HAPPY. FEBRUARY. Y’ALL.
Welcome back to THERE’S SCIENCE IN THIS SH*T where I showcase some of my graduate work that I pull my hair out for. A couple of weeks ago I did an analysis of the Quadruped T-Spine Rotation focusing on the movements of the head and neck. This mobility drill is a great warm-up or filler exercise to have in your programming to focus on thoracic spine mobility.
Here is a video demonstration and breakdown of the T-Spine Rotation: https://dartfi.sh/O2g5vLtzL3d
A few cues to help you crush this exercise and see improvement in your thoracic mobility:
- Don’t twist the hips
- It’s easy to bring the lumber spine and hips into this movement to compensate for range of motion. Keep the lower abs engaged throughout the motion
- Keep your eyes on your elbow
- You don’t want your thoracic spine to twist one way and your cervical spine to twist the other. That can be extremely uncomfortable unless you are an owl. Watch your elbow and let your cervical spine move with your thoracic spine.
- “Pack the Scap” on the arm that is down
- Your shoulder blade on the down arm should be locked in and engaging the lat creating stabilization. This stabilization won’t limit your true range of motion and will translate better with your lifts and exercises.
As always, if you have any questions on this subject, the terminology in the analysis, anything in the realm of exercise science, or theories on the upcoming Marvel movies (ANT-MAN WILL BE THE KEY TO DEFEATING THANOS, I KNOW IT) please email me at Brittany@evolvefitnesslab.com.
Analysis of the Neck and Head Movement during the Quadruped T-Spine Rotation
To be proficient at weightlifting, powerlifting, running, or any other sport specific movement, you need to have sufficient motor control and range of motion. For example, how far up you can bring your arm up into shoulder flexion without arching through your low back. Olympic Weightlifters mobility are assessed by testing out exercises like the front squat, overhead squat, snatch grip deadlift, and the military press (Bousquet & Olson, 2018). A personal issue of mine is my shoulder and thoracic mobility, especially on my right side. One of my favorite mobility exercises and warm-ups to use prior to lifting or playing tennis is the Quadruped T-Spine Rotation.
T-Spine (short for Thoracic Spine) mobility is crucial for spine health. The Gray Cook/Mike Boyle joint by joint theory is about how some joints may stiffen up and need mobility work, and the alternating joints may become too loose and need some stability work (Cook, n.d.). If the thoracic spine is stiff and lumbar spine is unstable and possibly in pain, the thoracic spine needs to be more mobile so that the lumbar spine won’t be used to reach the range of motion you desire in a movement. The Quadruped T-Spine Rotation can help improve range of motion and motor control through the thoracic spine while creating stability in the lumbar spine. The three phases I will be analyzing are: 1-Cervical Rotation and Flexion, 2-Cervical Rotation and Extension, and 3-Cervical Rotation and Flexion back to Neutral.
Phase 1: Cervical Rotation and Flexion
In the starting position your hands and feet are down on the ground in the quadruped position. Hands are directly under your shoulders and hips and knees are flexed. Toes are dorsiflexed. Flex one arm up and rest your hand behind your neck. Before initiating any movement, the musculature of the core should be engaged (rectus abdominis, obliques, and transverse) keeping your spine in a neutral position. Rotate the thoracic spine, neck, and head towards the down arm, putting your neck and head into rotation and flexion. The primary muscles used for that movement are the trapezius, levator scapulae, and sternocleidomastoid. The lumbar spine remains in the same neutral position and the core musculature should be engaged throughout the entire movement to achieve true full range.
