Spine First

SloochingRemember when your mother or teacher would remind you to sit up straight, don’t slouch, eyes up? Well looking back we should have listened more, because they definitely knew what they were talking about.

When we slouch, round our back or hinge at the neck by positioning our head in extension (back) or flexion (forward) we actually break & kink the nervous system & blood flow between our brain and our spine. The brain immediately interprets this as a threat thinking that the head and body are in immediate danger and defaults to survival mode. This then disrupts the integrity and tension throughout the thoracic dorsal fascia sheet (gives the back & spine stability), thus putting i.e. our back at an exponentially higher risk of injury along with drastically reducing our range of motion throughout the hips and shoulders.

Here’s a scary factoid: Your head weighs about 10 lbs, for every inch that your head is in flexion (forward) or extension (backwards) it adds an additional 10 lbs to its weight. For instance, if your head had 3 inches of flexion, your musculature & spine would supporting an extra 30 lb’s. Talk about a sore neck and back… Yikes!

The only places that should have maximum flexion or extension is either in the shoulders or the hips. Any prolonged localized flexion or extension in the neck, thoracic spine or lumbar to pelvis area is a recipe for pain.

When it comes to lifting & moving, the spine’s integrity plays a major role in both stability and movement as well as helping to decrease force production and stress throughout the hip & shoulder joints.

We have all tweaked our backs at one time or another. It’s a bummer, both physically & mentally. You can’t sit, lift or do much of anything, and if you’re active, it’s just dang depressing.

Think of your spine like a carriage or a frame of a car. It’s the primary carrier for the engine & transmission, in this case the hips and shoulders. Like a car if the frame is twisted, weak and compromised, it’s not going to matter how finely tuned the motor and transmission are. The driveline is going to be its Achilles heel.

We live in a society today that for the most part has forgotten how to properly sit, stand, walk, squat and run. We slouch and round our backs while driving our cars, looking at screens, texting on our phones or even carrying our groceries. We’re basically living our lives in half range instead of full range of motion. It’s no wonder that there is a booming massage and physio industry on the go ready to put us back together.

Most of the time we operate in default, revisiting bad habits that we’ve acquired through years of poor or forgotten movement patterns. For most of us this doesn’t seem like an issue today, but tomorrow, next year, or on your 60th Birthday, things are going to break.

But it’s not all doom, gloom with broken, scattered bodies littering the landscape. The answer is quite simple, we need to prioritize the spine, that’s right, spine first, meaning that we need to be more mindful of our spines integrity (spine & head alignment) during our daily movement & non-movement activities and focus more on using, developing and expressing our hips and shoulders to their full range of motion.

Here’s the cool part, once the spine is prioritized all we need to do to generate maximal torque and power is to externally rotate (turn in) the joint (shoulder, hip), this helps keep it loaded, protected and packed, thus creating the ability to generate tremendous leverage without breaking the chassis.

Trying to generate power & torque while the spine isn’t prioritized and is in either flexion or extension will compromise first the back and second will create wear & tear in the joints (hip & shoulder) by limiting the musculature’s ability to pack and protect the joint, not to mention limiting the torque and power that can be generated.

So no matter if you’re sitting at a desk, getting up from a chair, walking, running, squatting or snatching a 32 kg kettlebell, prioritizing the spine will set up efficient and safe movement patterns and set the stage for maximal torque and power output.

Prioritize the spine, crank up the torque, live a strong pain free life.

Now Stop Slouching!

By: Coach Tim Bell

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