Monday, June 30, 2008

Fastest 100m Ever

Last night Tyson Gay ran a 9.68 at the Olympic Trials in Eugene, OR. The time was wind-aided so it is not an official world record, but it is the fastest time ever run in 100 meters.

The wind was at 4.1 meters per second, over the allowable 2.0 mps. I don't think Gay would have run faster than Usain Bolt's 9.72 without the wind, but 9.68 is still pretty fast; faster than anyone has ever gone...


Sunday, June 29, 2008

Deep squatting and lumbar flexion; a good thing?

There's always been lots of discussion about the lumbar flexion that may occur at the bottom of a deep squat. Most of the discussion/arguments are against allowing any lumbar flexion in this position.

For example, if an athlete back squats (loaded with a barbell) to top of the thigh parallel and can maintain a "neutral" spine, but going any deeper creates lumbar flexion (posterior rotation of the pelvis), then the athlete should squat no deeper than the position in which they can maintain the neutral spine position. The thought is that any lumbar flexion under load may be bad.

In my situation, I have always had athletes squat as deep as possible (maintaining proper foot pressure, and in neutral spine). Many times, as the athlete drops the top of the thighs past parallel, the pelvis basically 'tucks' under, creating some lumbar flexion. I've always coached the athletes to maintain a tall spine, but have never really worried too much about this little bit of lumbar flexion at towards the end range-of-motion... maybe I should, but I have yet to see it cause any issues.

And most of the time, this little bit of lumbar flexion, actually brings the lumbar spine closer to a more true "neutral" position or just slight flexion, as back squatting with load tends put the athlete in more of a lumbar extension position to start with.

Anyway... just the other day, I came across this interesting paragraph in Functional Anatomy of the Spine by Middleditch and Oliver:

"Tension in the thoracolumbar fascia can also be increased by motion of the arms, legs and trunk. Posterior rotation of the pelvis causes an increase in flexion at he lumbosacral junction and hence increases tension in the thoracolumbar fascia. Lumbar spine flexion also passively increases tension in the thoracolumbar fascia. Competitive weightlifters may flex or 'round out' the lumbosacral area and it is suggested that this affords some protection by increasing tension in the thoracolumbar fascia and posterior ligamentous structures, thereby contributing to stability in the low lumbar area (Dolan et al, 1994)."

Maybe that little bit of lumbar flexion under load is ok.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Breathing and the Spine

Brett Jone's wrote an excellent post, Thoracic Mobility..., on June 14th.

To add to it:

Range of motion of lumbar and thoracic spine

The lumber spine has greater flexion/extension range-of-motion (ROM) based on disc height and spinous processes which project almost straight posteriorly, while the thoracic discs are smaller and the spinous processes project more inferiorly, which decreases flexion/extension ROM.

The architecture of the thoracic spine lends itself to greater rotational ROM based on the position of facet joints, and the lumbar spine's facet joints decrease rotational ROM when compared to the thoracic vertebrae. (check out a good anatomy/biomechanics text)

With less flexion/extension ROM in the thoracic spine, there needs to be optimal alignment of the lumbar spine, so thoracic extension end ROM isn't limited by the spinous processes and anterior connective tissue structures. Which then lends itself to optimal pelvis, hip, knee, foot, and ankle alignment.

All this is obvious when you understand the cascading effects of every anatomical structure's alignment on every anatomical structure's alignment. The important thing is to have adequate coordinated mobility to allow for quality movement and positioning...


Breathing is something often taken for granted, which it probably should be ok, but...

As Brett said in his post,

"...if we are breathing correctly and using the diaphragm and intercostals for respiration there is a tremendous amount of movement in the thoracic spine. However, most people breath through their traps and upper chest which facilitates the development of kyphosis (rounding of the upper back) and a rigid rib cage."

This creates a "flip-flop" of what is supposed to occur. We breathe through the chest/thoracic region which "tenses" all the surrounding muscles which are supposed to be used to control movement of our arms, shoulders, scapula, and neck.

How can this happen? We have been breathing our entire life, how can it change?


This can be stress in any form, both psychological or physical. Don't forget that LACK of movement is also stress to our bodies. When we are under stress we go into what is called the startle reflex; our "fight or flight" response of the sympathetic nervous system. What happens when we are under stress, acute or chronic, is we tense up the muscles of the upper body, shrugging the shoulders, bringing the head forward, etc, basically going into the fetal position. Let me be clear however, the startle reflex usually isn't as blatantly obvious as a full grown adult going into full fetal (Lloyd Christmas in the rest stop bathroom when C-Bass stops by)... most of the time it is shrugging of the shoulders and bringing the head forward, or more often just "tensing" of the muscles which create those actions.

