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Revolution Conditioning Training Tip: Bottom Up Training – The Spine

Revolution Conditioning Training Tip: Bottom Up Training – The Spine

This is the fourth in a five part series. You can read Part One- The Ankle here, Part Two – The Knee here, and Part Three- The Shoulder here.

My guess is that when you saw the title of this installment, you immediately thought of the lower back. After all, that isprobably what you feel most often – fatigue or aching in your lower back.

However, I am going to spend this segment talking about the thoracic spine, which is the middle part. You see, I think much of the low back fatigue and pain you experience is related to poor functioning at the hips or the thoracic spine. Dysfunction in these two areas will lead to compensations in the lower back, often increasing the mobility and decreasing the stability of this area, which eventually leads to breakdown.

This is how the thoracic spine can contribute to lumbar spine (lower back) pain and dysfunction. The thoracic spine is intended to be more mobile than the lumbar spine. Each individual vertebra allows for more movement in the thoracic spine. So the thoracic spine should be mobile while the lumbar spine should be more stable.

Here is where we create problems with our sedentary lifestyle and crappy posture. Many of us sit for a good portion of our day – you sit at work, you sit at school, you sit in the car, you sit in front of the TV. Even when we are standing, many of us carry over our poor posture.

As a result of this slumped, shoulders forward, head forward posture our thoracic spine (t-spine) gets stiff. Despite the stiffness in your t-spine, you still need to reach overhead with your arms, keep your chest up in the ready position when you are in net and rotate your torso as you keep up with the play or scramble in the crease.

If your posture has created stiffness in the t-spine, then where will this mobility come from? Much of it will come from the lumbar spine, which leads to extra wear and tear. In overhead activities, you will find new and unique ways to use your shoulder joint; ways that it is not intended to be used, so there is another area of wear and tear. And finally, you rounded t-spine and forward shoulder posture will chance the position of your neck, putting your cervical spine (neck) into constant extension. This is way too much wear and tear on the system and eventually one of these areas will breakdown.

There are some simple solutions.
Sit up tall and stand up tall. Yep, just like your parents have been saying for years. Here is a simple trick to get great posture and strengthen your torso at the same time. First step, sit in a chair with your normal crappy posture and put your hand across your belly button. See how it feels pretty soft and squishy? Now, imagine there is a string coming out the top of your head and pulling you up toward the ceiling. Try to make your spine as long as you can. Now feel your abdominals – they are tight aren’t they? Do the same thing when you are sitting in class, at work, in the car or when you are standing.
Work on your t-spine rotation – I show you two techniques in the video below
Restore some t-spine extension – I show you how in the video.

To summarize, the number one thing you should work on is posture, then work on rotation and extension. Keep your t-spine working the way it is meant to and save yourself low back pain, shoulder pain and/or neck pain. You will also be taller in the net and look bigger in goal sending shivers down the spine of all those shooters out there.

Maria Mountain is the strength and conditioning coach to Olympic, World and Stanley Cup Champions. She specializes in off ice training for hockey goalies. Visit to learn more or click here for your free copy of the Ultimate Guide to Durable and Flexible Hips for Goalies.

About The Author

Maria Mountain M.Sc.

Hockey strength and conditioning coach Maria Mountain, MSc specializes in off-ice training for hockey goalies. As the founder of and the owner of Revolution Sport Conditioning in London, Ontario, Maria has trained Olympic Gold medalists, a Stanley Cup Champ and athletes from MLB, NHL, AHL, CHL, CIS and more. Try Maria's Goalie Stretch Solution today.