2012 was a big year in terms of continuing my education and having an understanding of how the body works and how different segments of the body can affect each other. Below are 3 aha moments that I learned in 2012 and how they are related to each other.
1. Extension is the new flexion.
I remember reading a post from Eric Cressey (although I can’t recall which one), and he talked about this training baseball athletes and how they were seeing more extension patterns vs flexion patterns. Although the light bulb didn’t fully go off until I attended the Postural restoration seminar, given that we work with a ton of athletes, I was noticing a similar pattern and came to the conclusion that essentially, the majority of athletes are going to come in with some sort of extension type issue. It is important to address this especially if they are involved with overhead/ throwing movements, as the inability to control extension can also affect how the scapula is positioned on the ribcage which will affect shoulder stability.. If they are involved in jumping sports like basketball, this can lead to anterior knee pain and hip impingement, even groin/sports hernia issues.
The goal isn’t to make wholesale changes to athletes but moving them towards a more neutral hip position by strengthening weak links, which can help alleviate a ton of extension related symptoms.
So, with the increase in athletes who exhibit these features you start to appreciate how things are connected with regards to movement. You will find that an extension athlete will have rib flairs and extend in the T/L junction so it is important to cue them to keep the ribs down and engage their anterior abdominals and obliques. Inchworms are a great exercise to work on bringing the ribs down.
There is also a correlation between how someone breathes and their hip and scapula position which brings up point number two.
2. Breathing is really important.
Breathing has been talked about by quite a few coaches I highly respect. And it wasn’t until I spent more time with a PRI trained therapist that I fully understood the relationship between how you breathe and how it affects everything from core stability to shoulder stability and range of motion. The inner core has been discussed comprehensively, and breathing properly sets the diaphragm in position to stabilize the spine when lifting heavy stuff. How you breathe can also affect your state of mind and how you deal with stress. Here are a couple of great articles that talk about this. Mike talks about stress and breathing here and Sean talks about the importance of breathing.
A few things to assess are whether someone inhales mainly through chest, or do the lungs expand with the belly. Also, look to see if they can depress their ribs during the exhale and engage the diaphragm.
3. Upward rotation for shoulder health.
Again this is a topic that has been discussed extensively by Eric Cressey and a few other coaches. Most overhead athletes will have poor upward movement of their scapula and if they are stuck in the extension posture we talked about, they will probably have their scapula locked in depression and downward rotation using the lats. To mimic this position, exaggerate sticking your chest out and feel what it does to your upper back, scapulae and lower back.
Adding Y’s can help to some degree but we prefer seated wall slide variations and the 135 wall slide.
These are great variations but to make them even better I would add an exhale before going into shoulder flexion to keep the ribs down and prevent them from flaring up.
Here’s a video from Mike Robertson demoing the forearm wall slide 135
And Eric Cressey demonstrating the half kneeling landmine press.
We have also started integrating Landmine presses to allow the scapula to move freely into upward rotation.
The name of the game is to keep getting better and continuing to learn so we can help athletes achieve higher levels of performance while limiting injuries as much as we can.
Hopefully these tips will help with your training and coaching.