"The shoulders and the hips tie the arms and the legs to your body, this is obvious. But to take the knot analogy further, in order to function properly a knot cannot be too loose - it comes undone and your shoe comes off, or it's too tight, in which case you cannot untie it and you cannot ever remove your shoe. In order to have a functioning knot you must have a perfect balance of strength and flexibility. You must be like flexible steel. Flexible steel bends, but does not break." Jon Engum Flexible Steel
So just how do we achive this at Got Your Back Total Health? We focus on hips, shoulders and thoracic spine or upper back. We will accomplish this by focusing on 4 movements the arm bar, the pullover, the hinge , the goblet squat and the hip matrix
Performed on their own, in the morning, as a recharge or "reset" these movements check a lot of boxes. You will impove your strength, stability and mobility simultaneously.
Straight from the mouth of Flexibility Expert and Master Kettlebell Instructor Jon Engum of Flexible Steel :
Start with the Kettlebell Goblet Squat for 2-3 sets of 5 reps. Take a deep breath and
- Make sure your knees line up and stay lined up with your toes. Your knees must point the exact same way your toes do through the whole squat.
- Keep your heels on the ground and your shins vertical.
- Keep your back straight; do not allow your tailbone to tuck under at the bottom of the squat.
- Keep a “big” chest, especially at the bottom.
- At the bottom, place your elbows to the insides of your knees without losing the alignment of your back.
- Use your elbows to push the knees out to help open your hips.
- Your feet must stay firmly fixed to the ground.
- Make sure when you ascend that your hips and shoulders come up at the same time.
- Do not lead or “hitch” with your hips.”
We have found that a month or two of practicing this form of squatting has a dramatic opening effect on the hips and T-spine.
Progress to the The Hinge, either with no weight of with a light Kettlebell, 2-3 sets of 5 Reps
- Stand completely upright, feet about shoulder width apart.
- Hold a kettlebell behind your back so that it rests more or less on your tailbone.
- Puff your chest out, big chest, and let your knees be "soft". It is not necessary or desirable to have them locked.
- Moving from your hips, try to push the kettlebell back with your tailbone while keeping your back straight and chest "big."
- Do not worry about how far you bend over; this is not a toe touch. Just be concerned about how far back you can move the kettlebell. It is a hip hinge.
- If you perform this move to the letter, you will feel a very intense stretch in the hamstrings just below your cheeks, not the ones on your face either.
Next we will move to the ground for the Hip Matrix
- Get into a lunge position by kneeling down on your right knee. The instep of your right foot will also be on the ground.
- Make sure to align your knee and back foot so they fall on the same line. Your front foot will be on its own line and your left knee will be in the air.
- Make sure your left shin, in this case, is vertical and your knee is tracking your front foot.
- Do not let your knee get in front of your toes.
- Keep your hips square. If you can imagine that you have headlights on the crests of your hips, just make sure they both shine straight ahead.
- Now put your hands behind your back and push your hips forward. You should feel a stretch in the area of your front thigh and hip, kind of where your front pocket is.
- Push into and back out of the stretch using a rhythmical movement. The tempo should be 1 second forward and 1 second backward.
- Contract the glute of the stretching side to a) protect your back and b) relax the hip flexors through reciprocal inhibition.
- If and when your knee begins to creep in front of your toes, simply re-position your front foot into a deeper lunge.
- Sigh when you are moving into the stretch and this will help relax the target muscles.
- Tilt your hips up, posterior tilt, before you even begin to stretch, to put the target muscles into a nice pre-stretch. This will further your efforts.
Finally we will move to the Upper Body and focus on the Shoulder and T-Spine with the Arm Bar. The effect on the "shoulders, T-spine and all around posture is apparent as soon as you perform the movement. You can instantly feel a dramatic improvement and an opening throughout your entire body."-Engum
The Kettlebell Pullover is another powerful posture changer.
- Grab a light kettlebell with both hands; hook your thumbs through the handle in such a way that allows the body of the bell to rest on the insides of your forearms.
- Press the bell straight up over your chest - kind of like a bench press.
- Engage your lats and lock your elbows. They must stay locked and your lats must stay on throughout the maneuver.
- Now slowly lower the Kettlebell back and down in an arc so it winds up above your head on the ground.
- Take a breath contract and reverse the arc to "pullover” and end up above your chest. Repeat for between 5 and 10 reps.
Note: If you cannot make it all the way to the ground without your shoulders coming unpacked or without bending your elbows then go only as far as you can and do some contract/relax stretching letting the weight of the bell take you down several inches with each relaxation. Be conservative. You may go deeper on each consecution set. With time you will be able to handle the pullover proper.
Engum, Jon. “Untying the 4 Knots: Jon Engum's 4 Weeks to Flexible Steel Program.”Breaking Muscle, 26 Nov. 2017, breakingmuscle.com/fitness/untying-the-4-knots-jon-engums-4-weeks-to-flexible-steel-program.
Engum, Jon. Flexible Steel: an Insider's Guide to Ultimate Flexibility. Dragon Door Publications, 2013.