“Rehabilitating a bad back is for pain reduction and health enhancement – period. Establishing motor and motion patterns with no pain, and building function for daily activity (although what constitutes daily activity will be different for each individual), while building tissues and avoiding further injury are the objectives. In contrast, performance training demands that risks be taken, that the body systems be overloaded into the razor-thin zone brinking on failure. These two objectives and approaches must be separated if OPTIMAL rehabilitation and performance are to be achieved, yet too often, they are confused.” (McGill)
Improving torso stiffness can enhance performance through at least three mechanisms.
1. briefly stiffening the torso proximal to the shoulders and hips (stiffening the “core”) transfers full force and movement of muscles to the distal side of the joints – resulting in greater limb strength, speed, and explosiveness.
2. muscularly stiffening the spinal column enhances its load bearing capacity – preventing buckling
3. the muscular “turgor” associated with stiffness creates an armor over vital structures enhancing resilience during contact sports.
From a pain and rehabilitative perspective, muscular stiffness helps stabilize the spine against pertubation from external loads. This mechanism also assists in decreasing micromovement of individual spinal joints (seen commonly in unstable spines) thus reducing pain in those with instability.
Stiffness and resiliency are imperative in both rehabilitation and performance. The magic lies in the application of the required loads.
Effect of Long-term Isometric Training on Core/Torso Stiffness
Lee, Benjamin C. Y.; McGill, Stuart M.
Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research:
June 2015 – Volume 29 – Issue 6 – p 1515–1526