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Morning Mobility

February 24, 2010 06:18 AM

Comrades, some of you know my story, but for those of you who don't, here's the short version: I had a herniated disc that was so bad I was bedridden for several months, only able to hobble to the bathroom and sit at the dinner table for perhaps 5 or 10 minutes before my back gave out and back to bed I went. The Party has been my salvation – first deadlifting, then kettlebells, then flexibility, then joint mobility.

In my situation, getting out of bed and moving around for the first time each day can be a painful chore, but I have found a short series of movements, done each morning before I get out of bed – that's right, literally while still in bed – that make a huge difference in how well I move for those first few hours of the day. These movements, taken together, have been a real lifesaver for me, and I hope they will be for you, too.

I have taken one movement from Pavel's "Super Joints" and two from "Kettlebells From The Ground Up" by Gray Cook and Brett Jones with assistance from Dr. Mark Cheng. Needless to say, I recommend you purchase these excellent resources, too.

Do the following routine every morning, either while still in bed or shortly after rising. I've included brief but, I hope, sufficient instructions – see the original sources for an expanded explanation.

1. Back Roll from Super Joints- hold onto your bed's headboard, and roll your spine up so that your feet touch the headboard. It is critically important for those of us with bad backs, and still a very good idea for everyone else, to focus on lengthening your spine. Do not just bring your toes to your head but imagine your spine curling up, one vertebra at a time, around an imaginary beach ball sitting on your stomach. Think about getting the end of your spine moving along the surface of the ball. This might seem like a subtle difference to the casual observer but it is an important distinction, trust me.

Start with your legs pointed more or less to the ceiling, keep them as straight as you can (you needn't lockout your knees) and when you lower, don't go past your starting point (don't lower your feet to the bed or floor, just keep them pointed up).

Do your first few reps in full power breathing style, inhaling as you roll up, and gradually move into a more anatomical style of breathing, exhaling on the way up, inhaling on the way down, but never completely release the pressure in your belly. You must use your breath to assist you in lengthening your spine. If you want to completely relax when your spine is most bent, take a yoga class but don't complain to me when you overstretch your lower back.

Do a few reps or do a lot, your call, but do each one well.

2. Naked Getup from Kettlebells From The Ground Up- with no weight in your up-stretched hand, perform a slow, controlled, t-spine extended getup to your elbow, your hand, or the hip bridge. At each point, rotate your neck from side to side several times as shown in "From The Ground Up" - look at your up-stretched hand, and then at the hand on the ground. You may chose to perform one rep each side to your elbow, the next rep each side to your hand, and a third rep to each side to the hip bridge and call it a day right there. Pause or be prepared to pause at any spot along the way, especially in the very first portion, raising onto the elbow. If you cannot do this without jerking or moving through it very quickly, fix that now by pausing at your weakest spot. Keep the straight leg relaxed, and keep it straight and long, too.

3. Brettzel yourself - I prefer a modified Brettzel early in the morning, with one leg bent 90 degrees or more - take up as much slack as you can out of your hip, even if it means bringing your knee to your chest - and the other leg straight and long as in a getup. Go through a few cycles of inhaling, extending your t-spine, relaxing and trying to extend and rotate your t-spine even more. Roll your neck back and forth to be sure it's not tight. The arm that's not holding your bent leg should be extended relaxed out to the side; I prefer palm up.

One or two to each side is good enough for me in the morning.

That's it - not rocket science, just movements suited to being performed before you're even out of bed in the morning. These will get your day, and especially your back, off to a good start. You may switch the order of the Brettzel and the Getup if you wish.

If you're looking for more, add the Pump stretch from "Enter the Kettlebell" as your morning finisher once your feet are on the ground. Looking for even more? Do the other two planes of neck movement plus some hoola hoops for your hips from Super Joints - read the book, it's all in there.

You could do more but, for a short morning routine, you don't need to. If you can't find five minutes to do a routine like this every day, it's your fault.

Enjoy your new mobility, and please report your results on the Dragon Door Forum.

Dr. Steve Freides, RKC-II, FMS, gives music lesson in guitar, upright and electric bass, French Horn, and piano at his home in Ridgewood, NJ, and also teaches music at the Bergen Community College. He is also available for personal and small group training with kettlebells. Professor Steve may be reached via his web site at