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  1. #1
    resrie is offline Senior Member
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    Nov 2008
    near Girya Strength :)
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    Lightbulb Hip mobility, goblet squats, and back injuries post-SJ RKC 2009


    It's been a few weeks since the San Jose RKC, but my mind & body are still making sense of that firehose of knowledge/wisdom the The Party shared with us.

    In particular, I've been reflecting on why Day 1 of the cert was so tough for me, why my swing form & body mechanics changed so much in just 2days, and why, even though RKC training helped to increase my weekly work capacity immediately by 40% (5k to 7k Cal/wk), I still managed to tweak my lower-back again...

    But 1st, why do chronic lower-back injuries recur? Based on my readings of Dr. McGill and Gray Cook, as well as Boyle's great article on Training Joint-by-Joint, it seems that (at least for me and some other folks) the major issues in lower-back pain might include:

    + Insufficient hip mobility leading to (undesirable) lumbar flexion. Our hip joints should flex at the "crease", not our lower-back!

    + Lower-back muscle overuse & lack of core strength-endurance rather than max-strength (see McGill for details, but note that max-strength in your core is not correlated with a bullet-proof back!)

    + Greasing a bad Groove with poor posture & lifting form -- chronic lower-back rounding, bending from the waist rather than the (hip) crease, not sticking out the butt/tail when lifting or swinging

    In other words, American physical culture let us down again, by popularizing "the slouch", isolationist training methods w/ undesirable lumbar flexion (rather than lumbar stability), and the great ability of modern training to add strength&power atop dysfunction!

    So, what happened to me after I burned 7k Cal in 7 days in the days immedately following the San Jose RKC? I felt great! [Tracking Cal expenditure w/ a HRM gives me a rough idea of my work capacity, and insight into total work "volume" wk over wk.]

    Alas, when my body added up the RKC with the 7k Cal expended through sports practice and tournaments, the total expenditure of 10k Cal over 10 days probably added up to both lower-back microtrauma and overuse... and I knew I needed a back-off week but I stupidly tried to push myself on day 12, and mildly tweaked my lower-back again .

    (Still, I'm glad I was able to work my body that much in 10 days, sprinting&cutting, throwing&defending, even laying out beautifully, but the lesson I need to learn is that bullet-proof doesn't mean invincible... as much as we raise our limits, we must still respect them!!)

    Kettlebell training for lower-back rehab

    That said, I just wanted to process why the RKC cert was still so transformative for me. In an earlier post, I posited that my incorrect power breathing form was at fault (post here: Immediate results the day after attending the SJ RKC). I think that's part of the story, but I'm starting to think that hip mobility might be the other, perhaps much larger part.

    As mentioned before, modern Westernized training is great at adding strength or power to/atop dysfunction, exacerbating asymmetries+imbalances, like adding nitro to a car with a tire that's going flat... Now, Kettlebells make it a lot harder to add strength above dysfunction, but they don't make it "unpossible" (as Ralph Wiggum might say). What does that mean? Well, as Cook points out, if your training consists of sitting in a chair and pressing a lever/bar from point A to B, you can get really "strong", but it's not functional! might just be training your "prime movers" rather than your joints & stabilizers.

    In other words, if you train like a bodybuilder and only like a bodybuilder, you might look like an action figure... and move like one!

    Now, with KBs, take the TGU or Swing, when you pick up a heavier bell, there's a point at which you can't just muscle it through w/ poor movement patterns. In other words, Kettlebells enforce the constraint that before you add (action figure) "strength", you necessarily *must* first address form / technique / mobility.

    I've learned from Rif who learned from Paul Chek that there is a correct order for training:

    1) flexibility/mobility
    2) stability
    3) strength
    4) endurance
    5) power

    Start with one before two, two before three... you get the drill. Whether you want to get strong ("etre fort pour être utile"), rehab, or prehab, this progression makes total sense. Alas, Western gyms allow you to start from 5 and count down to 1! That sounds like a ticking time bomb to me: 3, 2, 1... kaboom.

    How does this connect back with day one of the SJ RKC? Well it turns out that we were taught the goblet squat first, and in retrospect this makes a heckuva lot of sense. When I arrived the cert, I could do a wall squat yup but a weighted goblet squat (heels on the ground!)? Not quite!

    Pulling out ETK, we see Pavel start with the sumo deadlift. A great lift. But, it doesn't demand as much hip mobility or flexibility as the wall squat (presented as the precursor drill), but the wall squat doesn't demand as much mobility/flexibility as a proper goblet squat! So, it makes perfect sense to train a goblet squat, perhaps even with real goblets rather than weights, and nail that before loading your body with swings.

