04 Sep Exercises for Spinal Conditions
As always, we start with a disclaimer that we are not physical therapists or spinal surgeons, but work with a variety of them and through explorative collaboration, as well as experimentation, we agree on the effectiveness of certain exercises to help with certain conditions, such as ankylosing spondylitis, disc herniation (thoracic in my personal case, but also lumbar).
Today, we explore a series of moves done with the ProBar in its long configuration.
This was initially a “custom order” for someone with “spondy”, though you will find that the exercises benefit just about anyone, as they help with relief of compression of the spine via either extension or contraction of muscles, even – and this may feel like a stretch, no pun intended – expansion (of the space between vertebrae).
The video below is a little over 6 minutes if you don’t want to read and see the follow along with explanations. Or you can scroll past the video and click on individual ones.
The video for the T-Twist is also a better option than the one demonstrated in the longer video above, as kneeling positions tend to provide better correctives for compensation of the lumbar area. By kneeling, we take it away and focus on thoracic more properly. The standing option demonstrated above is more convenient, but requires more attention and cueing. So, if solo, get low!
EXERCISE #1: LAT PRESS
The Lat Press is an easy starter move here, with a modification: keep pushing the bar as high as you can at the top of the move. The activation provided by the ProBar allows for a better stretch, almost as effective as hanging, but without the grip limitation, a gentle stretch and decompression of the spine.
Because over time, kyphosis can develop (forward curving of the spine), the Lat Press provides both an upward and backward extension that helps reset posture and strengthen the muscles.
EXERCISE #2: T-TWIST
Because the spine can fuse and affect rotation from side to side, along with the forward curving/hunching posture, the T-Twist (Thoracic Spine Twist) still helps correct the upper posterior chain by engaging the back muscles and turning off the upper chest and shoulders (reciprocal inhibition), the tall kneeling demonstrated in the video below places more focus on the twisting of the spine on its axis. Standing, you risk a lumbar twist, which is akin to the lack of mobility addressed in Batman’s suit (discussed by Bruce Wayne in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, visible in the original Batman by Tim Burton with full body turns to look right or left).
EXERCISE #3: TRIPLE STRETCH
Because people with Spondy can develop “referred pain” in the knee, front of the thighs, pain in the groin, which can be misleading. It is more easily detected in younger people affected with the condition. While shoulder involvement is mild, postural alignment remains important, hip stretching is relevant and core activation for stabilization is also key. The triple stretch targets all 3 at once.
EXERCISE #4: PRONE SHOULDER PRESS
This last move has the individual working against gravity by pushing horizontally, vs gravity’s vertical and downward pull. With the spine and shoulders primed for back extension from the previous exercises, the lead-up is for the more challenging exercise of the bunch, which will make you glad it’s what you finish with 🙂
Back extension, isometric contraction of the lumbar spine, with upper posterior chain active with the ProBar’s patented “twist and pull” action, the spinal erectors work throughout the set. Having your buttocks squeezed inhibits the hips, allowing them to stretch as you raise your legs off the ground. Note: the hip extends only about 15º, enough to feel a stretch and not compensate.
You’re already on the ground, so you don’t have to worry about falling, and you are not loading anything externally but for gravity and the tension strength you create from activating the ProBar.
As always, consult with your physician.
Other exercises can be performed with other configurations, as well as other tools, but none will have the portability and versatility of the ProBar when you need it.
Start and end your day with this routine, or before any workout.
Do about 1-2 sets of 8-12 reps of the Lat Press.
About 3 Twists per side, holding at “max twist” without struggling with your breathing (only go as far as you feel relaxed in your breathing). Slowly exhale into the stretch and hold for about 10-15 seconds.
Apply the same concept to the triple stretch.
Do 3 sets of at first 5 reps, and work your way up to 10 reps over time. For an added challenge, load up the ProBar with the 500g slugs into the handles for a serious back builder!
For more information on Ankylosing Spondylitis, here is a good article on possible complications, how it affects people and more.