Home Posts tagged "Mobility" (Page 3)

Review of Rehab=Training, Training=Rehab: Top 10 Takeaways – Part 1

I wrote yesterday about how fantastic I think Charlie Weingroff's new DVD set, Rehab=Training, Training=Rehab is.  Now that it's on sale, I thought I'd use my next few posts to highlight the top ten key points he made that really stood out in my mind. Here are the first five. 1. I hear people saying all the time that they need to find a niche – and I’ve written in the past about how I found my own niche.  As Weingroff points out, we’re all working with the same platform and set of rules: how the body works.  A “niche” just comes about because we get good with working with those rules in specific populations to create a subspecialty.  I train baseball players using my unique methodology, but there are others out there getting results in this population with different modalities, too, because they're performed correctly and these folks keep the original set of rules in mind.  Likewise, there are folks with similar thought processes as mine - and they're getting results in populations outside of the baseball world. The take-home message on this point is that if you want to be a specialist in your niche, you need to understand general principles first.

2. We’re always trying to find the “link” between terrible movement and pathology/diagnosis – and Charlie offered a good perspective in light of the joint-by-joint theory of movement (a central piece of his two-day presentation).  When mobile joints become stable, we get degenerative changes (arthritis) and poor recovery.  When stable joints become mobile, we end up with dislocations, positional faults, muscle strains, and disc herniations.  Want to prevent or address these issues?  Work backward along this line of logic with your corrective exercise strategy. 3. Speaking of the joint-by-joint approach, Charlie offered the most comprehensive approach I’ve seen.  Traditionally, this approach has been discussed largely in the context of the sagittal plane only, but it definitely has frontal and transverse plane implications as well.  Weingroff also went into more detail on the neck and foot than I’ve seen – as you have alternating mobile/stable joints within these entities, too.

4. Typically, a joint in this school of thought will only really have two direct impacts: the joint above it and the one below it.  The hip might impact the knee or lumbar spine, for instance. The thoracic spine, however, has more far-reaching effects, though, and that’s likely why it’s such a crucial area of focus.  It affects four systems: the neck, ribs (respiration), scapula/clavicle, and the lumbar spine.  So, if you’re seeing a lot of “gross” dysfunction above the hips, it’s often the best place to start with your corrective exercise.

5. Charlie goes to some great lengths in defense of the vertical shin (tibia) as compared to the angled shin during various tasks, most notably squatting.  He raises an interesting question in asking whether it’s really a good thing for both the femur and tibia to move simultaneously during the angled shin squat – as it essentially works in contrast to the joint by joint theory of movement he proposes. Meanwhile, almost every day, we see folks whose knee pain disappears when we teach them to squat with a vertical shin – effectively letting the femur move as the tibia stays still.  The same goes for teaching folks to deadlift, do pull-throughs, or anything else that emphasizes “hips back” as opposed to “knees forward.”

Admittedly, Charlie says it much better than I do, though!  And, I should note that he emphasizes mastering the movement far more than simply loading it up - especially if we are talking about loading up a dysfunctional pattern (not a good idea). I'll be back with five more takeaways tomorrow, but in the meantime, check out Charlie Weingroff's Rehab=Training, Training=Rehab at the introductory price HERE. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter:
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Charlie Weingroff’s Rehab=Training, Training=Rehab: Far from Just “Another DVD”

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.
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Throwing Programs: The Top 4 Long Toss Mistakes

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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Making the Case for Long Toss in a Throwing Program

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.

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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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Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture – Part 2

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?

I'll be back soon with Part 3 of this series, but in the meantime, I'd encourage you to check out Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better, a comprehensive program that includes many of the principles I have outlined in this series.

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Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture: Part 1

This week, I'll feature several strategies for correcting bad posture; you should be able to insert these into your weight training programs quickly and easily for immediate results. Here we go...

1. Train more frequently.

Obviously, in many cases, those with bad posture often simply don't exercise enough, so any motion is good motion.  However, this also applies to regular exercisers who hit the gym 3-4 times per week as well.  Why?

Well, I do a lot of my "corrective" work in my warm-up programming - and the more often you train, the more often you'll have to do your foam rolling and mobility warm-ups.  So, breaking your training program up into smaller components on more frequent days might be the best way to force yourself to do the things that you need the most to correct bad posture.

2. Use daily mobility circuits.

Along the same lines as the "increase training frequency" recommendation, it'll never hurt to repeat your mobility warm-ups during your daily life. If you are someone who is really in need of drastic changes, do your warm-ups twice a day, seven days a week (on top of any static stretching you do).

3. Strengthen the deep neck flexors.

When you get stuck in a forward head posture, the deep neck flexors (muscles on the anterior portion of your neck) really shut down as the sternocleidomastoid, suboccipitals, levator scapulae, scalenes, and upper traps get dense, fibrotic, and nasty.

You can start off by simply doing chin tucks against the wall (put the back of your head up against a wall, then make a double chin without the back of your head losing contact with the wall). Then, you can progress to quadruped chin tucks, a drill I learned from Dr. William Brady.  In this drill, you'll work against gravity as you pull your head into a more neutral cervical spine posture.  Most people will butcher this on their first try by going into hyperextension as they get to the "top" of the movement.

When you get the technique down, you'll actually notice some crazy soreness along the anterior aspect of your neck in the days that following. We usually go with sets of 5-6 reps and a 2-3 second hold at the top of each rep.

4. Go with a 2:1 pulling-to-pushing ratio.

This is a recommendation you see quite a bit, but nobody really talks about how to "smoothly" apply it to a weight training program.  Here are a few approaches I've used in the past:

a. Simply add an extra pulling exercise on the end of a day's session.

b. Pair a bilateral pulling exercise with a unilateral pressing exercise - and do "halves" on each pressing set.  In other words, if I was doing 6x6 chest-supported rows (CSR) with 3x6/side 1-arm incline DB presses (IDP), here's how I'd set it up: CSR, IDP-right, CSR, IDP-left, CSR, IDP-right, CSR, IDP-left, CSR, IDP-right, CSR, IDP-left.

c. Make the pulling exercises in your program the A1, B1, and C1 options, with the pressing as the A2, B2, C2.  And, simply have an extra set of each of the pulling exercises - meaning you just don't return to the pressing exercise for a last set.  This might work out as more of a 3:2 pulling-to-pushing ratio, but you can always tack an extra set or two on at the end to make it work.

I'll be back soon with more strategies for correcting bad posture, but in the meantime, I'd encourage you to check out Optimal Shoulder Performance at www.ShoulderPerformance.com, as this resource features loads of postural correction strategies to complement the ones featured in this series.

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Stuff You Should Read: 8/16/10

Some blasts from the past for you: The Most Important Thing for Rookie Trainers - I thought this would be a good follow-up to my post two weeks ago about how to enter the fitness industry the "right way." Eccentric Exercise and Mobility - Ever been told you shouldn't stretch post-training?  I know I've heard that recommendation before.  Read this old post to find out the real scoop on it. Add 300 Pounds tn Your Deadlift - This lengthy piece was a response to a question of how I went from pulling low-to-mid 300s up to my 600+ pound deadlifts. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter:
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Mobility Exercise of the Week: Wall Hip Flexor Mobilization

For more exercises like this, check out the Assess and Correct DVD set.

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Mobility Exercise of the Week: Supine Bridge

For more mobility exercises, be sure to check out Assess and Correct: Breaking Barriers to Unlock Performance.

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