    One can simply not perform a proper unweighted goblet squat without appropriate hip mobility & flexibility. Plus, you could argue that holding a goblet (or tea cup, if that strikes ur fancy) that has the liquid of your choosing allows for the next progression of stability .

    I'm rly looking forward to RTK, and hope it'll have much more info on the goblet squat!

    So, if you suffer from chronic lower-back tweaks like me or Bruce Lee did, I highly suggest you train first for hip flexibility/mobility and stability before you load your body with swings.

    But what is hip flexibility/mobility? And what is the hip anyway? (For details, try Mike Boyle's Understanding Hip Flexion, via the DaveDraper blog post on hip mobility.)

    Basically, hip flexors... flex. Duh, but *where* do they flex is the key. When you bend forward, you can either bend at the waist, or at the crease of your hips. Pavel talks about your "hinges" and "fold at the hips. Not the spine" but I think this is still slightly confusing... which hinge? hip? It's tough for a novice to make sense of even though hip mobility is key, and a basic understanding of "the hip crease" seems critical for mastering precursors to the swing.

    So, bend w/ your hip crease (where femurs meet pelvis), not w/ your waist (where ur pelvis meets lumbar). Seems simple to understand, but to teach? Or grease the groove of your hip crease?

    What has helped me a visualization I got from Esther Gokhale's 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back (Remember When It Didn't Hurt). For anyone that has lower-back pain, I highly recommend you this book and Pavel's ETK. A killer combo for sparing your back.

    Esther has spent years studying the physical cultures of societies that still have an intact physical tradition. She noticed that pelvic tilt is a key determinant of the health of an individual, their back, & their society's physical culture. What is pelvic tilt? Well, here's the vis.

    When you sit down, how do you sit? Butt 2 the chair back, or slouch? If you're the typical American, you slouch, meaning u retrovert rather than antevert the pelvis. More specifically, imagine you have a tail (like a monkey). Now sit down. Are you sitting on your tail? If so, you have failed.

    *Instead, please tilt your pelvis so that your butt is not on your tail*!

    Now, remember the goblet squat. Don't squat on top of your tail, move your bootie/butt/tail backwards & out of the way! The same thing with sitting. And swinging. Before you swing that bell, get your "tail" outta the way--ur lower-back just might thank me.

    Okay, well I'm going to start wrapping up here. This was a long post, but then again it's been a long journey for me and many of you who have had to deal with chronic lower-back pain as a result of lifting/sports injuries. It's tempting to load your back, but if your mobility/flexibility isn't there, u don't understand your hip & how it moves, you sit on your tail rather than antevert your pelvis... 1 day you will hurt again, and it might be sooner than you think.

    What should you do? Here's a start.

    (1) Begin with hip mobility. Sarah's intelligent fitness blog is a great start, see hip mobility « “Outside the Box” Training

    (2) Grease the Groove of hip joint/crease mobility by not sitting on your tail, and work your way up to Cossacks.

    I like using a foam roller too, but don't use it willy nilly. Foam rolling is a good kind of pain, but don't move into pain for pain's sake w/o learning to relax. Still learning how to roll, but I think the best advice I've gotten is from Elaine Petrone's Miracle Ball Method, don't fight, just "sink into it". Foam roll, but sink into your tight hip flexing muscles& relax into it.

    Finally, when you have addressed these dysfunctions, remember your tail when you swing, and keep your lumbar aligned with your pelvis, hinging at your hip creases not your belly. When you throw the bell down, hinge don't bend!

    I know I'm repeating myself, but I need it. Maybe you do too.

    Move well, and be strong!


  2. #2
    bill1156 is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Cheshire, CT
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    That's a lot to read but a couple of things jumped out at me: "chronic lower back rounding", "popularizing the slouch" and "chronic lower back tweaks".

    As I had said in a response to a post earlier in the week, I wrecked my lower back training with railroad ties in 1978. My low back would go into spasm if I looked at it cross-eyed.

    The best information I've ever paid for is in ETK: do backbends, pumps and wall squats. I've been training via ETK for nearly nine months and not one tweak or twinge.

    Like the above original post, ETK is priceless.

  3. #3
    resrie is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    near Girya Strength :)
    Blog Entries



    Backbends--I should remember those. These days I make an effort to lie down on my stomach once in a while, when reading or just taking a break from work / exercise. I think that has been a useful reminder as well.

    Now, just to wait for RTK... I watched Bruce Lee's ETD again the other day, which made me re-read the John Saxon article in Hard-Style (Winter 2008 issue).

    Check it out:

    Hard Style-winter 2008

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