Don’t Complicate It…Strength Train For Extension! By Brandon Richey
So the other day I was talking to a brand new beginner student of mine who has been complaining about having some shoulder, neck, and hip pain. Naturally I took a look at him and performed a basic assessment to physically take a look at what I was dealing with to start out. He was complaining about the neck, shoulder, and hip because his training (prior to meeting with me) consisted of nothing more than a bunch of bench presses and crunches.
I mean this guy had some chest and shoulders that resembled that of the Incredible Hulk, but he was so bound up that he couldn’t even fully retract his shoulders, or even hold his arms straight overhead. In addition to this his hips were so tight that he couldn’t stand upright to lift his leg straight up in front of him with his thigh running parallel to the floor. I mean just for him to get his knee up to parallel was an act of congress.
So why am I telling you this? Well, I’m not telling you this to poke fun at this particular individual at all. I’m telling you this because this particular person happens to represent a very real and larger problem that is affecting the general population these days to a very large scale degree.
I mean remembering back to when I was in college I never recall people having so many issues with their hips, shoulders, and lower back. Maybe it was going on, but my memory can’t seem to recall the level of issues that I notice today. Nevertheless now it’s a major freaking issue.
So What’s Causing This?
Well the reality is that over the past 10 to 20 years our society has slowly had an increase in jobs that happen to require a great deal of sitting! Did I just say sitting? Yes, I did. You see to me sitting is essentially the new smoking. People do way too much of it and it’s a habit that they aren’t doing much to break.
I’ve frequently spoken about the “SAID” principle to many of my strength and conditioning students to hammer home the point of “Why” we are doing this or that when it coms to certain things in training. I know you’re probably wondering Brandon what is the “SAID” principle?
SAID is an acronym for Specific Adaptations To Imposed Demands. This is basically a fancy way of saying that if you want to get better at performing a certain skill or movement then you simply need to practice that skill or movement. This sounds pretty obvious right? However, what if that very skill involves the act of “sitting?” Ah ha! So maybe I’m on to something here?
Going back to the beginner student I mentioned earlier in the article I left out a very important detail. You see he happens to have a job where he sits for 8 to 10 straight hours a day right on his arse. Yep, he’s stiff for obvious reasons, but people tend to overlook this as being the root cause for many of their physical ailments. This particular guy is no exception.
In the case of this particular individual (as well as many others with the same problems) he has literally trained his body for the specific act of sitting. Yes, he’s basically managed to apply the SAID principle to his sitting skills.
Now you may laugh at that, but the fact remains that the body will literally give back to you what you try to put in to it. I know that’s a cliche, but it’s so so true.
Now having looked at all of this the act of sitting “alone” isn’t the only cause of the problems that the novice student is having with his hip, neck, and shoulder pains. Nope, it’s also his training. You see all the bench pressing and crunching that he had previously been incorporating into his strength routine prior to meeting with me has done nothing but to reinforce an already overly used pattern in his body.
You see sitting in flexion for hours a day, several days a week, for God knows how many years has already forced his body into developing for this ailing pattern which has caused him pain in his neck, shoulders, and hips. It’s now given back to him a set of forward protruding shoulders, a weak slouched core center, tight hips, and a weak and ignored posterior chain of muscles that need to be strengthened before he just ends up literally folding in on himself like a tent.
To start – I stretched, stretched, and stretched him some more. I targeted stretching out his pectorals, delts, and neck. In addition to this I worked on stretching his hips, glutes, hamstrings, adductors, and calves. It’s a comprehensive approach to eliminate a very common problem.
In addition to this we worked on doing some corrective deadlifting which has currently led to performing some pretty standard deadlifting utilizing both kettlebells and now barbells for the purpose of restoring function and strength. Deadlifting is great for forcing the body back into “extension” as I mentioned in the title of this article as well as training the individual to force external rotation of the shoulders.
Video – Deadlift by Brandon Richey
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I included some basic band work for upper trap and shoulder development. After this I’m going to progress him to performing some more dynamic strength development for the upper back, traps, and lats (all posterior chain) by incorporating some serious kettlebell lifts involving the double arm swing, single arm swing, and overhead snatch lift as demonstrated here.
Video Brandon Richey, Heavy Kettlebell Swings, Kettlebell Snatches
As long as he has the mental toughness to continue his body will continue to respond to the stimulus. I’m going to apply the force of SAID to him to get him back to his natural state of spinal extension. The process isn’t as complicated as it sounds. I’m just trying to address the needs that his body is communicating back to me.
A key thing to remember is to just primarily train yourself for extension. As a general rule of thumb I recommend a 1 to 2, or 1 to 3 ratio of push to pull movements. In other words, for every pushing related movement (bench press, push ups, dips, etc.) make sure to include either 2 or 3 times as many pull related movements (pull ups, rows, deadlifts) or 2 to 3 times the volume of pulling action. Either way your body will thank you for it!
As I always say, most anyone can train hard, but only the best train smart my friend. Thanks again to SGPT for having me on again and if you enjoyed today’s post and are interested in more training strategies such as this then make sure to check out Brandon Richey blog here:
In addition to this you can get a more detailed plan by checking out my digital ebook resources right here.