Monday, January 30, 2012

Med Ball Drop Drill

People always ask me: what is the best exercise that they should be doing to get rid low back pain? My response is always the same: Perform the opposite movement of the position you are in the most. Sounds general and vague, but it is true. Most people work long hours and sit in front of a computer monitor, television set, or crouched on the phone. The entire spine is hunched over and in a state of flexion.
People that sit all day have 2 common factor prohibiting optimal performance:

1.) Tight abs, front shoulders, chest muscles, hip flexors, and cervical flexors (neck).This is what we call the "anterior chain". This is the portion (front) of the body that feels the effect of gravity beating it up everyday from sitting. Gravity, age, condition level, and bodyweight play huge roles in terms of how much subtle force the framework of the body withstands. Like a tent staked up in a backyard during a thunderstorm, the tent's fate will only survive based on how strong the masts and cords are anchored into the ground. This is similar to the human body. How strong your "posterior muscles" are at "holding your body" up during prolonged sitting or other prolonged postures, will dictate how your performance and quality of life is facilitated.


2.) Weak eccentric strength from abdominals. We are so good at performing crunches on the ground, with our back pressed into a solid surface, but that doesn't resemble how the spine maintains itself during activity. In simple terms, we are upright more than we are on our backs. We sleep 8 hours a day for 352 days a year. That is 2,816 hours on our back! Compared to being upright the rest of the day, that is16 hours. Factor that into a year: 5,632hours. Our spines must maintain stability double the amount of time we are lying supine. So why are we on our backs when training abs?

Here is a video of a great drill to help train the abs to improve on eccentric loading. The drill calls for a 6-21 lb. medicine ball (depending on the fitness level and capability of the exerciser), and some space to drop the ball once it is raised overhead. The idea behind this drill is to off-set the center of mass (of the body) to create an active stretch in the anterior chain. In this drill, we will focus on the abdominals, hip flexors, and pectorals.
These muscle groups become very tight over time when constantly held in static position—as in sitting. 

During the movement, these muscles are "stretched" back to a point where they inhibit the movement and "brake".  Imagine a line crossing down the body from the side. Once the medicine ball is passed the center of gravity (line); the ball can be dropped because of the stretch and deceleration effect. 



I warn you...if you have a bad back or are deconditioned in any way (that means overweight or get out of breath easily or are weak) do not attempt this. This drill can put excess strain on the lower back because of its excessive hyperextension.

Holding a medicine ball (start with arms overhead first,  then work your way up to holding a medicine ball); hold it upright. With arms overhead and face looking forward. Position your feet shoulder width apart or slightly closer (whatever is comfortable). Slowly, extend your arms backward by bending the knees slightly and shifting the hips forward. As the ball begins to fall behind you, you will feel a stretch in the "front" of your body (anterior chain). Keep your eyes moving with your head. As you "see" the ceiling DIRECTLY above you, think about dropping the ball. By the time you drop the ball, your toes should be flexed up. Watch the video closely. I drop the ball at the "height" of the stretch. The stretch elongates the entire body--not just the arms.

The stretch is perfect to add flexibility and really does a great job of actively stretching the abdominals. This drill is included in my product Shatterproof Spine available as an instant download at http://www.shatterproofspine.com.



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