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Develop Your Rib Spring

It was several years ago that I read an article that proposed that we think about the ribs as a spring rather than a cage

I thought that was genius

But as a wet behind the ears fitness instructor, I didn’t know what to do with the idea.

Many years down the line and I’ve learned a few things. Now we teach Indian Club and Mace swinging more frequently for our Kettlebell Sport, BJJ and personal training clients, its a concept I’ve begun exploring more deeply.

Starting with elasticity. Muscles are meant to be elastic in nature. They stretch then they recoil from that stretch. They lengthen before they shorten.

Is that an absolute rule? Of course not, we can simply contract (shorten) a muscle at any time, look at a bodybuilder posing for a perfect demonstration of that.

But bodybuilders are not exactly known for their athleticism.

In natural movement, ie walking, running, throwing, fighting. Muscles are stretch loaded prior to releasing the power. Just as you would draw a bow, stretch loading it prior to releasing the arrow.

Now consider most people. Normal people, not the world’s elite athletes, or green robed superheroes.

How elastic are their muscles? Particularly the thoracic region.

Ie the ribs, thoracic spine and shoulder girdle

In the majority, the upper traps are pretty tight and the rib cage / thoracic spine is fairly limited.

There are a great many drills and exercises we can use to open the ribs and allow better scapular motion and diaphragm use.

But without a full assessment of a person to determine the precise exercises needed, we are simply throwing shit at the wall and hoping some of it sticks.

Or we can have them swing some Indian Clubs and Maces.

Indian Clubs, Pahlavandles and Maces are in regular use here at WG-FIT and we often get asked why, what do they do? Have a look at how Mr Janeway’s back is being moved, how the Scapula are experiencing huge ranges of motion in all directions. See how the musculature is loaded, stretched, practically kneaded. This is why we use swinging implements. Workshop announcement coming soon… #Repost @travisjaneway (@get_repost) ・・・ Light club work is great for warming up the joints in preparation for training upper body movements. 🔻 Often I see club work that seems to focus on what the club is doing rather than the joints involved. 🔻 This is fine as a practice but, the next time you swing clubs, explore how much protraction, retraction, elevation, rotation, etc you get in the #scapula 🔻 Also, how much internal and external rotation you get in the should joint. 🔻 #shouldermobility #shoulderhealth #indianclubs #persianmeels #WGFamily #irishfitfam #scapula #Pahlavandles #macetraining #mancrush

A post shared by Dave Hedges (@dave_hedges) on Jan 31, 2018 at 5:11am PST

Why is this good for general population?

The circular, eccentrically loaded action encourages the whole torso to open up, watch Travis’ back move in the above video to see how much stimulation is possible.

As the clubs swing they provide a traction that stretch loads the muscles giving them no option but to contract. Promoting this elasticity we require for effortless movement.

The swinging weight will gradually stimulate all the upper body muscle from the extremities inwards, because the motions are circular, no muscle fibres are left out. While it is not possible to hit everything in one motion, a circular action has the greatest chance of taking in the majority.

Eventually as the whole rib cage begins to move the rib spring gets lubricated. The thoracic spine gets permission to move. Tight muscles start to experience forgotten lengths. Underutilised muscles start to “wake up”

As the ribs regain the ability to spread apart as the chest opens and the throracic spine extends, you may find your ability to breathe improves due to the diaphragm being stimulated.

Every time the clubs swing behind the head, we stretch the spring, stretch loading the serratus, the intercostals and the diaphragm. And a stretched muscle will spring back, like elastic.

Is this perfect for every body?

No, nothing is.

But can you think of any other tool that offers this much with just a few easy to learn movements?

Nope, neither can I.

In fact, I’d posit that if Indian Clubs return to common usage, I’d be assessing far fewer problematic shoulders and necks!


Dave Hedges

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