Strength in Conditioning for Saturday, August 1st, 2015
This blog is a follow-up on; “The Extension Intolerant Low Back” which looks at extension based low back pain.
#1: Remove Extension
For individuals that are on their feet for most of the day it is important to wear shoes with more cushioning. Resting one foot on an elevated surface while standing creates a little bit of hip flexion. Running, in particular, can aggravate the low back of individuals stuck in extension – causing repetitive strain to the low back.
Lower and upper body movements that involve end-range extension should be avoided. Bench pressing with an arched back, weighted overhead pressing, and reaching forward for objects with an arched back all need to be initially avoided.
The superman exercise in particular should be avoided – which involves compressive end range extension to the lumbar spine. This is analogous to removing sit-ups and crunches for the flexion-intolerant low back.
#2: Assess Posture and Movement
Lower Crossed Syndrome
Lower crossed syndrome is characterized by anterior pelvic tilt and an overextended lumbar spine. Tight hip flexors pull the hips into an anterior pelvic tilt which weakens the glutes and forces the low back and hamstrings to take on the workload during squats and deadlifts
The single leg glute bridge is a good way to assess whether the glute max is functioning as the primary hip extensor – or if the low back and hamstrings are overactive. Glute bridges and hip thrusts both strengthen the glutes and stretch the hip flexors.
Spondylosis & Spondylolisthesis
Spondylolisthesis is a forward slippage of the lumbar vertebrae and aggravated by lumbar extension. These individuals need to incorporate flexion-based exercises to reset the positioning of the lumbar vertebrae and develop low back endurance during low-level tasks.
It is important to avoid hamstring stretches with both lower crossed syndrome and spondylolisthesis. The hamstrings feel tight because they are constantly eccentrically preventing the hips from going into an anterior pelvic tilt. This protective tension is preventing forward slippage of the lumbar vertebrae.
The Thoraco-Lumbar Junction
The thoraco-lumbar junction is where the thoracic spine and lumbar spine meet. Stiffness in the upper thoracic spine (T2-T9) and hips often leads to overextension in this area during overhead movements especially. It is important to mobilize the upper thoracic spine and also improve thoracic rotation.
Chiropractor, Marc Heller, points out that, “The psoas and diaphragm meet at the thoracolumbar junction. The superior cluneal nerves traverse through the psoas. If the psoas or diaphragm is dysfunctional, it can create problems or reinforce dysfunction at these spinal levels.”
The lats stabilize the back at the thoraco-lumbar junction. Tight lats can take the pelvis into an anterior pelvic tilt. It is important to both release tight lats especially for athletes that are pressing weight overhead.
Exercises for the extension-intolerant low back should train core stability at the low back during arm and leg movement. Extension-intolerant individuals will substitute lumbar extension for hip extension and shoulder flexion. The focus should be on maintaining a neutral low back curve, training a ribcage down position, while integrating breathing into movement.
Someone in an extended posture may be better off starting with a dying bug variation than a bird dog – where the back is flat against the ground so that they can feel what is like to be in neutral. They then can progress to a more challenging anti-extension exercise like the ab rollout.
The Kolar Wall Bug is a great beginning exercise for training a neutral back during hip extension. The Kolar Wall bug gives an athlete feedback – allowing them to feel their low back flatten into the ground as the leg lowers (extending the hip).
- Kevin Kula, “The Flexibility Coach” – Creator of FlexibilityRx™ – www.FlexibilityRx.com
20 Minutes: Row + Run + Airdyne
10 – 8 – 6 – 4 – 2
Kettle Bell Swings
10 – 9 – 8 – 7 – 6 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1
20 Meter Bear Crawl Between Sets
5 – 10 – 15 – 20 – 25
Air Squats + 30 Single or Double Under Between Sets
10 – 8 – 6 – 4 – 2 – 4 – 6 – 8 – 10
Kettle Bell Alternating Single Arm Snatch
300 Meter Row 300 + 10 Burpees
200 Meter Row + 20 Burpees
100 Meter Row + 30 Burpees