Mobility 1.1: Mid-line Stability and Spinal Organization.
We have all seen somebody in a weird position, sometimes with elastic bands attached or rolling obscene body parts on a foam roller and preferably making an impressive pain face. As to anything that might enhance your performance, the best results from mobilizing are obtained through a systematic and tailored approach.
Before you get to any effective mobility work, there are a few prerequisites.
1: Use proper movement mechanics.
2: Create mid-line stability.
3: Handle any problems up- and downstream of the area you want to mobilize.
4: Mobilize at the position of restriction.
We covered and will cover point 1,3 and 4 during the mobility classes, but we will stick to point 2 here.
All basic CrossFit movements (deadlift, clean, squats, presses) require you to remain a rigid spine while moving your arms and/or legs. Being able to create stiffness around the spine is called mid-line stability, and you will want to create this stiffness in a position where all three natural curves of the spine are in proper alignment.
This position is called ‘neutral spine’ and it is the position in which your spine is designed to function, whether you are sitting, standing, lying down or performing any athletic task. The neutral spine is the strongest position and maintaining it will greatly reduce the risk of back pain or injury.
Mid-line stability can be created in the Cervical (neck), Thoracic (middle back) or Lumbar and Pelvic (lower back) region.
Figure 1: Zones of the ‘neutral spine’
In Crossfit you will want mid-line stability in all of these regions at the same time. To get to this point, there is a two-step prescription.
First make sure you are using what is called ‘diaphragmatic breathing’. It is a breathing technique, where you emphasize on the belly moving out when inhaling and getting tight and moving in on exhaling, while your ribs and neck remain still.
Secondly, you use a bracing sequence. By squeezing both your but-cheeks firmly, pulling your ribcage down, and then tightening the abs to maintain this position of the ribs relative to the pubic bone, you’ll set your lumbar and pelvis into the most stable position. If you then place your ears over your shoulder blades, and pull your shoulder blades down, you are good to go!
Your coach can take you through a progression to practice these steps and then challenge you to either get more stiff (stronger) or maintain this stability in various positions and under load longer (endurance). Ask him/her and you will have a nice little warm-up to work on when you arrive in the box a few minutes early.
Failing to create mid-line stability will cause your body to chase stability and find it elsewhere. This always compromises movement mechanics, technique and therefore performance. Do not waste your time mobilizing anything you have just put into a bad position, or under unnecessary high tension.
Thaddeus Knops first studied human movement sciences, before taking up sports physiotherapy and manual therapy. Since December 2013, he started CrossFit and 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.