Peanut Butter and Jelly – The Key To Postural Performance
We live in a world where everything is available to us almost immediately, thanks in large part to our phones. Don’t know the last time there was a lunar eclipse? Google it. Need to find a quick bite to eat? Look it up on Yelp. Heck Amazon is even offering delivery of certain items 2 hours after your place your order!
Really? Is that necessary?
I bring this up because it’s no secret that the health and fitness industry is not any different. I would argue that people are gaining more of an appreciation for the “lifestyle” but overall everyone is still searching for the magic pill that will change their lives in 14 days.
Allow others to chase their pill; you can simply enjoy a good ol’ fashioned PB&J sandwich! I’ll get to that in a minute…
The more I learn the more and more I weed out, getting closer to those “catch-all” exercises.
In reality there is no such thing as a true “catch-all” exercise that fits everyone. There are exercises that will change one person’s life and literally not move the needle on another.
Just like your mother told you, you’re unique.
That being said, today I make a strong argument for peanut butter and jelly – blowing into balloons and learning how to perform the arm bar. The results will be life changing. In terms of posture it might be as close to the “magic pill” you’ll find.
Blowing up balloons
In case you didn’t know, blowing up balloons is the trendy thing to do these days. All the cool kids are doing it.
- Retraining your diaphragm
- Increased mobility
- Increased mental clarity
Today people are walking around stuck in one position. Their diaphragms are working at a fraction of its abilities and not at all for others.
This does a few things:
- Creates a lack of apical (lung) expansion thus causing the chest to concave and shoulders to slump forward
- “Locks” your ribs into place preventing the desired alternating, reciprocal motion that’s required in everything we do in life…most importantly walking
- Triggers a cascade of stress-response systems in the body that are associated with shallow, short breathing
While the postural problems associated with a lack of apical expansion and the inability of the ribs to rotate with each step is a problem, stress is no joke.
Stress is arguably the most toxic thing for your body. If you’re curious to learn exactly all the different stress-response systems in our body, check out the book Why Zebra’s Don’t Get Ulcers. It’s long, but eye opening.
For these reasons and more, every session I take my clients through begins with some balloon breathing.
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to work through this one on your own. Even if you just sit in a chair and breathe into a balloon a few times you’re going to notice a difference in the way you feel and think.
Breathing into balloons = peanut butter. Yum!
If blowing into balloons is the peanut butter, then the arm bar is our jelly.
The arm bar allows you to take all the great things that you just acquired in blowing into your balloon, and stick it! Make it permanent, or as Gray Cook has recently said, “hitting save on a movement pattern”.
The arm bar is one of my favorite mobility/stability drills. Both are interchangeable with this exercise and are a big reason why it’s again used with all my clients.
Creating stability at a newly acquired range of motion is essentially (as Gray Cook said) what hits “save” in a movement pattern. Your new range of motion is now yours and yours forever.
This is where people fail in performing countless flexibility drills; without strength in your newly acquired range of motion your gains are only temporary.
This is why the arm bar is so great.
The act of hold a kettlebell overhead naturally packs the shoulder when held properly. This helps stabilize the muscles of the posterior shoulder and rotator cuff.
Additionally, when asked to roll and maintain that packed shoulder – as you do in the arm bar – the client begins to work on T-spine mobilization. The packed shoulder gives you stability while allowing your breath to do the rest for you.
- One quick note; if you can’t breathe in a position of movement than you’re just surviving the movement. You don’t own it. Back off to a position where breathing is comfortable.
For all you self-coached athletes out there, the above tip will help you immensely in any exercise you do. Own the movement first, then load it.
The strains our breathing patterns place on the shoulders and upper back require us to focus attention on the t-spine and shoulders.
They are one and the same, a fluid system.
You can’t have shoulder mobility/stability with a stiff thoracic spine and you very likely will have a t-spine issue if your shoulders can’t move.
Lay your peanut butter down first, and then apply the jelly.
It works wonders! Just make sure you’re using Ezekiel bread.
If you’re wondering how to combine the two, I recommend something like this:
- Balloon Breathing – 90/90 Hip Lift
- 3 sets of 4 breaths
- Arm Bar
- 3 sets of singles on each arm
If you find yourself having difficulty with the arm bar, regress to the Brettzel or Rib Pull. Don’t be fooled, these exercises are breathing drills, not mobility drills.
Blow up balloons and do arm bars. Eat PB&J sandwiches everyday.