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Old 02-23-2005, 08:14 AM   #1
Matt Smiley
 
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First post!
Love the Crossfit - very inspirational stuff!

Here's my conundrum: When I bend forward, say to pick something up or touch my toes, the natural bending point for me is not the hips, but rather curving at the spine just around where the lumbar and thorasic sections meet.

This makes things like L sits or a pike position a little weird since I curve more than I bend. I can bend, but it feels very unnatural and requires a lot of thought and effort.

I am guessing that this is probably pretty bad - not just when it comes to L-sits, but when it comes to everyday life and posture, right?

So my question is: How can I correct this? What do I need to train (hip flexors? hams? lower back muscles?) and how? After 25 years of bending this way, could I retrain my body to bend at the waist?
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Old 02-23-2005, 08:56 AM   #2
Christopher Sommer
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Here is exercise that I use daily with my own athletes:

"One of the variations of pike stretch that I use with my athletes may be helpful to you. It is a weighted pike stretch. Simply stand on the end of a weight bench with a 25-45lb. plate and stretch down into a pike. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Do two sets with approximately one minute rest inbetween.

As you get more flexible and are able to put hands flat on the floor in a standing pike, make the weighted pikes more difficult by standing in the middle of the bench and holding the weight underneath the bench. To get into this position, assume a squat position on the bench, grab your weight and then straighten your legs to the pike position.

Be patient and consistent in your stretching. The most common mistake in stretching is people working too hard too soon and expecting overnight results."


Yours in Fitness,
Coach Sommer
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Old 02-23-2005, 08:59 AM   #3
Peter Galloway
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Hmmm, I'm not really that qualified to answer this question - but I'm not going to let that stop me!

It sounds to me like you have very poor flexibility in your hamstrings. The most important thing is that you should concentrate on ensuring that you DO bend at the hips when you do things like L-sits and pikes. This must become second nature, since so many exercises require a straight back and a bend at the hips. Eventually your hamstrings will become more flexible and the movement will feel more natural.

Perhaps you could try doing hanging leg raises - these would be exceedingly difficult to do by curving your lower back (they're very hard anyway!) which would more or less FORCE your hips to bend! Also, hollows are good for strengthening the core and establishing a good straight-back position - simply lie on your back with your hands in an "overhead" position, and lift your feet and shoulders off the ground whilst attempting to press your lower back into the ground. Again, this is very hard at first, you'll probably find yourself shaking after a few seconds. Stick with it - improvement will come quickly with dedicated work.

Hopefully other more qualified people will be along to help! As I say, it is of paramount importance that you ensure you bend properly and keep a straight back. Make this your priority with ALL exercises - there is none that I know of that calls for a rounded lower back.
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Old 02-23-2005, 09:00 AM   #4
Peter Galloway
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What was that I was saying about more qualified people?? :rofl:
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Old 02-23-2005, 11:08 AM   #5
Ben Kaminski
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I don't think that hanging leg raises would develop hamstring flexibility so much as they demand it. The pike stretch is a good one. Light-weight good mornings are good, along with nearly straight-leg deadlifts at moderate weight. With these two exercises one must focus on really sticking their butt out behind them, keeping a tight back throughout the entire movement. This really helps the bending at the hips.
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Old 02-23-2005, 11:36 AM   #6
Keith Wittenstein
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Matt

You are not alone. Many people are inflexible around the hips and hams. That's no excuse though. Crossfit has taught me (and many others) that even the weakest of us can eventually do pullups through continued focused efforts. Likewise, yoga has taught me (and many others) that increased flexibility can be achieved through continued focused efforts.

You should look at developing flexibility the same way you look at building strength or learning to snatch. You don't put up the biggest weights on your first day. You consistantly add weight over time. You consistantly (daily) work on form and technique. Similarly you should give yourself a lot of time to practice the proper form and learn to use the proper muscles to bend at the hips. Give your muscles lots of time (think years, not days) to lengthen. Practice daily.

Take some yoga classes. Seriously. You are just going to keep reinforcing your bad habits if you don't have someone to watch your form. Furthermore, stretching alone at home is a boring activity that is easily neglected when the show comes back from commercial. Being in a class setting can be fun and will provide variety and help you focus.

There are other options too, but remember that stretching with bad form can lead to injury just as easily as lifting with bad form. So check yourself before you wreck yourself.

Best of luck
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Old 02-23-2005, 11:51 AM   #7
Matt Smiley
 
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Thanks everyone for the suggestions.

I'll up the stretching I do for the hamstrings.

Ever since starting the CrossFit stuff, I've been very careful to keep good form when doing squatting type movements, but the second I stop thinking about it, I revert back to curving at the back - it's very frustrating when I catch myself doing it!

Part of the problem is that my back seems to have become somewhat flexible at the expense of my hamstrings. For example, I can bend forward and touch my palms to the floor with straight legs, but my back is very round and 3 vertibrae bones protrude noticably - pretty ugly, but that's generally what my body reverts to when told to bend forward.

When I purposefully straighten my back and bend forward, my torso will get to about parallel to the floor before my back starts to curve.

Should I just work straight-backed forward bends like this until I can get beyond a 90 degree bend at the hips?

(Thanks again.)
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Old 02-23-2005, 12:27 PM   #8
Lincoln Brigham
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When doing a toe-touch type of stretch, place your hands on the crease of your hips. This will encourage you to bend at the hips like a hinge, not at the spine like a Slinky toy.
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Old 02-23-2005, 02:26 PM   #9
Keith Wittenstein
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Yes, Matt. Stay at around 90* and encourage the stretch to move into the glutes and hams. Always be nice and warmed up before doing deep stretches.

Whether standing or seated, think about keeping the spine straight, the shoulder blades together in the back, keep the gaze forward and the front of the throat open. Do not tuck your chin into your chest and look at your knees/toes, that's the first sign that you are probably rounding the back. Don't look up either cuz that just tires out the back of your neck. Keep a neutral spine and long neck.

Flex the feet and pull the toes back towards your face that also helps lengthen the hams. Pointing the feet/toes will shorten your hams and add a couple of inches to your forward bend but won't address the problem.

Try to keep the quads active. They should feel really solid and the kneecaps should slide up the legs. Try to use your abs more by hollowing out your belly and pulling the belly button in and up, i.e. there shouldn't be a big belly-thigh lovefest, there should be lots of space between the belly and thighs until you are folded almost completely in half. This also encourages a strong straight spine.

Do single leg stretches and double leg stretches.

Don't just do static stretching. Try to mix up some dynamic movements as well. Do some leg swings and some high kicks.

Find someone to help you with some PNF stretching as well. That can help loosen things up pretty quickly.
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Old 02-23-2005, 03:02 PM   #10
Matt Smiley
 
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Thanks Keith!

I used to tag along to yoga classes w/ my fiancée and they did help a lot. I did really appreciated the way they articulated exactly how to do the stretch - much like you just did in your post.

Very helpful stuff there.

Lincoln, I like the "hinge not a slinky" simile - that's exactly what I'm shooting for.
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