Mobility 1.2: Spinal mobility and global flexion/extension
When talking about the midline we refer to the complete spine, which can be divided in 4 sections with a curve each. The cervical or C-spine is very mobile in order to enable your head to explore the world around you. The thoracic or T-spine on the other hand, is way more stiff. This is due to the cage like construction of your ribs, which protects a lot of vital organs. The lumbar or L-spine has some but limited mobility. Since this part of the spine is the foundation for a major part of your body that rests on top of it, it needs to be strong and solid. Together with your pelvis, the L-spine is most mobile moving in a forward/backward direction.
Basic crossfit movements like the squat, press, clean and deadlift require you to maintain a braced neutral midline. In this position all four of the natural spinal curves are maintained. We’ve discussed and trained this in our mobility 1.1 seminar. Other, more advanced, gymnastic movements on the other hand require you to have a dynamic and moving midline.
When describing (spinal) posture, the terms global and local are often used as a prefix. Global indicates an evenly spread curve over the complete spine whereas local indicates a specific area. Global flexion means you have bent from your neutral spinal position, to a position where your head is closer to your toes, and the curve that your spine has made is somewhat equally distributed over your complete spine. Global extension on the other hand, would mean you have moved the back of your head toward your heels and have arched your back.
Issues compromising performance are mostly based on a lack of kinesthetic awareness or a lack of local thoracic extension mobility.
Most athletes can benefit from creating more kinesthetic awareness. In other words, they could train to better know what body parts are moving and when they do so. This will result in being able to consciously move or stabilize your whole midline or part of your spine. For example; you are probably sitting while reading this. Try to move your pelvis and L-spine by arching or rounding your lower back without moving your legs or T-spine. This local flexion/extension requires a basic level of kinesthetic awareness and is somewhat of a challenge to most of us.
A lack of thoracic extension is a perfect example of a local mobility issue. Oftentimes it results in a whacky overhead position. A foamroller, single lacrosse ball, peanut or keg can be used to address this issue as shown in the seminar. Always test-mobilize-retest and remember that if you don’t see progression there is no progression!
Thaddeus Knops first studied human movement sciences, before taking up sports physiotherapy and manual therapy. Since December 2013 he gets his ass handed to him every single WOD. After completing the Level 1 course, he will now occasionally share his thoughts on performance enhancement through anything other than a regular WOD.