The year: 2003.
I was just getting into the worlds of rehab and “corrective exercise” when I had the privilege of spending an entire day learning from Craig Liebenson in his office in California.
That day really changed my life in a lot of ways.
Up to that point I was your average, run-of-the-mill meathead, and if you weren’t talking about getting bigger, faster, or stronger, then I probably wasn’t listening.
However, after meeting Craig and learning about what he was doing both from a diagnostic and rehabilitative perspective, I softened my stance and made it a goal to use anything possible if it would help my athletes get better results.
One of the exercises we covered that day was the Cat-Camel exercise. Craig initially described it as a “spinal flossing” exercise (a term Eric Cressey and I used as well in our Magnificent Mobility DVD), but nowadays I just think of it as a general mobility exercise.
Over the last decade, however, there’s been a ton of talk about flexion of the spine.
Should you load flexion?
Should you train flexion?
Should you ever flex your spine?
As most things go, I think what started as a good thing (improving core stability) went way too far. In an effort to keep our backs healthy and reduce flexion-based injuries, we’ve driven and locked ourselves so far into extension we’re driving dysfunction throughout the entire kinetic chain as a result.
While we don’t want to load spinal flexion (especially at end range), we need to maintain the ability to naturally flex our spines.
Enter the Cat-Camel…
A few key notes on performance:
- This is a gentle mobility drill. Please don’t force end range flexion or extension.
- For most lifters and athletes, the focus on flexion is more important. I generally just move back to lumbar neutral before moving back into the flexed pattern.
- When flexing, think about rounding everything from the top of the skull to the bottom of the pelvis. Even if it’s not perfect, keep working at it. (As I mention in the video, I struggle with this myself. Progress, not perfection!)
- If you want to tie the breath into the movement, think about inhaling as you extend/arch, and exhaling as you flex/round.
- This exercise can be done as part of your warm-up, as well as throughout the day to keep the body loose and feeling fresh.
The Cat-Camel is a simple, yet highly effective exercise for maintain your body’s natural ability to flex. Enjoy!
All the best