Archive for Flexion

3 Things I Learned in 2012

Posted in Z.S. Tennis, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , on February 15, 2013 by zenithstrength

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. Anterior tilt 2

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.


Wall Slide Variation with Bands

Posted in Z.S. Tennis, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , , on July 17, 2012 by zenithstrength

Wall slides are a great “bang for your buck” exercise to keep the shoulders healthy especially if you’re an athlete involved in overhead sports or are coming off a shoulder injury.

Here are a few reasons why I like using wall slides so much.

1. Improving shoulder external range of motion.

I remember first learning about the effectiveness of wallslides from the Optimal Shoulder Performance Dvd by Eric Cressey and Mike Reinold. Wallslides  gently  improve shoulder external range of motion without excessive stretching  for those who may have limitations  caused by sitting in a chair for hours on end.

2. Improving upward and downward rotation of the shoulder by strengthening the lower traps, serratus and activating the upper traps.

Eric Cressey has talked extensively about the importance of shoulder upward rotation in this post and mentions the research as to why upward rotation is important not only for baseball pitchers but for athletes involved with overhead sports.

3. Improving thoracic spine extension and shoulder flexion range of motion.

In addition to improving shoulder external rotation, wall slides also improve shoulder flexion and mid back extension which are two areas that we usually could use  more mobility with . Unfortunately, these two motions have a synergistic relationship in that a limitation in upper back extension mobility will generally affect your ability to reach your arms overhead.  Furthermore, soft tissue restrictions in the lats and pecs can also limit shoulder flexion.

While you can perform wall slides seated or standing, I prefer to do them seated with the head, shoulder blades, and low back touching the wall. This will ensure that the athlete does not substitute shoulder flexion,(raising the arms overhead), for lumbar extension(excessively arching the low back). Make sure to keep the ribs down so they don’t flair out while raising the arms overhead.

I like to cue our athletes to take a nice deep breath in, expand the rib cage and  then exhale performing a rep while the ribcage is depressed. You don’t have to perform them like this but integrating breathing will help teach what it feels like to keep the rib cage down.

Once you get really comfortable with these you can progress and add some band resistance which really lights up your lower traps and also challenges T spine extension since the bands are pulling you forward.

For more goodies on the T-spine check out Dean Somerset’s fantastic write-up on that subject here.

Give these a try at the end of your upper body workouts and let me know how you like them.


Back Friendly Core Variation

Posted in Z.S. Basketball Training, Z.S. Tennis, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , , on February 28, 2012 by zenithstrength

There is so much core training on the internet its enough to make your head spin. One article talks about how flexion is going to break your back followed by a different post arguing the benefits of flexion. I try not to get caught up in the heated core debate. I listen to what the best in the field talk about, using research to validate their claims and make decisions based on what makes the most sense to me.

I used to avoid flexion when I injured my back a few years ago and then came to the realization that avoiding flexion is why I hurt my back in the first place as I didn’t  have a whole lot of lumbar flexion to begin with. What many doctors won’t tell you if you hurt your back is whether you have flexion intolerance or extension tolerance. There is a difference and each pathology has a different rehab protocol.

Now before I get side tracked I’ll let some coaches and rehab pros who are way smarter than I am talk about the difference between the two. Here’s an article by Eric Cressey that covers quite a bit regarding the low back.

I wanted to share a back friendly core variation that in my opinion strengthens the obliques safely and additionally adds anti rotation stability as well. Working with a ton of athletes the one thing that I’ve noticed is anti rotation and anti lateral flexion deficits seem to be high. I’m not sure why this is but there is a correlation between the body’s ability to stabilize anti rotation and reducing back pain occurrences, especially in rotational sports.

Here’s the video below

I call it the curl up with band anti rotation. Not the most creative name, but if anyone has a better one I am all ears.

Its very similar to the McGill curl up and for those for aren’t familiar with Stu Mcgill, he is one of the premier back specialists in the world.

Make sure to avoid crunching/rounding the upper back excessively especially if you have a ton of T spine extension limitations. The key is to reach up a couple of inches instead of crunching. I also use the ab mat which is great to add a little more range of motion.

Bret Contreras has a nice video talking about the ab mat and demoing the eccentric portion of the crunch.

I prefer the curl up variation over the more popular russian twists pictured below. In my opinion putting someone into flexion and then rotation is asking for disc issue down the road especially since most people can’t avoid excessive lumbar flexion at the top of this position.

The curl is much safer and adds the benefit of additional rotary stability which rotational sport athletes lack.

Give the curl up a try and let me know what you think.

Train Hard and Smart!