|Cervical Rotation + Flexion|
|Cervical Rotation + Flexion||Origin||Insertion||Isolated Function||Plane of Motion|
|Trapezius||External occipital protuberance, medial portion of superior nuchal line of the occiput, ligamentum nuchae and spinous processes of C-7 thorugh T-12||Lateral one-third of clavicle, acromion and spine of the scapula||Unilaterally rotate the head and neck to the opposite side.||Transverse|
|Levator scapula||Transverse processes of first through fourth cervical vertebrae||Medial border of scapula, between superior angle and superior portion of spine of scapula||Unilaterally rotate the head and neck to the same side||Transverse|
|Splenius capitis||Inferior one-half of ligamentum nuchae and spinous processes of C-7 to T-4||Mastoid process and lateral portion of superior nuchal line||Unilaterally rotate the head and neck to the same side||Transverse|
|Splenius cervicis||Spinous processes of T-3 to T-6||Transverse processes of C-1 to C-3||Unilaterally rotate the head and neck to the same side||Transverse|
|Rectus capitis posterior major||Spinous process of the axis (C-2)||Inferior nuchal line of the occiput||Rotation of the head to the same side||Transverse|
|Oblique capitis inferior||Spinous process of the axis (C-2)||Transverse process of the atlas (C-1)||Rotation of the head to the same side||Transverse|
|Longus colli||Bodies of C-5 through T-3, transverse processes of C-3 through C-5||Tubercle on anterior arch of the atlas; bodies of the axis, C-3 and C-4; transverse processes of C-5 and C-6||Unilaterally rotate the head and neck to the same side. Bilaterally flex the head and neck.||Sagittal, Transverse|
|Longus capitis||Transverse processes of C-3 through C-6||Inferior surface of occiput||Unilaterally rotate the head and neck to the same side. Bilaterally flex the head and neck.||Sagittal, Transverse|
|Sternocleidomastoid||Sternal head: Top of manubrium. Clavicular head: Medial one-third of the clavicle||Mastoid process of temporal bone and the lateral portion of superior nuchal line of occiput||Unilaterally rotate the head and neck to the opposite side. Bilaterally flex the neck.||Sagittal, Transverse|
|Anterior scalene||Transverse processes of third through sixth cervical vertebrae (anterior tubercles)||First rib||Unilaterally rotate the head and neck to the opposite side. Bilaterally flex the head and neck.||Sagittal, Transverse|
|Middle scalene||Transverse processes of second through seventh cervical vertebrae (posterior tubercles)||First rib||Unilaterally rotate the head and neck to the opposite side..||Transverse|
|Posterior scalene||Transverse processes of sixth and seventh cervical vertebrae (posterior tubercles)||Second rib||Unilaterally rotate the head and neck to the opposite side.||Transverse|
|Other Rotation Synergist; Longissimus capitis (assists), Longissimus cervicis (assists), Iliocostalis cervicis (assists)|
|Flexion Antagonist: Trapezius (upper fibers, bilaterally), Levator scapula (bilaterally), Splenius capitis (bilaterally), Splenius cervicis (bilaterally), Rectus capitis posterior major, Rectus capitis posterior minor, Oblique capitis superior, Semispinalis capitis, Longissimus capitis (assists), Longissimus cervicis (assists), Iliocostalis cervicis (assists), Multifidi (bilaterally), Rotatores (bilaterally), Intertransversarii (bilaterally), Interspinalis|
Phase 2: Cervical Rotation and Extension
After the thoracic and cervical rotation and flexion, you rotate your thoracic spine, neck, and head the opposite direction opening up through the chest and bringing your elbow up high. Keeping your eyes on your elbow the entire movement will keep the cervical spine inline with the thoracic spine. As you rotate, the neck and head rise up into some extension. The primary muscles used in the cervical and head extension are the trapezius and the levator scapulae. During the rotation, breath into the stomach with diaphragmatic breathing to improve stabilization through the spine (Nelson, 2012). The temporomandibular joint go through depression as the mouth opens to breathe in. The weight of your body should be equal between the points of contact with your feet, knees, and one hand on the ground. The hips and lumbar spine should remain stable and not tilted or rotated to one side to avoid feeling a false sense of range of motion. This would take away from the improvement of the thoracic mobility.
