30 Mar Spring-Resisted Mobility and Reciprocal Inhibition
What is reciprocal inhibition and how to best explain it simply?
To the lay person, it simply means that when one set of muscles is contracting, its opposite set is relaxing (the inhibition part) to facilitate that contraction. Or, from a different perspective, the contraction of one set of muscles helps relax the opposing muscles, if you’re looking from the other side of that fence 🙂
How does it pertain to the ProBar and how does it benefit you, more importantly?
In our habitually “protracted” posture, you know, the texting, laptop forward hunching and extended sitting time we adopt for the majority of our technologically enhanced days, we tend to create some overuse patterns and keep some muscles always on, while others don’t turn on enough or at all.
So, we look like shrimps, or cashews and it trickles down to our entire system: obstructed airways leading to poor breathing function, neck tension, lack of flexibility (most notably at the shoulders and neck), headaches etc.
And think about it: for those working their pecs on Monday, a better way to showcase them is to stretch them by building your back, as this article from T-Nation explore.
The second we activate the inner spring in the ProBar by performing the gentle “twist and pull” action on the “piston”, we experience resistance from the ProBar’s inner spring, whose mechanics want to close the bar (the sliding mechanism). That pulling action automatically engages the upper posterior chain and in that, we contract the upper back musculature (which, depending on the angle of the elbows, whether we point them down or back, for instance), will contract the latissimus dorsi, the rhomboids, the retractor scapulae, the upper and middle trapezius.
And that, by default will inhibit the usually tight pectoral muscles, reciprocally. They turn off, allowing them then better stretch and expand that relaxation to other surrounding muscles around the thoracic cage, allowing more freedom and range of motion, leading to better breathing and better stretching.
It is important than for any part of the injury rehabilitation process, we want to take care of the 3 R’s, according to Gray Cook in this article where he discusses how to Reset, Reinforce and Reload, which is something the ProBar helps create, sometimes all at once as the “auto-correct” function of the Twist & Pull patented mechanism dials into proper form, the tension creates, well, tension strength and “time under tension” (a Charles Poliquin staple philosophy explained in this Men’s Fitness article) is a form of internal loading, vs external loading with weights.
Here are 3 moves that help you increase thoracic mobility through working the shoulders into a greater range of motion by tapping into the patented Twist & Pull mechanism.
The founding move that started it all was the Shoulder 360º (because the glenohumeral joint, a.k. shoulder, has virtually a 360º range of motion but for the torso getting in the way). Doing this “brachiation”/shoulder dislocate (scary word) was facilitated by the reciprocal inhibition. When using a weighted bar, the extra load was helping with the contraction but at the expense of control (once you pass the threshold/sticky point, that weighted bar can fall fast!).
A rubber band, by contrast, was good, but didn’t provide a good metric of measure as the hand positioning on it changes every time you grab it, and doesn’t really “transfer”. And, unless people know to create tension, which they always give up on with use, a basic PVC pipe wasn’t cutting it (and extending one’s grip is the next go to facilitation, which doesn’t solve the problem, rather works around it).
So, the distraction with constant tension resistance “Eureka’d” its way into what is now the ProBar. What you can’t “feel” is that the move is both easier (from an execution standpoint) yet harder (because now the shoulder/thoracic muscles are activated).
The next move is more static, with a slight pulsing action, is the triple stretch. We could consider this an easier version of the Shoulder 360º simply because you don’t need to go all the way around with the bar, front to back, only enough to feel the chest and anterior deltoids open up, allowing he chest and rib cage to expand more. The staggered stance also promotes reciprocal inhibition as you squeeze the back leg’s glutes which then inhibits the hip flexor on that same side, thus opening it up. An added bonus of this exercise is the core activation, hitting three key things we all need more of: hip and shoulder flexibility/mobility and core stability. Hence, the name “triple stretch”. Perform again switching your stance for symmetry.
The Bent Row, aka ‘bent over row’ is a fresh take on a classic exercise where a weight such as a barbell, pair of dumbbells or kettlebells, can be used, or a cable pulley. Here, we use a short unweighted ProBar. Short because it is optimal for grip width unless you have a really wide wingspan, which would also place some nice extra work on the rear deltoids. But, to focus more on the reaction of the shoulder blades, the short ProBar is preferred.
Use any grip, overhand or underhand, and row the bar with your back flat, angled 45º or more (user’s choice) and row to your belly button or upper abs for a variety of angles and feels (go higher for a greater chest stretch). The tension from the inner spring is constant throughout the exercise, especially if you do not close the ProBar and re-“twist & pull” in between repetitions.
Knee Tuck: abdominals with a hint of mobility and coordination.
Combining these with push-ups, dips, pull-ups, hip bridging and a few sets on the leg extension machine ensured I can keep my muscles working, my brain sane (within the boundaries of my personal baseline…) and my body balanced as best as I can (I can of course add more moves, but this is a great starting point).
We have a ton of other exercises on our channel. And if you are interested in learning more and get continuing education as well as a ProBar in the process, if you don’t already have one (shame on you!), enroll into our accredited ProBar Fundamentals Course.