Thursday, December 14, 2006

Stirring the Pot, Part 3 of ?

Flexion v. Extension

Part of rehabbing my knees, especially my right one, is creating a balance within my body between flexion and extension--particularly in my hands and wrists. Because I have spent the last 18 years grabbing and holding hard onto things, I need to train my body away from these patterns. Too much flexion is a sign of the Startle Reflex (SR from here on out--too lazy to type Startle Reflex...), which in and of itself is vitally (meaning necessary for living) important. SR is characterized by flexion and adduction. Too much flexion in a relaxed situation equals SR overload, for lack of a better description. The SR is hardwired into our CNS to protect us. It is a survival mechanism to protect all the vital organs in the body. Survival is the exact opposite of performance (flight v. fight). So, it seems intuitive then that prolonged exposure to the SR would inhibit performance.

The SR also manifests itself when we feel pain--both physical and emotional. Therefore, training in and through pain can inhibit performance. (Ask me how I know that...) This explains, at least in my mind, why many athletes, let alone Regular Joe's never feel quite right after rehabbing an injury, especially one that requires surgery. It's from living in and through pain. The body compensates on a broken platform. The pain plus the compensations only promote SR. I remember squatting just before my hip injuries thinking to myself, "How long until I get back to where I was?" The reality was, the knees were becoming more of an issue every day. If they're painful without load, loading them is only going to increase the pain. (The good news is I can recognize what the SR looks like when someone's squatting now.) No wonder the numbers wouldn't go up.

Side note: I think powerlifters who use gear (not slang for steroids) are less prone to experiencing this CNS shutdown--inhibition due to SR. The gear, apparently, according to Mark Riefkind, SrRKC, acts as extra connective tissue. So you can work a lot longer in and through pain using gear than you can raw. Again, it's just my take.

So, back to the flexion v. extension idea: How's this manifest itself in training?

My theory, well, my understanding of Dr. Cobb's theory or understanding of neuroscience, is that because there are so many joints in the hands, and therefore so many mechanoreceptors, (see yesterday's post) that performing DJM for them increases proprioception and therefore enhances the body's ability to...well, I don't know really. Bummer. Like I said, I'm still working through all this. I think the increased proprioception allows the body to balance itself between survival mode and performance mode. I don't fully know the mechanism yet--all I know is that is works. It's working with/in me and with/in our/my clients. Too much gripping is a bad thing. It can actually pull the whole body into flexion and adduction. You know that forward head carriage? Startle Reflex. How 'bout those rounded shoulders? Startle Reflex. How 'bout Upper Cross Syndrome? SR. Perform a lot of gripping, and you'll actually start to look a lot like that.

So, how am I applying this to my training?

I now perform all my DJM with my wrists in extension, my hands supinated, and my fingers fully extended, to the best of their (my) ability. Plus, I perform a lot of hand work: figure 8s, both index and pinky led; wrist with fingers in extension; and lots of finger and thumb circles. If my CNS is tired, these are "killer," especially when performed with the shoulder in extension. And, I have a GPP day where I place my hands, wrists, and arms in these positions, which counter the positions they're in when performing my weightlifting and kettlebell exercises. It's fascinating.

Today's training:

A. Power Clean, from below knee: 60%/2 x10 sets; 45s rest
70/3, 85/2
100/2 x 10; Easy. Good positioning. Aware of long spine.

B. Overhead Squat: 7-5x5; 90s rest
60kg/5, 65/5, 70/5, 75/5, 80/5 x2 sets
These also felt good. I suck for 5s, especially for little rest, so it'll be interesting to see what happens when I cut the reps and increase the rest...really interesting...

C1. Medium-grip behind neck press 4-6x6
C2. Medium-grip supinated bent over rows: 4-6x6
Rest 60s after C2.
Used 50kg for both--just going light. 5 sets of each--60 reps total.

Yep, definitely tired, but not as much as Tuesday. Looking forward to that unload week next week.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

good post geoff, such interesting information and observations.I was stuck in SR for a long long time and powerlifting only made it worse.

The gear did prolong the ability to lift heavy and too take load off the connective tissue.the extra loading it allows does catch up to you though.

I think had I stayed away from so much round back lifting things would have been better.

doing my stretching overhead and now my chins in supination made a HUGE differnce to my shoulder.

also very intersing stuff about the hands, I am gripping things and doing bodywork all day every day.I know though, how much I need extension movements to create balance.

good stuff

10:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Practicing component movements startle free makes compound movement startle free.

as Rif, said - good stuff.

1:11 AM  
Blogger Geoff Neupert said...

Rif--did you order the R-Phase Manual & DVD yet? If not, get on it! Give it to yourself as a present. I failed to mention in my post that, as you pointed out, even with the gear, it just prolongs the period of time you can lift, but the extra load will catch up to you.

10:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

man I am ashamed to say I have not.I know I keep saying I will but I will :))

What I experienced with my shoulder recently makes me more interested in the concept even more. have patience with me I take up things slowly some times.

6:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

also if pain and injury increase the SR I am one screwed flexed and adducted SOB! lol

8:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting post Geoff.
Fight or flight... in sports, isn't that where the adrenaline comes from? I wonder if the neuroendocrine response -adrenaline/arousal of competition can ever be separated from SR (Startle Reflex) If so, are there any examples of professional or amateur athletes who are "Startle Free" from whom we can draw inspiration?
Also interesting to me, the SR induced posture you describe appears to be the same posture that Ori Hofmekler finds desirable and describes as the Warrior Posture.


11:02 AM  
Blogger Geoff Neupert said...

Randy, to answer your questions:

1. Yes.
2. I don't think it can ever be separated from the fight or flight, just modulated--dialed down/back--think SWAT/Special Forces.
3.I'm not familiar with Ori H's work. But try to run full speed with too much flexion and adduction--it won't be full speed anymore. Not so good if you're a warrior IMHO.

10:20 PM  

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