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Coach Sommer

Developing Active Back Flexibility

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Coach Sommer

Developing Active Back Flexibility

I like the idea of limbers but I'm a bit worried about overuse when it comes to WAG and young developing spines and connective tissue.

Overuse injuries usually have nothing to do with the exercise itself, but rather the manner in which it is approached. Flexibility progressions, strength progressions, intensity and volume must all be correctly interwoven. The majority of people focus on the passive flexibility aspect of bridge work, and then do just barely enough active flexibility/strength work to allow them to complete a limber. In the long run this is relatively short sighted and, as mentioned, will generally result in a lack of strength and the subsequent over-use injuries. In my opinion, it is unreasonable to ask the body to perform through a range of motion without attempting to develop strength throughout that range of motion.

For example, the progression that I generally follow for developing back limbers (a bridge which then pulls up to a handstand) follows below. This is of course vastly simplified, but suffices as an introductory illustration.

1) Simple bridge on the floor. There are of course many performance guidelines and progressions for both developing and correctly executing a bridge; however as this is an introductory essay, for the moment I will forego discussing these. One main point that I will make however, is that most make the mistake of equating bridges with only lower back flexibility; when in fact the primary emphasis should be on opening and strengthening the shoulder girdle.

2) Single leg bridge kick-over from a feet elevated position. This will also generally begin from lying flat on the ground, with the athlete then pushing up into a bridge. The athlete will then attempt to pull up and over by kicking one leg strongly.

3) Single leg bridge kick-over on the floor

4) Single leg bridge kick-over beginning from a stand. The athlete will now lower backwards into the bridge from a stand. NOTE: most people stop at this point in the progression.

5) Bridge hop. The athlete may still kick strongly, however now both legs must kick and remain together. Every effort should be made to progressively reduce the force of the kick; forcing the back to begin to learn to pull the legs up off of the ground.

6) Bridge pull. There is now no kick or hopping involved in moving from the bridge to the handstand position. All of the effort is now supplied by the back muscles contracting and pulling the legs up to a handstand. The legs may not help at all, other than providing a support platform to begin the movement from.

7) Slow bridge pull. Every effort is now made to complete the pull to handstand as slowly as possible.

8 ) Elevated bridge pull. The hands are now elevated onto a section of panel mat to extend the range of motion within the shoulder girdle. Yes, you have read correctly, the athlete now performs a bridge pull with their feet beginning below their hands. This is of course enormously difficult and the ultimate goal of this entire progression.

As the above progression demonstrates, passive and active flexibility should always be developed hand in hand. Regardless of the stretch involved, the primary emphasis should always be on striving to develop active strength throughout the entire range of motion that is appropriate for both one's chosen sport and to support the level of performance that one is capable of within that sport.

I will insert a sample video link within this essay tomorrow.

Yours in Fitness,

Coach Sommer

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Edward Smith

how do you think we should get to the point of being able to fall to bridge coach? because that's my main downfall. she would just continue with those progressions and wall walking?

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Blairbob

Ed, look here for my take on it.

http://gymnasticbodies.com/forum/viewto ... =1081#1081

Hey Coach S. Thanks for your input on the back limbers. I do know that bridges should also be all about the shoulder opening versus just in the back bending ( as many limber kids will allow or girls doing back walkovers [ on beam ] )

I've always followed pretty much the same progressions for our compulsory and optional gymnasts considering back limbers. However, some of them at the same time are already starting those back aches and problems. It could just be a lack of doing them not wanting to aggravate these, or a failure to also do assistance exercises for their backs in tandem. I, however have not been in control of the conditioning program as I was not head coach.

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Mats Trane

Does anyone have som specific exercisees for:

opening and strengthening the shoulder girdle

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Blairbob

One coach I knew showed me a yogi handstand variant on the wall once. Kick into an arched handstand on the wall. Then slide your butt lower and lower while piking your hips and pressing your shoulders really open. Rinse and repeat. There was a way to do this with your stomach to the wall as well, but you'll have to play with it to figure it out as I don't exactly remember it.

I've also seen a homemade device on gymnasticscoaching somewhere that was used for building body strength for release moves. Basically the entire body is in a harness with pulleys. Said gymnast pulls from hollow to arch while in the contraption. Really neat concept.

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Felipe

I'm adding this to my routine but...where are the videos coach?

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Mats Trane

Thanks Blairbob! Sounds like a good one !

