Secret Agent Strength. The Thoracic Spine
It's rare that I develop the urge to step foot into an overused movie theater to take in a new flick but occasionally it happens and it usually happens as a result of a new James Bond Release.
I have been a fan of the James Bond saga for a long time now and have complete admiration for each film that comes out. More important is my admiration for the man himself.
There are the obvious reasons of course as I am certain that I couldn't resist the ability to wear a nice suit, trash a nice car, and entertain the company that he has entertained time in and time out.
But it goes way beyond that. What I can admire most about agent 007 is that although he is not the most physically or verbally imposing agent, he is still able to kick some ass and get the job done working with what he has.
A valuable lesson that can definitely be carried over to the iron.
Though we may not all be hard wired with the same physical capabilities, the one thing that Mother Nature cannot sell anyone short on is getting where you want to be by making the most of what you have. In other words, in addition to traditional programming there is plenty of concept that can be applied to what you are doing. Whether you're training for strength, muscle, speed, power, whatever keep in mind that in addition to lifts, weight, reps, sets, and rest. Be sure to direct some of those efforts into how it is being done and take the time to consider concept and be amazed by the progress that can be made by integrating every dirty trick in the book.
Secret Agent Style
On with it then. Secret Agents Of The Thoracic Region
The T-Spine is our headquarters of our multidimensional movement of the upper body. Much like the hips, the thoracic region provides the same ability to push, pull, accelerate, decelerate, contract, and expand in multiple movement planes. In lifting, it is the ability to get to know your thoracic region as well as possible that will allow you to bust through big lift plateauing and complement it with the durability needed to keep you lifting the way that you want to lift.
Fortunately there is a growing initiative to understand the thoracic region through mobility and stability drills and exercises. To take it further is to bring that same initiative to your lifts and figure out how much you actually have working for you when it comes to making the most of your thoracic region.
001. Trunk Flu-RigidityTrain your trunk to move while resisted by training both trunk contraction and expansion. A solid thoracic spine requires a rock solid trunk but still requires an element of fluidity that doesn't happen if your core contraction is similar to anticipating a car wreck. This can be trained through drills that require contraction, expansion, rotation, and anti rotation.
To train the trunk in this way allows the trunk to do its part in providing the freedom required in the shoulder girdle to get the most out of it. It also lays the ground work for 002.
002. Create An Identity Between the Lumbar and Thoracic Spine
While there is nothing wrong with unity when it comes to lifting but when it comes to the lumbar-thoracic region how much goes where?
If you're looking to up your presses and pulls you best be looking at what is going on at the hip and low back. If your hips can't extend, if you experience pain around the SI joint, if your hip flexors are jammed then you're not getting everything out of your thoracic region and your low back is paying the price.
The Solution? Hip and trunk stability, hip extension, abdominal expansion, and of course...
003. Build Yourself Some Glutes
Not much else to say other than hinge, squat, lunge, step, and thrust for a bigger stronger set of glutes. The ability to gain optimal control over the hip is a whole lot easier when your glutes are working for you. Establish optimal performance from the hips and watch mid back magic
004. Learn To Breathe
Bring some consciousness into a typically subconscious function. Nothing promotes abdominal expansion and thoracic extension like deep diaphragmatic breathing.
005. Use Your Hands Dammit!
Force feeds feedback. Ground force is pivotal in making the most of your lower body lifting whether it's strength, hypertrophy, speed, or power. For some reason however the hands are often left out of the equation when really the hand shoulder relationship is as important for the upper body as the foot hip relationship is for the lower.
Whether it is an open or closed chain surface you are working with, the ability to create big contact with that surface will be huge in shoulder function.
Bend the bar.
Agent 006: Deadlift
Because it just makes sense. If your deadlift is efficient everything mentioned above is more than likely working well.
Train to strengthen the above agents and watch an efficient deadlift turn into a badass one.
Agent 007: Be More Like 007
His resourcefulness, his problem solving abilities, his judgement, as well as his independence allow him to get the job done. We need more of that in weight rooms. Apply more critical thinking to what it is that you are doing.
Sweating over whether 6 sets or 8 sets will not get you to where you want to be.
Take some attention away from volume, rest, and exercises and redirect it toward logic, execution, feedback, self preference and get it done on your own terms.
And that's that. The first of hopefully many secret agent sagas.
Feel free to leave a comment if you have any ideas for Secret Agent Strength part deux.
All the best