T Nation

What's Up with Twisting the Back?

I’ve been reading articles saying it’s good to spare the spine. No twisting of the back, I think Mike Boyle (sorry if I"m wrong) said no to scorpions.
Well I picked up Magnificent Mobility, and I see them doing scorpions! And quite a bit of twisting movements!
And I hear this is no point in doing and better to save the spine?
anyone wanna chime in

http://robertsontrainingsystems.blogspot.com/2008/04/response-to-yesterdays-T-Nation-article.html

Response to yesterday’s T-Nation article
Well I just had a pretty darn good post lined up, only to have it squashed by Blogger for some unknown reason. I’ll do my best to re-hash it.

In case you missed the article yesterday at T-Nation, I’ve had a flood of e-mails to discuss my thoughts. The primary concern was that a few of the exercises that were written off were in Eric and I’s M2 DVD, so let’s cover the exercises one by one.

However, before I get into that, let me say this - I’ve met Nick before and he’s a very bright guy. I agree with almost everything he said in the article. For the sake of learning, though, let’s cover all the movements. I’ll even put a little * by it if it was covered in the M2 DVD.

#1 - The Scorpion Twist*

Since Eric and I released M2 in December of 2005, there are a few things we’ve changed with our training philosophies. One of those things is a real focus on mobilizing the hips and thoracic spine, while working to stabilize the lumbar spine.

The scorpion twist, when done correctly, is effective at lengthening the hip flexors and activating the gluteals. The problem is, however, most people don’t perform the movement correctly. Rather than moving via the hips, they move through the path of least resistance, which for them is the lumbar spine. This is a big no-no.

Quite simply, if you can’t do it correctly or don’t have a coach, don’t include it.

#2 - Prone Alternating Supermans

I’ve never been a big fan of this exercise. For most it increases mobility around the lumbar spine, while totally negating activation of the gluteals. Agreed 100% with its removal.

#3 - Hip Crossover*

This is another exercise that I don’t use as frequently, simply because it focuses on lumbar spine mobility vs. hip mobility.

If someone has nerve based issues I prefer the Yoga Twist or Cat/Camel exericses. Remember, these are’t mobility drills as much as NEURAL FLOSSING exercises.

#4 - Iron Cross*

Much like the prone scorpion, with this exercise the devil is in the details. If you don’t have a coach or trainer to cue you properly, use a different exercise that also focuses on lengthening the lateral hip structure such as S-S leg swings.

#5 - Hip Cradle*

This is really the only exercise that I don’t agree with. I think there are just too many leaps in the logic.

With a mobility drill (as we outline in M2) the goal is to acutely alter the stiffness of the muscle to prepare yourself for training. However, this position is then compared to the cross-legged position that many people assume while sitting. The problem is, there’s a fundamental difference here. In a mobility drill, you move in and out of the ROM rather quickly. In a long duration static stretch (like sitting in the cross-legged position), you’re obviously holding for an extended period of time. Therefore, the tissues repond differently.

In a mobility drill, the goal is to alter stiffness to prepare yourself for quality movements in training. With long duration static stretching, the goal is to actually add sarcomeres and increase the length of the tissue. So to say that doing this exercise as a mobility drill is the same as holding this position for an extended period of time is quite a leap of logic.

In my experience, this exercise when used as a mobility drill is not going to lead to an increased risk of hip impingement or instability. If you sit in this position for extended periods of time, then yes, this may be an issue. But as a mobility drill, I don’t think there’s any need to remove it from your programming unless it’s painful or not giving you the intended benefits.

Okay, this is getting quite lengthy so I’ll wrap it up. Just remember that there are very few BAD exercises. Rather, what’s more important is your technical execution of said exercises, and how they relate to your overall programming and goals. I hope this helps!

[quote]rasturai wrote:
I’ve been reading articles saying it’s good to spare the spine. No twisting of the back, I think Mike Boyle (sorry if I"m wrong) said no to scorpions.
Well I picked up Magnificent Mobility, and I see them doing scorpions! And quite a bit of twisting movements!
And I hear this is no point in doing and better to save the spine?
anyone wanna chime in[/quote]

Twisting the spine is fine (but whiskey’s quicker…sorry, Ozzy flashback) but twisting during flexion is stupid and dangerous.

[quote]IronAbrams wrote:

#2 - Prone Alternating Supermans

I’ve never been a big fan of this exercise. For most it increases mobility around the lumbar spine, while totally negating activation of the gluteals. Agreed 100% with its removal.[/quote]

I agree that those shouldn’t be done also. Not only for the reasons you state above but unless the leg and arm weight are exactly the same (or are offset by an exact amount of time) they will introduce rotation around the lumbar spine which is not such a great idea during extension.

[quote]rasturai wrote:
I’ve been reading articles saying it’s good to spare the spine. No twisting of the back, I think Mike Boyle (sorry if I"m wrong) said no to scorpions.

Well I picked up Magnificent Mobility, and I see them doing scorpions! And quite a bit of twisting movements!

And I hear this is no point in doing and better to save the spine?
anyone wanna chime in[/quote]

I was at a presentation of Mike Boyle’s about ten years ago.

I remember he was not a fan of the “Russian Twist” and other exercises where the lumbar spine may be flexed. The reason was, and it makes sense, the discs are compressed and then sheared with rotation. He then recommended trunk flexion with diagonal patterns. This he said he got from Grey Cook, if I remember.

I am a big fan of lumbar extension, especially as we get older. I am biased after taking the McKenzie A-C courses for evaluating and treating the spine. McKenzie has published studies showing that we may flex/round the spine 3k-5k times a day and combined with slouched posture leads to a gradual loss of lumbar extension.

“If someone has nerve based issues I prefer the Yoga Twist or Cat/Camel exericses. Remember, these are’t mobility drills as much as NEURAL FLOSSING exercises.”

Does “neural flossing” mean you don’t go through full ROM or something?

[quote]lavi wrote:
“If someone has nerve based issues I prefer the Yoga Twist or Cat/Camel exericses. Remember, these are’t mobility drills as much as NEURAL FLOSSING exercises.”

Does “neural flossing” mean you don’t go through full ROM or something?[/quote]

If I understand correctly, it has more to do with loosening connective tissue around the nerves. This could help with better muscle activation/firing.

Definitely open to correction.

Neural flossing is mobilizing peripheral nerves through tissue that may be entrapping or adhering to that nerve. Flossing is a treatment vs prevention.

Thanks guys. I guess my question is, wouldn’t those neural flossing exercises also mobilize the lower back somewhat? Or not?

lol thanks iron, i thought that there were some things that were wrong with the exercises…thanks for clearin that up for me.

[quote]lavi wrote:
Thanks guys. I guess my question is, wouldn’t those neural flossing exercises also mobilize the lower back somewhat? Or not?[/quote]

They would mobilize the low back. Actively moving through a full range of motion and pushing through end ranges will improve your flexibility, lumbar and thoracic spine rotation, hip flexion and extension.

The prone movement is not really a nerve flossing maneuver, it will put the lumbar/sacral plexus on slack. The supine would get better flossing by pumping the ankle while the hip is in flexion.