Summer is finally here. Aside from the fact that the temperature is now getting to be the level where I’m not the only guy walking around in shorts, it’s also at that point of the year where a lot of people are taking vacations and the speaking/teaching schedule is winding down. I mean I love what I do and enjoy getting people into the best shapes of their lives while also trying to teach as many trainers as possible how to help their clients get better, but at a certain point fatigue sets in and the foot has to come off the gas pedal.
To give you an idea of how busy the last 12 weeks alone have been, check out these numbers:
428 hours of hands-on training, accounting for 664 training sessions (averaging 55 sessions a week in 1-on-1, small group and large group sessions)
Wrote 28 blog posts
Wrote 2 articles for T-Nation, currently working on a third on how to train the lats the best way possible (it’s already making me want to train my lats!!!!)
13 days of teaching courses, including 2 3-day Post Rehab Essentials workshops with all-new content, and also the first ever Spinal Health and Core Training seminar with Tony Gentilcore, Rick Kaselj and Jeff Cubos
Helped edit the new collaboration between James “Diesel” Smith and Joe DeFranco, HARD Core, which I just got a copy of in the mail, watch in its’ entirety twice, and am amazed at how much they crammed into this little beauty.
Went to Las Vegas, and also to BC for about 11 days of total vacation.
What this all means now that there aren’t any pressing speaking engagements coming up and a number of clients are away on vacation for a week or three is that I can actually slep in until after the sun rises, get home before it sets, get in a few more workouts, and even put some more work into this here blog so that I can help people in a less direct but no less impactfull way. I love my readers, and never want to give you guys and gals anything less than my best. Seriously, you all rock.
So for today I wanted to showcase something I’ve been playing around with for a little while. I’ve found most of the mobility work I get clients to do has some built in limitations, such as the immediate density of myofascia during rolling (higher density doesn’t roll out as easily and is way more painful), available joint range of motion (stretching a muscle doesn’t necessarily stretch the joint), and the big one, the approximation of the bones involved in the joint during the stretch.
What this means is if the bones are really close to each other, it can affect the range of motion available in the joint. Take an example of someone whith advanced osteoarthritis in their knee, such as in the X-ray of one of my clients here.
The lack of the range of motion limits the ability of the joints to glide in a smooth and frictionless manner, limiting the available range of motion even if the muscles have a lot more available to them.
Since our joints exist under constant tension from all muscles that cross them, they are under the effect of compressive forces all the time, which causes the bones to exist in closer proximity to each other at all times, especially during times when the muscles are considered “tight.” Stretching that tight muscle would apply more pressure to the joint until movement happened, which would bring the bones closer together. It’s a bit of a vicious cycle.
So one thing I saw a long time ago in a book written by Brian Mulligan entitled Manual Therapy: Nags, Snags, MWM’s, etc – 6th edition, in which he used external bracing to apply forces to joints and segments of the body to either pull them apart ever so slightly or to keep them from moving so that other segments could be trained effectively.
The downside to these brilliant techniques is I struggled to figure out how to apply them effectively in a gym-based setting and without crossing that very fine and ever-greying line between treatment and programming. By all definitions, I don’t treat any of my clients, since I’m not a registered health care professional with a provincial designation like physiotherapist, chiropractor, or massage therapist. That being said, I wanted to involve these concepts into my training as effectively as possible without crossing any lines.
That’s where the tie-in to watching HARD Core with Smitty and Joe D comes in. They have a section involving traction using elastics and going through basic mobility patterns that pretty much slammed the door open for me to walk right on through, essentially causing me to have a little excited chair dance in my office by myself after watching it, sort of like this:
My chair was even doing that. I didn’t know coasters could move in the Z axis like that.
As a result, I started playing with some of the traction patterns and coming up with a few of my own. These are amazing variations to normal stretching or mobilizing drills that have the physiological limits mentioned above, especially when there’s a specific reduction in movement capacity that isn’t the result of direct trauma.
First thing to note is that I have pretty decent hip mobility in the videos, so these don’t have as big of a mobility creating impact on my movements, but they definitely can add an element of stability challenge for me, which is something I’m definitely lacking, especially through the lumbosacral region and shoulder.
Now on with the show.
Lateral Traction Hip Rockers
Aside from getting a fantastic view of my PhD (short for pretty hot/huge dumper), this is a fantastic drill for helping create drive through the frontal and transverse plane of the hip, which is where a lot of people will present with limited mobility. We can isolate one leg or the other, or both, depending on where the limitation is present.
