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Portland Joe & The Brick Mouse
Addressing Muscular Tightness and Back Spasms in Your Prime: 3/3/2022
Back on Sunday, having just arrived in Portland, Joe and I were sparring when he showed early fatigue and described having tight legs when he saw me stretching between rounds.
Then, today, The Brick Mouse, preparing for a barbarian versus celestial tournament back in The Beast, informed me of back problems.
I then recalled that I had neglected this subject with my two most recent training partners. The Brick Mouse is in his late 20s, meaning Early prime, and Portland Joe is in his mid 30s, meaning late prime. This is at the same age at which fighters begin having trouble making weight and move up a class.
I have noted, in work and sports, that late 20s to late 30s is the age bracket were men who have back problems of a chronic nature, as opposed to accident trauma, develop these issues. Perhaps it has something to do with the emotional tension of entering the age at which a man is supposed to make his place in the world. At the same time, this is the age at which longtime participation in sports or labor, will begin to wear on a man.
31 was the year of my crippling back injury. By 36 I was more flexible and fit than ever, due to following a flexibility program recommended by Doctor Estwanix, [most likely misspelled] who was the Olympic Boxing Team doctor in the 1980s and an inventor of the MMA glove in the early 1990s.
First, 80% of lumbar back spasms in men, and many disc herniations resulting from muscular tension imbalance, correlate with tight hamstrings—the biggest muscles in your body yanking on the four smaller muscles meeting in your lower back and governing your hip rotation and flexion.
To lengthen the hamstrings begin with slow plyometric heel and toe raises for the lower leg, because the calves and shins will be involved to some extent and you want to eliminate that issue safely and early.
Below is what I developed in my late prime and still use today. If I stop doing this for a week, I am unable to walk.
Stand in a doorway and raise one foot off the ground and rotate it around the ankle, in both directions.
Rock slowly back and forth from toe raise to heel raise from pigeon toe to duck footed.
Hold onto the door frame and tilt to one side until the other foot clears the ground [not flexing your hip to achieve this foot lift]. Then rotate the leg around the hip in small circles.
Walk or walk in place for long enough to warm up your legs.
Touch the outer part of each foot to the door frame and then slowly bend over, grabbing your pants and then your thighs and knees, and try and slowly pull your face towards the space between your knees. Do this for 30 seconds after the point of relaxation and then repeat 5 times. The muscle lengthening Estwanix established in his clinic was, per set:
-1. 5%
-2. 10%
-3. 20%
-4. 40%
-5. 80%
-6. no additional benefit
After this, try doing a plyometric [bounce] stretch, very slowly at the minimum range you had before set 1. When you are stretched out after six months, you can do plyos at wider ranges and even replace the static stretches with plyos.
For instance, in summer time, I stand on the grass with my feet shoulder width apart and punch the ground between my feet alternately with each hand, and then advance to cross touching the toes.
Once stretched out with feet apart, end your session with a forehead to knees stretch with your feet together.
Backing it up to the injured state.
If you are really tight and or experiencing back pain, warm up by walking 20 minutes.
If you are injured to the point where you walk incorrectly replace the mechanical warm up with a hot bath.
Once warm, lay on the floor with a belt or towel held between both hands and one leg bent at the knee with the foot flat on the floor.
Pull the other knee back and drape the towel or belt over the arch of the foot. Then, holding this device in bother hands, straighten that leg out at a tolerable angle. Hold this angle for 30 seconds. Then relax and do 4 sets with the leg straight but relaxed as you pull back gently with the loop to increase range of motion with the active leg passively relaxed.
Once you can get your leg to 90 degrees, add the following stretch to lengthen the linkage between the hams and the lower back.
From the same prone position:
-leave the prone leg straight,
-turn your head to rest the ear on the floor on the side where the bent leg is,
-reach across your body with the hand you are looking away from and cup your knee,
-pull that knee across your body and the top of the prone leg until the hip hurts slightly and then hold
You can eventually advance this stretch to a hip adjustment like a chiropractor does. When my gait goes off from jarring, tension, or overwork, I am able to equalize my leg length by doing this.
A good stretch when warm, is to spread your legs just beyond shoulder width a foot out from the wall and slide down into a squat, resting the back against the wall to take leverage off the knees. This stretches the connective tissue over your coxic bone between your two hips, which is tight on most men who have chronic low back pain and tight hams strings. If your knees are good and you are not overweight, you can just do this ancient stone age fire-tending position as a sacrum stretch.
Look up yoga stretches for the ilio-psoas muscle and hips for additional flexibility and injury prevention.
Do not stretch before training, but afterwards.
The best warm up you can do for whatever type of combat training you do, is to use slow motion, relaxed motions that are the same as those you will be practicing for speed and power.
Side bends, waist rolls, standing alternating knee raises and boxing and FMA triangle footwork drills are all good low risk warm ups and warm downs.
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