip hinging technique in the conventional stance – and train the movement within the limitations of their ankle, hip, and thoracic spine (upper back) mobility.

2. We can simply opt to go with a different deadlift variation.  This is something that, for some reason, most previously injured lifters can’t seem to grasp.  They have near-debilitating low back injuries that finally become asymptomatic, and they decide to go right back to conventional deadlifts with “light weights.”  They still have the same movement impairments and flawed technique, so they build their strength back up, ingraining more and more dysfunction along the way.  They’d be better off doing other things – including trap bar and sumo deadlifts – for quite some time before returning to the conventional deadlift.

And, on that note, we’ll examine those two other deadlift variations in parts 2 and 3 of this series.  Stay tuned!

To see how all the deadlift variations fit into a comprehensive strength and conditioning program, check out The High Performance Handbook.

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Corrective Exercise: Why Stiffness Can Be a Good Thing

With reference to strength and conditioning programs, the adjective "stiff" is generally perceived to be a bad thing, as folks mean it in a general sense.  In other words, you seem "locked up" and don't move well. Taken more literally and applied to specific joints, stiffness can be a very good thing.  A problem only exists if someone is excessively stiff - especially in relation to adjacent joints.  If someone has the right amount of stiffness to prevent movement at a segment when desired, then you would simply say that it's "stable."  That doesn't sound too bad, does it? This is generally a very confusing topic, so I'll use some examples to illustrate the concept. Example #1: Reducing kyphosis. Take your buddy - we'll call him Lurch - who sits at a desk all day long.  He's got a horrible Quasimodo posture, and he comes to your for help with improving it.  You know that his thoracic spine is stuck in flexion and needs to be unlocked, so you're obviously going to give him some thoracic spine mobility drills.  That's a no brainer.

However, would you say that Lurch would make better progress correcting bad posture with those drills alone, or if he combines those drills with some deadlifting, horizontal pulling strength exercises, and a more extended thoracic spine posture during the day?  Of course Lurch would do much better with those additions - but why? All those additions increased stiffness. With the thoracic erectors adequately stiff relative to the cervical erectors (which create forward head posture when too stiff) and lumbar erectors (create lordosis when too stiff), there is something to "hold" these changes in place.  If you're just doing the thoracic spine mobilizations, you're just transiently modifying stiffness (increasing tolerance to stretch) - NOT increasing range of motion!

You know what else is funny?  In 99% of cases like this, you'll also see an improvement in glenohumeral range of motion (both transiently and chronically).  Mobilize a thoracic spine and it's easier to create stiffness in the appropriate scapular stabilizers.  When the peri-scapular muscles are adequately stiff, the glenohumeral joint can move more freely.  It's all about understanding the joint-by-joint theory; mobility and stability alternate. Example #2: The guy who can squat deep with crazy stiff hip flexors. A few years ago, one of our interns demonstrated the single-worst Thomas Test I've ever seen.  In this assessment, which looks at hip flexor length, a "good" test would have the bottom leg flat on the table with no deviation to the side.  In the image below (recreated by another intern), the position observed would be indicative of shortness or stiffness in the rectus femoris and/or psoas (depending on modifying tests):

In the case to which I'm referring, though, our intern was about twice as bad as what you just saw.  He might very well have had barnacles growing on his rectus femoris, from what I could tell.  But you know what?  He stood up right after that test and showed me one of the "crispest" barefoot overhead squats I've ever seen.

About an hour later, I watched him front squat 405 to depth with a perfectly neutral spine.  So what gives?  I mean, there's no way a guy with hip flexors that stiff (or short) should be able to squat without pitching forward, right?

Wrong.  He made up for it with crazy stiffness in his posterior hip musculature and outstanding core stability (adequate stiffness).  This stiffness enables him to tap in to hip mobility that you wouldn't think is there.

Is this a guy that'd still need to focus on tissue length and quality of the hip flexors?  Absolutely - because I'd expect him to rip a hole in one of them the second he went to sprint, or he might wind up with anterior knee pain eventually.

Does that mean that squatting isn't the best thing for him at the time, even if he can't do it?  Not necessarily, as it is a pattern that you don't want to lose, it's a key part of him maintaining a training effect, and because you want him to feel what it's like to squat with less anterior hip stiffness as he works to improve his hip mobility (rather than just throw him into the fire with "new hips" down the road).

These are just two examples; you can actually find examples of "good stiffness" all over the body.  So, as you can imagine, this isn't just limited to corrective exercise programs; it's also applicable to strength and conditioning programs for healthy individuals.  Effective programs implement mobility exercises and self myofascial release to transiently reduce stiffness where it's excessive, and strength exercises to stiffen segments that are unstable.  Effectively, you teach the body how to move correctly - and then load it up to work to make that education permanent.

Want to take the guesswork out of your strength and conditioning programming?  Check out Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better.

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Weight Training for Baseball: Featured Articles

I really enjoy writing multi-part features here at EricCressey.com because it really affords me more time to dig deep into a topic of interest to both my readers and me.  In many ways, it's like writing a book.  Here were three noteworthy features I published in 2010: Understanding Elbow Pain - Whether you were a baseball pitcher trying to prevent a Tommy John surgery or recreational weightlifter with "tennis elbow," this series had something for you. Part 1: Functional Anatomy Part 2: Pathology Part 3: Throwing Injuries Part 4: Protecting Pitchers Part 5: The Truth About Tennis Elbow Part 6: Elbow Pain in Lifters

Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture - This series was published more recently, and was extremely well received.  It's a combination of both quick programming tips and long-term modifications you can use to eliminate poor posture. Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture: Part 1 Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture: Part 2 Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture: Part 3 Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture: Part 4

A New Paradigm for Performance Testing - This two-part feature was actually an interview with Bioletic founder, Dr. Rick Cohen.  In it, we discuss the importance of testing athletes for deficiencies and strategically correcting them.  We've begun to use Bioletics more and more with our athletes, and I highly recommend their thorough and forward thinking services. A New Paradigm for Performance Testing: Part 1 A New Paradigm for Performance Testing: Part 2 I already have a few series planned for 2011, so keep an eye out for them!  In the meantime, we have two more "Best of 2010" features in store before Friday at midnight. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter:
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Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture – Part 4

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 1 Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture - Part 2 Strategies 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.

15. Use 1-arm pressing and pulling variations.

This recommendation will be appreciated by those of you who have checked out my new product, Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better.

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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Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture: Part 3

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 1 Strategies 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.

For more thoughts along these lines, check out my recap of a Thomas Myers presentation: The Fascial Knock on Distance Running for Pitchers.

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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