Mid-Back Stability – Get It Right For Great Results

Restricted shoulders? Failing your cleans and front squats because your can’t support the weight in the front rack position? Have back pain? Are your muscles refusing to relax despite being pounded by rollers and lacrosse balls?

Most people think that if you have sore shoulders, you should work your shoulders and the pain will improve. This is true sometimes but more often than not,the area is sore because something else is pulling on that sore part.

This week alone, I reckon I have addressed the same general problem of mid-back stability daily in sedentary desk jockeys to elite athletes.

When I teach people how to stabilize the mid back, I show them how it improves their tests and their movements. If stability in the mid-back is a problem, then a small test will find the problem area in the mid back and then you can retest all the other symptoms like restricted shoulders etc.

An example for you is someone I saw recently. Her coach didn’t like the way she set up at the barbell for her snatch. the first thing I did was look at what that looked like. Next, I got her to remember what it felt like to snatch grip deadlift the bar. The she set up as she usually did and then I had her let go of the bar and did an isometric muscle test in that position – it was really “weak”. I gave her 2 simple cues and retested the isometric muscle test – MUCH stronger! She retested the snatch grip deadlift – MUCH easier. Out of interest, I got her to power snatch 40kg (easy for her). She nearly lost the bar behind her because it flew up a lot faster than she was used to and was so strong.

I know you want to know the cues I used for her…but the cues I use are simply the words that get your body to respond the way I want them to…my cues are specific for YOU. They will have common thoughts and words but it has to work only for YOU. You have to get into the mode of results-based treatment so you can work out what works and what doesn’t. But because you will still ask, here are some cues for you…in no particular order…

  1. connect that rib to the back
  2. lift that rib 1mm
  3. imagine a fishing hook in your back here and that God is helping to carry you
  4. imagine an arrow entering the front of your rib here and exiting out the back here…and you are now a shish kebab(!)
  5. imagine my finger is like a hot knife in butter and where I am touching you is melting
  6. imagine your bra is able to support you like hands and give you some extra support (this actually works when done right)
  7. keep those ribs down like I taught you
  8. keep those ribs up
  9. relax and let the body choose the muscles
  10. pull that bar apart
  11. twist that bar
  12. press that bar up

The list goes as long as your imagination goes…

So add some bent over rows, ring rows and other back stability exercises to your program for strength and stability. You just have to do it right so ask your coach or local (experienced) physio for help. If it is still a problem, then leave a comment below and let’s get this solution started for you!

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About Antony Lo
Antony Lo is an APA Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist based in Sydney. His website is www.MyPhysios.com.au. He specializes in the management, treatment and prevention of pain and dysfunction, particularly of the pelvis and ribcage. His sub-specialties include Crossfit and Exercise Performance Optimization, Ante-Natal and Post-Natal Care and difficult cases that have failed treatment elsewhere.

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