The Most Useful Fitness Book Ever?
Again, I would recommend the book just for one tidbit of information. From the key Chapter 2:
A disorganized spine will lead to mechanical compromises. For example, I regularly run into athletes who look as if they have horribly restricted posterior-chain issues -- specifically their hamstrings. Old school thinking would have us fix the problem by stretching those stiff cables running down the backs of the legs. While this may in fact improve hamstring flexibility, it doesn’t alleviate the back pain. What we’ve found is that if we simply organize an athlete’s spine into a braced, stable position, range-of-motion improves by upward of 50 percent. This is why we prioritize midline stabilization and good movement mechanics over mobilization techniques, because what often looks like tight musculature is really just the body protecting the nervous system.
The immediately following two pages offer Starrett's "bracing sequence." Last week, I took my stiff hamstrings to the gym to focus on Starrett’s bracing tips to the letter while attempting a deadlift PR. I never managed to beat 305 in the past, though in the past I had generally prepared to lift with little more than “keep your back straight” and “squeeze your abs.” This time, I used the “bracing sequence.” This time I lifted 325, and was able to repeat two more singles at that weight while maintaining a safe back position. Further -- and you’ll have to try for yourself -– it all felt like it made sense. I wasn’t fighting against my hamstrings to get in a good position, or squeezing my abs just because. Every move felt like extra force applied either by my feet against the ground or my hands on the bar.
I have since been consciously checking my spine position occasionally throughout daily activities -- like pushing a cart through the supermarket, or carrying a toddler -- and noticing a significant easing of pressure on my knees and lower back after I reestablish the neutral braced spine position.
It’s pretty cool, and I’m excited to get my mid-60s father, with his kayaking hobby, to give it a shot this summer: that braced neutral spine position, along with everything else in this 400-page book, means he keeps up with the grandkids longer, and it doesn’t get more useful than that.
Purchase Kelly Starrett’s Becoming a Supple Leopard