|Cervical Extension + Mandible Depression|
|Cervical Extension||Origin||Insertion||Isolated Function||Plane of Motion|
|Trapezius||External occipital protuberance, medial portion of superior nuchal line of the occiput, ligamentum nuchae and spinous processes of C-7 thorugh T-12||Lateral one-third of clavicle, acromion and spine of the scapula||Upper fibers extend the head and neck||Sagittal|
|Levator scapula||Transverse processes of first through fourth cervical vertebrae||Medial border of scapula, between superior angle and superior portion of spine of scapula||Bilaterally extends the head and neck||Sagittal|
|Splenius capitis||Inferior one-half of ligamentum nuchae and spinous processes of C-7 to T-4||Mastoid process and lateral portion of superior nuchal line||Bilateral extension of the head and neck||Sagittal|
|Splenius cervicis||Spinous processes of T-3 to T-6||Transverse processes of C-1 to C-3||Bilateral extension of the head and neck||Sagittal|
|Rectus capitis posterior major||Spinous process of the axis (C-2)||Inferior nuchal line of the occiput||Rock and tilt the head into extension||Sagittal|
|Rectus capitis posterior minor||Tubercle of the posterior arch of the atlas (C-1)||Inferior nuchal line of the occiput||Rock and tilt the head into extension||Sagittal|
|Oblique capitis superior||Transverse process of the atlas (C-1)||Between the nuchal lines of the occiput||Rock and tilt the head into extension||Sagittal|
|Semispinalis capitis||Transverse processes of C-4 to T-5||Between the superior and inferior nuchal lines of the occiput||Extension of the head||Sagittal|
|Other Synergist: Longissimus capitis (assists), Longissimus cervicis (assists), Multifidi (bilaterally), Rotatores (bilaterally), Intertransversarii (bilaterally), Interspinalis|
|Extension Antagonist: Sternocleidomastoid (bilaterally), Anterior scalene (bilaterally), Longus capitis (bilaterally), Longus colli (bilaterally).|
|Temporomandibular Depression||Origin||Insertion||Isolated Function||Plane of Motion|
|Geniohyoid||Underside of mandible||Hyoid bone||Depress mandible||Sagittal|
|Mylohyoid||Underside of mandible||Hyoid bone||Depress mandible||Sagittal|
|Stylohyoid||Styloid process||Hyoid bone||Depress mandible||Sagittal|
|Digastric||Mastoid process (deep to sternocleidomastoid and splenius capitis)||Inferior border of the mandible||Depress mandible (hyoid bone fixed)||Sagittal|
|Platysma||Fascia covering superior part of pectoralis major||Base of mandible, skin of lower part of face||Assist in depression of mandible||Sagittal|
|Depression Antagonist: Masseter, Temporalis, Medial pterygoid|
Phase 3: Cervical Rotation and Flexion back to Neutral
Once full rotation and extension is achieved, holding for a second to two seconds to feel the stretch and then coming back down to a neutral position through that same rotation towards the down arm and cervical and head flexion. That neutral position is the starting position of each movement. The entire spine is in a neutral position, hips and knees are still flexed, and no abnormal movement has occurred through the lower lumbar, hips, and knees. As you return to neutral or rotate and flex down towards the down arm (phase 1) breath out. The muscles of the temporomandibular joint will go through elevation and is assisted by the orbicularis oris in the mouth. Between every rep, make sure the rectus abdominis, obliques, and transverse are still engaged.
|Temporomandibular Elevation||Origin||Insertion||Isolated Function||Plane of Motion|
|Masseter||Zygomatic arch||Angle and ramus of mandible||Elevate mandible||Sagittal|
|Temporalis||Temporal fossa and fascia||Coronoid process and anterior edge of ramus of the mandible||Elevate mandible||Sagittal|
|Medial pterygoid||Medial surface of lateral pterygoid plate of sphenoid bone and tuberosity of maxilla||Medial surface of ramus of the mandible||Bilaterally elevates mandible||Sagittal|
|Elevation Antagonist: Geniohyoid, Mylohyoid, Stylohyoid, Digastric, Platysma|
Biel, A. (2015). Trail guide to the body: a hands-on guide to locating muscles, bones, and more (5th ed.). Boulder, CO: Books of Discovery
Bousquet, B, A., & Olson, T. (2018). Starting at the ground up: range of motion requirements and assessment procedures for weightlifting movements. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 40(6), 56-67.
Gray, C. (n.d.). Expanding on the joint-by-joint approach. Retrieved from http://graycook.com/?p=35
Nelson, N. (2012). Diaphragmatic breathing: the foundation of core stability. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 34(5), 34-40.