Spinal Mobility and the Cat Camel Exercise

Spinal mobility can be described as the ability to move your vertebral discs through various ranges of motions with adequate control. These can include flexion of the spine (rounding over, such as when you touch your toes), extension of the spine (arching backward, like in a gymnastics back bend), and rotation of the spine (twisting). Performing these movements frequently will be of benefit to you throughout your resistance training regimen.

I use the cat camel with every person I train. It’s one of the first warm-up movements that I’ll introduce someone to who just started an exercise program, and it’s one of the “backbone” warm-up movements that I’ll continue to use with someone as they get more advanced in the training process. A great exercise for all levels of fitness.

Visualize your back as a series of segments that have the ability to move as independent pieces. As you perform the exercise you will attempt to move the structure one vertebrae at a time. Whether or not this is actually what’s occurring is of less importance than the effort and visualization of doing it (hint: you can’t actually segment the spine, but it helps with the exercise to act as if you can).

Take your time with this movement. Explore different angles and be creative with it. There is no right or wrong way of doing this exercise as long as you’re moving the joints effectively.

Some helpful cues:

  • Don’t be a speed racer, this is an intentionally slower moving pattern.
  • During the camel phase (rounded back), think about pulling your butt under your stomach, pushing your shoulder blades straight into the ground, and tucking your chin to your chest.
  • During the cat phase (arched back), think about perking your butt out high, letting your chest cavity and ribcage “fall” through the shoulder blades, and pulling the top of your head up through the ceiling.
  • As always, stick to pain free ranges of motion. Avoid positions that elicit a pain response and work only in the positions that you can comfortably control.

You can use this one at the very beginning of a workout, as an active rest in between a more strenuous compound movement (bench press, deadlift), or at the end of a session for more of a cool down or relaxation purpose.

Now take this information and get to cat-camelling!



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