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sghetti

Thank you for all the invaluable information Coach! Just wondering if a video of this will be up soon.

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Blairbob

I wonder if I'm bored enough to make something with the digital camera. Hmm.

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sghetti

Been busy huh! Haha let me know.

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Blairbob

Sorry about that. Actually I have been really busy since I was told Tuesday I might get an open spot in the crossfit games. It flip flopped till Friday morning just before 1am and I got home Monday morning before 3am. I kept on trying to make phone calls and emails besides the general day to day stuff. Not a lot of sleep last week just because of the nerves of getting the spot and the stress of that baloney in getting everything set up.

Monday, I pretty much vegged but I could do it today. It will depend on how my back feels since I expected myself to be really sore because of all the lifting at the games.

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Blairbob

My apologies for not getting it done today. I've been having a lot of computer access problems since last Thursday when I started attempting to upgrade my system. I ended up testing a lot of different configurations today and getting nowhere when I was only going to work on it for a few hours.

I thought about doing it just now but frankly I'm bushwacked.

I can do about everything from #1-6. I've never really tried # 7 or #8. Don't expect any titles or editing as I think this computer setup is too slow to do any of that ( circa y2k speeds ).

I think I'll put some supplementary exercises as I see fit. I got my roomate to let me borrow his camera and cradle so I don't need him to upload it to me.

I just wasn't up for doing it all after a short warmup versus my general workout warmup.

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Blairbob

Well, I finally finished editing the video I shot for progressions 1-5. I did fail at performing the back limber, but hopefully you will have an idea that it hits handstands and comes over to a pushup position.

I intend to reshoot this, but not as a series of clips and then merging them but just one shot. While I could probably ask one of the gymnasts at the gym to do it, that gets into waivers and child security, etc, etc.

If and when I can get an assistant to help me reshoot it, means I can get the camera in better focus of the body in movement as my legs go out of view in the kickover as well as the upper torso in the back wall progression I put at the end. I think I won't bother editing any more video on my system till I can finish the pc upgrade process that took my system done for quite a bit of time besides the July 4th weekend.

Here you go and hopefully this will give you an idea,sghetti.

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Guest Brusi

Wow,

Great video, great flexibility :P

Be careful :shock: somebody might open the door :(

I 'm very very far from that level. :roll:

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sghetti

Blairbob, thank you so much!!!

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long1468

coach sommer can you please post progressions to a bridge

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Nick Van Bockxmeer

Arms straight, hands shoulder width apart, with the shoulders directly above the hands. Legs should be straight and together.

DSC_0038.jpg

Unless you have a spine that freely hyperextends, it will take some months to develop a significant arch. Focus on elongating the spine and stretching out the abdominals, as well as developing active flexibility in the spinal erectors and glutes. An example of an active flexibility exercise:

omag_200704_oz_217_350x263.jpg

to help prepare the shoulders you should do wall slides. Stand facing a wall two or three feet away. Place your hands on the wall, bend at the hips and slide your chest downwards as far as you can. Continue to slide your body and your hands as far down as you can. Repeat. This is the best picture I could find

fb-102.jpg

In terms of progressions, I would start the bridge with legs bent and keep going until eventually you can get your shoulders directly over your hands. Then slowly try straightening out the legs.

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Blairbob

Nick is very correct. I am far more concerned with the shoulders being opened than the legs together with knees straight. It will come in time and if I put the feet up higher I can work on both towards a satisfactory degree.

One of the few basic arch stretches besides the arch/superman hold is a seal stretch on floor

http://www.drillsandskills.com/stretching/General/gn001

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Bozo Jonic

Hi, I have back strength&stretching related question that I would really appreciate some feedback on.

I was working on my active back flexibility before I found this thread, so I didn't do it systematically as Coach Sommer suggests. I started from head-bridge (wrestlers) with my feet elevated and got to the point where I could do head-bridge hop with feet and head on same level. Through similar progression (in the beginning with elevated feet, lowering my feet every few trainings), I eventually learned bridge hop (progression number 5).

Now, I would like to start with bridge pulls (progression number 6), but I lack back strength necessary to pull my feet from the ground. I could do hopping and try to hold my feet in the air, but I would be much happier with more static version where I could really use my back strength without jerking.

So I am wondering - should I use method similar to previous ones - eleveting my feet to the level where I can lift my feet without hopping motion? Or should I do a reverse motion - do a handstand, lock my shoulders and try to lower my feet as much as I can.

