Sunday, November 23, 2008
The Thoracic-Lumbar Hinge Says Alot About Your "Core"
Stabilizing a load of any significance over your head is really one of the best exercises there is to develop real-life, functional trunk strength. To be clear, there is no physio-ball exercise on the planet that can match standing under a heavy load.
There are many functional movement screens out there that will allegedly show the weaknesses of an athlete in training. Our movement screening is based upon the actual, base exercises that we perform (the push press being one). We are opposed to using correlates of evaluation (movement screens) in lieu of using our bread and butter foundational movements. I don't need to "test" your abdominal strength to know that you will fall apart under increased overhead loading. I just need to see you start pressing and push-pressing. Your weaknesses will show themselves. And as Coach Rippetoe says, "The cure for bad form, is good form."
All of the photos of the athletes above share a common movement fault. Can you see it?
All of the athletes are under sufficient overhead loading to elicit the same basic movement fault. That is, all of these athletes' mid-line stabilization breaks down at the base of their rib cage. The junction of the rigid ribcage and the start of your low back/lumbar spine in known as the T-L junction, or thoracic-lumbar junction. The photos show good examples of T-L hinging.
Now, there is nearly always some weight/work load that will exceed the stabilizing capacity of the athlete's trunk. But T-L hinging is probably the most common "over-extension" based fault that we see. The potential hinging that occurs in this region puts a great deal of localized stress on the spine here. In fact, many athletes will report that their backs are a little sore after big pressing movements. Over extension of the spine (here in the T-L junction) is to blame.
But really, blame the abdominal muscles. Sure your shoulders are tight and leaning back will help this problem, but your abs should not let your rib cage leave the locked down, anchored position. It is largely your internal obliques that are failing you here. Ironically, keeping the ribs in and down when going overhead sets the big, prime movers of the shoulder blades, up for the optimal position from which to generate force. So, letting your ribcage fly up (creating a T-L hinge) actually decreases your body's ability to move weight overhead. So weak abs leads to hinging, which leads to decreased force production over head. Not sweet.
And that's why we really care.
Poor positioning and moving away from "best fit" might look bad and make your back ache, but really, it just decreases your incredible ability to generate power.
So keep the ribcage down when working overhead. And keep working on that "core".
at 12:09 PM