Just last week we took a group of Sherriff’s deputies through a two day class on injury prevention and tactical fitness. All divisions were represented in this class; patrol, investigations, corrections and SWAT. We covered passive stretching, active stretching, tissue mobilization techniques, tactical stances, nutrition and an entire day on advanced exercise. Needless to say after two days these officers, most of whom are very fit already, were tired and standing on shaky legs.
One thing that I have seen consistently in all the classes we teach and all the departments we mentor is that almost all officers will use their backs when they get tired or are physically challenged by an exercise. This will translate to the same patterns on the street hence many of the lower back issues we see. One reason for this is ‘gluteal amnesia’ where the powerful hip and gluteal muscles forget to do their job and you hinge on your spine instead of using your hips to “spare” your back. This phenomenon can occur from prolonged sitting, excessively tight hip flexors and even improper exercise technique, so basically your job.
We spent most of the class trying to break this pattern and get the LEO’s to stand in a more athletic stance. Think of it this way, how does a linebacker stand? Wide base of support, feet flat, head up, back straight. Once your torso goes into extension (leans backward) you lose all power and mechanical advantage and injury is more likely to occur.
Work on your stances in the gym and in training so when challenged you possess the trained ability to control your torso. Now after 2 solid days of training on new fitness techniques these LEO’s were sore, fatigued and had very little left in the tank. As science and evidence dictates we finished the day with some passive long hold stretches. We started each day, as you should, with foam rolling and active stretching to prime the body for action. While going through their 7 passive stretches these dedicated LEO’s were starting to complain just a bit, but we had purposefully saved the big gun for last. At the end of the stretching session we finally introduced the “Brettzel” not pretzel, Brettzel.
I have been a therapist, trainer and strength coach for 16 years and just learned this stretch a few years ago and it quickly became my go to tool.
Preparation: Lying on your back, head supported by a small pillow or roll assume the start position. Bring the top knee toward your chest and place it on the floor, grab the bottom ankle and pull it back toward your tush.
Action: Slowly roll away from the top leg so you are looking away from your top leg. Hold for 10 sec. and repeat for 3-5 reps. Then do the other side. The key here is to bring the knees as far in front and behind your body as possible, then roll slowly away from the top leg and LOOK in that same direction that you are rolling to. Slow and rhythmic breathing from your belly is VERY important.
How many of you just became your own chiropractor? It was amazing how the LEO’s felt and moved after the Brettzel stretch even after 2 days of physical training. Enjoy!