PT on the Net Research

Spine Warm Up Revisited


Question:

In John Paul Catanzaro's article Spine Warm Up, he speaks of using the Health Bridges because it will "stretch back muscles and ligaments" and "restore the natural curvature of the spine." I was curious what this means, since the picture shows someone in a position that looks anything but "natural." How does putting the back into extension "stretch the muscles?" They are in a position of contraction, not lengthening, so how is this stretching the back muscles? Ligament stretching? I didn't know you wanted to or could isolate a ligament and "stretch" it. And which curves, as you know there are four, are being placed in their natural position?

Answer:

I agree. You shouldn't attempt to stretch ligaments as they will tear when stretched beyond six percent of their normal length. Furthermore, the photo does depict a position of contraction, not lengthening, of back muscles. In fact, the antagonists (i.e., the abdominals) are being stretched in that position. However, the wording comes directly from the Health Bridges camp and is intended for the average Joe to appreciate the reversal of a maladapted position. So although this may not be an accurate description for fitness professionals, the concept is clear: Improve a hyper-kyphotic posture (i.e., an exaggerated forward curve of the thoracic spine), and you will improve performance. In my opinion, this “hunchback” posture that is common to many in our society is anything but “natural!”

I have not only seen an improvement in posture with regular use of this device, but I have also noticed a significant improvement in performance when used pre-training. How can posture possibly affect performance, you may ask? Well, one explanation is that in neutral, the levers are very strong! Enough said.

Keep in mind, I only use Health Bridges with clients who really need it. I think a six inch foam roll is sufficient for everyone else.

I have referenced some experts in this piece including one of the world’s foremost authorities on spinal biomechanics in Dr. Stuart McGill, as well as other top PTN contributors in Paul Chek and Charles Poliquin, and more importantly, I’ve seen these techniques work in practice.

I hope this answers your question.