We talk a lot on this show about strengthening the pecs, arms, quads, posterior chain and even back – but very little about the spine. That needs to change, because it’s second only to your brain in athletic performance.
I’ve hammered for ages about how the spine is the electrical “conductor” of the brain’s message to contract muscle, and that’s beyond dispute. The tragedy of Christopher Reeves should illustrate the truth in what I’m saying. Crushed the first and 2nd vertebrae in a tragic horse riding accident, paralyzing him for life from the neck down.
Needless to say, spinal health needs to be optimized. Standing up right was the worst move our species ever made, but I guess there’s no going back. The situation is exacerbated by hunching over in front of computer screens today, then training movements that open the vertebrae under load (i.e. squats and deadlifts), putting the disks under tremendous pressure. Let’s talk about solutions.
The first thing I’d like you to do is buy two bathroom scales and save the receipt. Put one foot on each and observe the difference you’re carrying on each leg. If you’re more than 5% off your total bodyweight, you likely have an imbalance/issue in your spine. See a chiro. Not 3x’s a week (unless you need it), but once or twice a month is better than nothing. I go weekly..
The next thing I’d like you to do is buy a 2nd hand inversion board, from play it again sports. I stole this idea from Carl, and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. As little as 3 minutes/day is fantastic for decompressing the spine, increasing blood flow to the brain and unwinding at the end of the day.
Next, learn how to bridge. The easiest way to do this is to order the book Convict Conditioning, by Paul Wade or Dinosaur Bodyweight training, by Brooks Kubick. Proper bridging works over 200 muscles, helps to re-align the spine, removes calcium deposits in the shoulders and is fantastic for loosening up hip flexors, notoriously tight in male athletes.
Unlike most barbell movements, the vertebrae are closed in a bridge. The muscles, tendons and ligaments all contract to build strength, endurance and perhaps most importantly – flexibility. The latter doesn’t get a lot of play in the world of strength, but that’s a mistake. Any athletic movement you perform is supremely dependent upon having a strong, flexible spine. Witness the force generated by striking an object with a whip vs a stick, and you can see what I’m talking about.
The master step in this series is the stand to stand bridge. Which is to say you bend over backwards, touch the floor with your palms and return to the standing position. Yeah, that kind of strong. Along the way you’ll be introduced to some really cool movements, like walking up and down the wall with your hands. This should get some looks, which is always a good sign. When you distance yourself from “most people”, it usually means you’re on the right track.
Because at the end of the day, it’s yet another move “most people” ignore. Don’t be like “most people” – train your spine into a steel whip, and leave the mortals behind…
From The BluePrint Power Hour (Jul. 18, 2015)
Listen to Coach Rob on Superhuman Radio each week.