To perform this, get in an all-fours position with a strong and straight spine. Hook the elastic high on the inside leg as shown. The higher it goes the less torque is created at the joint, and the more distractive force is applied. Rock the hips side to side and front to back to groove the ability of the hip to move in the newly opened space in order to promote a small increase in fluid into the joint space and also to help reduce the tone of any potentially overactive muscles that may be restricting movement in more conventional stretches.
Saggital Plane Traction
This helps to cause distraction in the hip by placing a stress pulling it posteriorly instead of laterally. When I was doing this I found I was able to get a low level of intense glute activation without any kick up from the low back or hamstrings. This may be a good movement for those who can’t quite get isolation from bridging movements.
I also noticed a lot more available hip flexion range of motion before any compressive effect in the front of the hip. A lot of people with “tight” hip flexors tend to feel like there’s something catching or blocking the movement, and after sitting for a few hours I can get a similar feeling, but there was none of that on the leg that was bound, but a little on the un-bound leg. When I switched a few minutes later, I could feel an immediate reduction in the catching sensation, which could also make this a great warmup for any deadlifting or squatting, regardless of whether someone has difinitive mobility restrictions or not. In other words, even if someone isn’t as tight as a clam they can still drop it like it’s hot with these bad mamma jammas.
Now on to the upper body.
Lateral Traction Shoulder Stability
A couple hours after filming this one, I had a client try it who is recovering from a rotator cuff tear, and he said he had no pain at all during the movement, even though he came in with some mild irritation from the previous workout. It was pretty immediate, and I’ll be honest I was quite surprised.
I like the fact that this has such a short lever working on the rotator cuff, compared to any exercise where the resistance is attached to the hand. If the lever is longer, the rotator cuff has to work harder, and it typically has to work against compressive forces of the other big muscles like the pec major, latissimus dorsi, deltoids, and biceps, so this saves it while also providing a force it has to overcome to keep the shoulder stable. By moving the hand, the muscles have to re-train their fine movement skills while also working on core and shoulder stability in the opposing arm holding the body weight.
This could be a slightly more intense progression from something like the free hanging pendulum that a lot of people use to provide a low level of joint traction to those who have any rotator cuff issues or irritation, and it seems to work well from my sample size of one client who tried it out yesterday. That’s statistically significant for the bro-scientists out there, right?
Saggital Traction Shoulder Stability
This one I also tested out on my rotator cuff client and he said he loved it and wanted to keep doing it, regardless of anything else we had planned in the workout. Maybe he was a little hesitant to get in there for a heavy conditioning day with max deadlifts and sled sprints, but I’m guessing it just felt good.
The effect of the humerus being pulled away from the acromion and essentially opening the space up for the supraspinatus tendon to catch a breath again was probably what made him so happy happy, but I also think it was the combination of the two martinis he had with lunch and the discussion of how hot the waitress serving him was and what he wishes he could do with her. By that I mean treat like a lady, hold open doors and ask her father’s permission to court her in a lady-like manner. What did you think I was going to say??
Now this can also be used to help teach different movement patterns, like the squat, split squat, pushup, deadlift, etc. Here’s a few ways to help get it involved with the squat pattern.
2-band lateral traction hip rocker
Yes, I know, I can drop it like it’s hot. Aside from the ability to hit the floor, I can also make a mean waffle in the kitchen.
Once at the bottom of the available range of motion, rocking side to side can help to increase the joint space and help slowly sink deeper into the movement, sort of like how a feather falling from the sky will slide through the air side to side. Consider my ass like a feather, if you will, sliding side to side as it falls to the ground.
For those of you without the ability to hit the deep squat like this, I gotcha covered with this little beauty.
2-band lateral traction bear squat
I’ve seen a lot of different bears, and they sure as hell don’t squat like this, so I have no idea where the name comes from. A bear squat is more like this.
What this allows for is a closer approximation of a deep squat for those who can’t quite get to own their own deep squat. The ankles get a nice little rocking mobilization while the hips get a fantastic stretch out, and that glute activation that we discussed on the single sided traction rocker. This could be a great functional stretch for football linemen, sprinters, wrestlers, powerlifters, mailmen, office workers, pornstars, whomever and whatever you do on a daily basis.
The big recommendation with these is to work on them with a broad elastic as the narrow ones tend to cut off circulation. Also set the bands as close to the main joints as possible without going over the joints so that the lever length is relatively small and the direction of pull is straight out instead of through a rotational axis. Also, guys need to be careful with, ahem, “placement” during the hip mobilizers, as a pinch is definitely not something you’ll be looking to walk away with, and if you get one you’ll probably not be able to walk away at least for about three hours or so.