Regardless, from this position our breathing gets altered. We begin to use our diaphragm and intercostals less and less, as Brett stated. What happens from here could potentially be a cascade of effects that may potentially lead to everything and anything that could go wrong in the body.

For example:

When we have good diaphragmatic breathing, the diaphragm (again, refer to a good functional anatomy text) pushes down on the viscera. This "pushing" down creates pressure on the pelvic floor, which creates reflexive activity of the deep abdominal muscles... something to think about. From this we potentially improve:

1. Lumbar spine muscle function and control leading to:
2. Improved hip and lower body function
3. Increased thoracic spine ROM leading to:
4. Improve scapula and glenohumeral function and ROM
5. Improved function of all muscles, especially scapular, shoulder, and hip muscles
6. Improved movement efficiency

Not to mention all the other systems affected by increased sympathetic nervous system activity: cardiovascular, endorcrine, immune, etc., ... Focused Breathing techniques can also reduce the sympathetic nervous system effects, and as with anything, proper breathing can be relearned.

I guess you could say breathing might be kind of important. No wonder the upper body muscles start to limit range of motion of the thoracic spine, scapula, and shoulder, think of how many reps these not-for-breathing muscles might be getting; we breathe every second of our life!


Friday, June 13, 2008

2 Important Points

1. A true athlete is not a 2 hour per day athlete. There are 24 hours in a day. An athlete needs to be aware of what they are doing to themself every hour of the day. Being an athlete isn't like hitting the "on" button on the Playstation 2; the body isn't just waiting around to be used.

An athlete's state one minute may change in the next minute. The body and mind is rewiring and evolving every living second. One set, even one rep will change an athlete to a different state than prior to the set or rep. What an athlete sees, hears, feels, eats, and drinks will change the mind and body's state. Nothing is constant, everything is always changing. Awareness is key.

2. Program sequencing is vital. Every workout, exercise, drill, set and rep needs to be sequenced to elicit a specific response or even avoid certain responses. As a coach, this is the ultimate challenge.


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Things to Consider

A list of things to ponder.

1. The lumbar spine should have good mobility... "What did he just say?!"

2. The mobility/stability continuum is a good generalization and I really wish it was that simple, but it's not.

3. The thoracic spine: anatomical architecture limits it's mobility compared to the lumbar spine. T1 through T7 are "locked" into the ribcage, limiting their mobility. T8, 9, and 10 are attached to "false" ribs, increasing their mobility, and T11 and 12 are attached to "floating" ribs, giving them the greatest mobility of the thoracic spine. Plus the further up you go on the thoracic spine, there is a decrease in disc height, when compared to lower vertebrae, again decreasing some range of motion.

4. Is lumbar flexion always bad?

5. Many folks could probably use some good mobility work at the lumbar spine. "Has this guy fallen off his rocker!"

6. Little kids don't breath through their chest and shoulders. SERIOUSLY stop and think about that for a moment...

7. Irradiation works the other way as well. Hence why "stability" work may not... well... work.

8. Dr. Eric Cobb said something this weekend (Z-Health R-phase) that really made me think. "The best in the world are really the best at slowing down." He wasn't talking about deceleration.

9. We also had a good discussion at Z-Health regarding feet. The feet don't necessarily need a "good" arch, they just need to be able to move (mobility).

10. The stretch-shortening cycle (SSC) needs to be trained. Yes it is a reflex, and "just" happens, but it needs to be trained.

11. Specificity. It is a principle, not "just" a method.

12. Boston in 7. KG has earned it.


Sunday, June 1, 2008

A New World Record

Usain Bolt deated American Tyson Gay to set a new world record in the 100m last night. Bolt's time of 9.72 surpassed fellow Jamaican sprinter Asafa Powell's old mark of 9.74, set on Sept. 9, 2007. Asafa Powell did not compete because he is recovering from a chest injury. Bolt defeated American record holder Tyson Gay, who finished 2nd with a time of 9.85. Gay's personal best is 9.76 with 2.2w. This sets up the potential for some serious competition amongst Bolt, Gay, and Powell heading into Beijing. The envelope is being pushed... hard! It's going to be fun to watch...


In Case You Missed It

There has been a good discussion following my May 19 post, "Research", discussing the question of, "is it a stability or mobility issue?" and the transfer of movement assessments, among other things... Check it out here, and please feel free to continue the discussion.