Any suggestions?

Any help would be much appreciated.

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happyjourney

i've been working on trying to get worked up to back bridge walkovers for a while. propping my self up in handstands where i face away from the wall and trying to walk my feet down and trying to hold a balance in what they call a hollow back in bboying. when i had strength in the summer i would try to throw my feet over from a head bridge very rarely getting over but my shoulder strength was so lacking i couldn't even attempt a back bridge walkover. i was 6'2" and 175 but after eating all winter sitting around and going to the gym once a week desperately trying to gain weight (ectomorph) i now have acheived the weight of 205 have a protruding belly and have increased some of my arm strength. i don't like the belly but i'm thrilled to have gained weight as i've been 175 since eighteen now 33 and thought i was doomed to die that way. my question is what can i do about my shoulder strength issue? i see little skinny girls doing backbridge walkovers and chunky little guys as well. i don't know what exercises to do to build up my shoulders to hold all the weight of my body in the dislocated position for one and throwing my weight over seems to be a monumental task. practice v-sits? ab exercises? build my legs up to kick off harder? any advice would be appreciated, even bad advice. sorry for posting this here. it seemed somewhat topic appropriate. please help.

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Animalonfire
coach sommer can you please post progressions to a bridge

You may have noticed that I'm not Coach Sommer :wink: . Ido's bridge progressions are very good. On the youtube page you can hit "more info" to get a link to the appropriate blog entry. Also you can look around for more advanced variations when you're ready.

hbnmcALXXUY

(in case embedding doesn't work)

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norbeex3

I read trough the topic and I haven't got an answer for my question so I think I'll ask it :)

I started bridge training 5 days ago I did it for 2 days without pain but I got some pain in my lower back for the end of the third session(third day). The pain was still there for my fourth session(also fourth day) and now it's pretty bad. Is this normal? and how many days should I do the bridge work? I'm new to this kind of movement.

I was doing simple bridges trying to stretch it further and further everytime I tried one. It was working but I got this pain :S

I don't want to rush it so I ask for your advice about the approach.

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Nick Van Bockxmeer

if you did it four days in a row, thats probably overuse. If you are working a new area of flexibility you need to understand that when you start, your are at the weakest you will ever be. Even if you feel like your are making awesome progress after a few days your body has never been exposed to this before and needs time to adjust. Just try twice a week for a month or so, then you will feel much more comfortable with the movement. Thats plenty of rest to begin with, and in the long run its not a big deal if you work slow for a little while. A lot of girls in my circus/ballet classes are amazed when I can whip out front splits and pancakes without warming up. They don't know that i've built up to that level over two years consistent practise.

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norbeex3

That's fine thank you for responding. :) What do you think about the low bridges? Should I use them in my training regimen or stretch high bridge right away?

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Blairbob

It would probably be a better idea to master the low bridge before moving onto the high bridge.

I generally start the bridge from an elevated position and lower to the floor over time. Time is a variable and just depends on the individual. As well, typically there is a bunch of the assisted bridge drills like stick dislocates, german hang or seated shoulder extension, cat stretch, seal/cobra stretch, shoulder SMR (foam roller work), arm circles, etc.

bjonic, it's way late but I think you need to stay on progression 5 for a lot longer. Of course you could just work the front limber as slow as possible as well. It's a good drill. From handstand, lower your feet to a bridge as slow as possible. You will have to lean and open into your shoulders as you do so.

happyjourney, you simply need to work on a lot more shoulder strength to hold yourself up. This means, a lot of HS on the wall. If you can practice a yogi HS on the wall, this is a good drill for the "B-boy hollowback" but is quite demanding.

For the Yogi HS on wall drill, you will kick into a HS with your back into the wall. Now push your shoulders away from the wall as you slide your butt down the wall so your hips are piked.

This can also be done from a stomach to HS on the wall but typically you will start with your hands away from the wall a bit and push your shoulders to the wall as your feet slide down the wall and your hips pike.

When I was shown these and tried these years ago, my shoulders were tight for a few days afterward. Another promising compulsory boy about 10yo was amazed at how trying and painful they were when the coach had them try it. I'm pretty sure are faces were cherry red.

I haven't worked them much since. I think it may be similar to manna but I'd need to take a picture while attempting it. Perhaps, something I should try.

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