Monday, March 9, 2009

Lumbar Mobility in Italy

In this issue
  • A question from across the pond on mobility in the lumbar (low back) area
  • A short video clip of one of the best bands....ever!
Mobility in Italy
I checked my inbox the other day and found a very cool message all the way from Italy!

Hi Michael, I'm Alessandro Menegaz a co-founder of the web site [1].
Our web project is directed to Italian athletes and our goal is to spread the culture of strength training witha 360 degree view.
To increase our knowledge and to improve our training results all our members are continuously searching and testing every kind of training strategy and programs (choosing only the ones that increase efficiently our performances in at least one of the strength qualities).

From the opening of our site, ten months ago, we have already published articles of coach JOE DEFRANCO, STEVE COTTER, CHRISTIAN THIBAUDEAU, MIKE MAHLER, LOUIE SIMMONS and a lot of other important works published on,, and other famous fitness web-sites.

On the 10th November 2008 we published a translation of one of your articles (first published by onthe authorization of Jim Smith (from DieselCrew).

He told us that we can translate the article as long as we put all the references to the author, to the original version and to their website (we had no problem with that since it is our standard policy about the translations).

Here you can find the link to the published article:

(for the US viewers here, check out Diesel Crew for tons of great stuff! Llink below to the article)

Lumbar movement and Z Health comment

We are very happy to make some important/innovative works available for Italian-language readers and we hope that this will also help you and other authors to be known in our nation (for this reason we always translate a short biography of the author and we put all the references to his site/blog too).

I hope you are happy about this too (if not, you can obviously have your article removed at any time).

I'm writing you since we received an interesting feedback from one of our readers about your work.

In his message he asked questions about some of the concepts you presented. We would be very pleased to answer him, but since we are not Biomechanical experts and we don't want to give imprecise or incomplete information, we decided to try to pass those question to you (who better than the author can answer them? :-)

Maybe you are not interested in this … but we had to try to contact you :)

I thank you very much for the time you have dedicated to this message and for your interesting works.

Kind Regards,
Alessandro Menegaz Co-founder of RawTraining project

I translated the original message almost literally (well … I tried … it is more difficult from Italian to English than vice versa :

Wow, very cool and yes I will do whatever I can to help for sure!

Mobility Question

"Hi ! I think that this article is very interesting and I'd want to ask you some questions about it.
I see that you have it in for Mc Gill and Cressey (poor guys, I love them ^^). I don't think that the lumbar spine's mobility is the origin of all evil (and I don't think that they believe this too), nonetheless I think that in our sedentary society you can very easily find people with a thoracic mobility close to zero, a posterior kinetic chain as flexible as cast iron (I hope that cast iron is not
flexible lol) and for this reasons they also have lumbar mobility to compensate all these motionless areas.

Therefore in my opinion it is very likely that common people need exercises to put thoracics in motion and exercises to stabilize lumbars, isn't it ?

Anyway we know that hyper-mobility is harmful and it is harmful for the spine too.

There are a lot of studies (mentioned by Mc Gill too) about the high incidence of spondylolisthesis (double, triple, one upon the other ...) focused for example on women gymnasts that show the dreadful couple: iper-mobility + low weight (and bones that "you can cut with a bread-stick")

After all this self-gloating :), I'd want to ask what you think about:

- The results achieved by McGills about discs herniation's mechanisms that are very probable when we join high compression forces (for example executing squat with a load equal to 2 times your bodyweight) with lumbar movement (as it happens when someone not very flexible goes below the parallel position during the squat "closing on himself like a squeeze-box").

- the studies he did with fluoroscopy on powerlifters who did a 200Kg-deadlift with a semi-flexed back

- How would you design a lumbar mobility workout, to whom and would you use external loads?

-- Which kind of results would you expect from this workout ?

--Which athletic movements would you want to improve and why ?

Sorry if this message is too long ;-)"

---Submitted from Italy

First, off thanks for the kind words and it is obvious you have done your homework, which I LOVE to see.

Actually, when I listen to Dr. McGill speak and others from his lab, I actually agree with 99% of what they say. I don't always agree with some of the "leaps of faith" some in the training world then take based on it. Even coach Boyle has stated that he probably does things based on McGills work that is farther than McGill himself would take (Reference: Strength Coach Podcast). I think the lumbar should be mobile, but not HYPER mobile, esp in only one part.

- How would you design a lumbar mobility workout, to whom and would you use
external loads?

I actually use the Z Health system (starting with Z Health R Phase, which you can pick up here in the upper right hand corner) and it includes drills for lumbar mobility. Most (even some athletes) can NOT do these correctly for several sessions. The goal of the drill to so increase extension and "open up" the lumbar area.

I agree with your point that most have very bad hip movement and horrible thoracic mobility--no question! Get those areas moving first since they are much easier to work on and they have a high pay off.

Most that I see are also hyper mobile in the lumbar, but ONLY at ONE segment---this is NOT good---too much force on a small area (thus increased stress). The goal is to get ALL of the lumbar segments moving, not just one. The amount they move is of course very small compared to the thoracic, but they should still move.

Which kind of results would you expect from this workout ?

Very very hard to say. It really depends on what their weakness is. For some, the results are a huge decrease in pain and much better movement, for others there is only a small change. Very hard to say, but once the area is open and mobile, everyone moves better--how MUCH better varies a lot.

Which athletic movements would you want to improve and why ?

Your question is actually a great one. My answer is the one that they are the worst at! Maybe I am not answering your question, so feel free to rephrase.


Special thanks for the great question and if you are in Italy, but sure to check out the website below.

Big thanks to Alessandro Menegaz also for putting up my article and translating the question. It is still amazing to me that this blog is translated into so many languages! Small world.

One of the live best bands.....ever

Below is a very cool video from SXSW this year.

Iron Maiden is one of the best live metal bands...ever. I've only been able to see them live once on the "Brave New World" tour on August 27, 2000 (7 days after my birthday) here in St Paul Minnesota. The show was AMAZING. I was expecting a good show, but they pulled out all the stops and each member was so passionate about playing live I could have watched them all night. Excellent show and one of the top live shows I have ever seen in my life (and I've been to a lot of shows).

In the video below, notice that they have their own plane and Bruce Dickinson (lead singer) is actually the pilot too (click HERE for more info). Not just any plane---a real 737! They even got it custom painted and will sell it back to a major airlines later at some point.

The last few seconds may not be super work friendly, but they did edit out a few bad words

Special thanks to my buddy Warren Smith for sending me the video. If you are in Canada around the Vancouver area, be sure to check out his training/nutrition services.

Rock on!
Mike T Nelson