Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Stirring the Pot, Part 2 of ?

Lifting in Long Spine--Always?

One of the mechanisms (I'm not sure mechanism is the right word, but the "right" word elludes me right now) in the Z-Health Performance Solutions System is the concept of axial lengthening/extension, or "long spine." This isn't a new concept for some but for others it may be. Long spine is simply focusing your intention on lengthening your spine from the crown of your head to your coccyx. The neat thing about axial lengthening is it actually makes you stronger. You are stronger in this position in all movement patterns, especially once you train that way. I'm not sure if I fully understand the mechanism for the increased strength, but I will try to explain it the best I can.

The point of dynamic joint mobility work is to, well, increase joint mobility. Pretty straight forward. But why does it work? Why is it different than stretching, regardless of the type? Surrounding a joint is a capsule. The largest number and largest type of proprioceptors reside there. They are called mechanoreceptors. If you want to increase someone's proprioception, you don't have them stand on a wobble board; instead, you move his joint through a full range of motion--a circle. This increases the body's ability to recruit the muscles that cross that joint. Therefore, DJM makes you stronger, if you apply it correctly.

Axial lengthening is a form of DJM for the spine. Since there are at least 24 joints from the occiput to the sacrum, there is a lot of potential for increased proprioceptive feedback and increased muscular strength resulting in mobilization of that area. Long Spine fully engages the appropriate musculature, in fact, all the musculature in the body, because it actually allows the body to stack it's joints on top of each other, effectively allowing for "full" proprioception, if there is such a thing. This is a very weird feeling when first practicing it. But like anything else, one gets better at it over time.

So why lift in long spine?
  1. Increase body's proprioception--answer it's question, "where am I really?"
  2. Recruit the proper musculature at the proper time.
  3. Correct muscular imbalances from too much "locking down" or "zipping up."
  4. Get stronger, faster: more of the right muscles working to perform movements, less of the wrong ones. At first, you have to reduce the load on grind type lifts until the body learns the right pattern. Ballistics you see immediate increases in performance.
Admittedly, I don't have all this down. I'm still playing with it. And it's still very weird; but my intuition tells me it's right. So, since I'm a weightlifter by sport, I lift in long spine for all my movements. I have to move from taught to relaxed to taught again to get under the bar and recover the lift. I can't lock stuff down. I've tried in the past and it slows me down. The weightlifting movements are just too fast. There's no grinding. However, moving very large loads, like powerlifters do, I'm not sure that I wouldn't try both long spine and locking down.

This is my best current explanation of long spine. I'm sure the more I study it and play with it I'll change my explanation/definition.

Training is going well this week, but I'm tired. I feel a back off week coming next week. Drop the volume, increase the rest periods, and increase the load slightly.

Monday's Training (12.11.06):

A. Power Snatch from below the knee: 60%/2 x10; 45s rest
80kg/2 x10 sets
I'm really enjoying this position; probably because pre-Z-Health I always had a hard time getting there. Feel much more in control of my body and the bar. Very cool.

B. Pressing Snatch Balance: 5's; 90s rest
60kg/5 x2, 65/5 x2, 70/5 x3, 75/5
These felt really good. Groove was right on. Spent some extra time here.

C. Snatch Pulls from above knee, medium grip: 6's; 90s rest
60kg/6, 70/6, 80/6, 90/6; done. Tired.

Tuesday's Training (12.12.06)

A. Front Squat 10 sets of 3; 70s rest
70/3, 100/3,
120/3 x10 sets

B. RDLs: 5's
120kg/5, 130/5, 140/5, 150/5 x3 sets;
The last set was really tough. I really had to focus on long spine.

C. Press: 6's; 60s rest
50kg/6, 55/6, 60/6, 65/6, 70/6

Felt very tired after this session.

Today's training (12.13.06): GPP/rehab focus

Circuit: 5x with 60s rest between circuits

A1. Very strict chins, bodyweight x6
A2. The Pump x10
A3. Reverse Lunges with shoulders in extension, wrists in extension, hands supinated, and fingers in extension: R+L: 10+10

Felt good to break a sweat and stretch out the hands, forearms, and legs. The goal here is decrease rest by 10s each session.


Blogger Brett Jones said...

I had posted a "long spine" tip a while back and am still experimenting with it - Love the JM/Zhealth breakdown.

10:25 AM  
Blogger Geoff Neupert said...

Funny, I was just thinking about giving you a buzz...

Where's that long spine tip of yours? I missed it.

Glad you liked the breakdown. I'm not sure I fully understand it. Dr. Cobb definitely gives a better explanation.

12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Great posts on Z! I am in the process of organizing my thoughts in my blog discussing Z. Your descriptions are excellent and analogies even better.

4:46 PM  
Blogger Geoff Neupert said...

Thanks, Brad. I look forward to hearing your take on Z and the experiences you've had not only personally, but with your clients/athletes.

5:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


It is interesting reading how you are integrating Z into your practice.

Another Z trainer, Marty, was looking at the anatomy and found that lenghtening down to C2, up from the lower lumbars and down to the coccyx is more specific to the structures...and it changes everything.

Have you tried lenghtening though all joints - not just the spine - more of radial extension?

5:41 PM  
Blogger Geoff Neupert said...


I try "radial lengthening" every time I perform Z. I also try it when I lift, on every lift--heels through the floor, crown thru the ceiling. I never thought of seperating the two though.

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also...out through the clavicles and down through the arms

11:16 AM  

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