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Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Angry Biomechanist, Part I

Since I've been slacking on the blog this week, I figured I better write something halfway decent today ;)

One thing that's starting to become annoying are the pundits who feel the need to go against the grain, just for the sake of doing so. To be totally frank, if you want to call out a respected expert in the field of biomechanics, you better bring your A+ game to the table. (Please note I am not espousing myself as one, but others who are performing research and writing textbooks themselves.)

Now don't get me wrong here, I'm all for critical thinking - I firmly believe you should not only read textbooks by the experts, but the original studies they cite as well. This is going to take your knowledge and understanding to the next level. Finally, think about how it all comes together - who are they testing? What are the methods? What are the biases of the researchers? Take everything into account.

One topic that is always hotly debated is the idea of spinal rotation, specifically at the lumbar spine. Stuart McGill, Shirley Sahrmann and others have discussed this at length. To summarize, they state how little rotary capacity the lumbar spine has, especially when compared to the thoracic spine.

In an effort to strawman the argument, many will state that if there wasn't supposed to be movement at the lumbar spine it wouldn't be a joint at all! While I see where they're going with the argument, no one said that there shouldn't be ANY rotation at the lumbar spine. However, when you contrast the rotary capacity at the lumbar spine (which typically allows for ~2 degrees of rotation per segment), it pales in comparison to that of the thoracic spine (which allows for 7-9 degrees of rotation at the uppermost segments). In essence, all they're saying is that most people already have maxed out their rotary capacity at the lumbar spine and instead should focus their rotary training on the thoracic spine instead.

To take it a step further, I recently finished reading Bogduk's Clinical Anatomy of the Lumbar Spine. I don't have the exact page in front of me, but Bogduk states that with as little as 3 degrees of rotation at the lumbar spine, you start to see microfailure of the lumbar disc!

Look, everyone is free to believe what they want and to train their clients/athletes in any manner they deem suitable. The bottom line is results - if you get them, then stick with what you're doing. I've seen nothing but positive results since I've focused more of my training (and that of my clients) on getting rotary capacity at the thoracic spine and hips, while stabilizing the lumbar spine.

So until someone proves to me that this thinking is inherently flawed, this is one of those "big rocks" I'll be keeping in my jar.

Stay strong


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