This was originally posted to my Dragon Door blog on 04-14-2010
This morning I had the privilege of working with Mark Reifkind. After the RKC II and having some trouble with the bent press on my left side, I really wanted to trouble shoot this movement and figure out how to make it better. The bent press was one of those movements that had previously just seemed awkward and unwieldy to me. It was not until the RKC II when I did manage to perform the exercise on my right side, that I realized how elegant this exercise felt and how beneficial it is.
After the last post, I realized that from volleyball, I’ve taken tens of thousands of swings with my right arm, and only a handful of swings with my left arm, leading to the t-spine immobility issues I’m facing on the left side. Mark mentioned that he tells his clients that play golf to warm up with swings on both sides to help keep their bodies in balance.
Mark used the Bretzel stretch as both a diagnostic and a stretch to improve my t-spine mobility. Predictably, I had more mobility on the right side than the left, but my flexibility did start to improve after a few rounds of the stretch. After some work with the bent press, Mark had me do the Bretzel again, and we found that my mobility had increased further on both sides.
The reason both of these exercises are great for athletes is because so many upper body athletic movements involve rounding forward, whether it’s throwing something, hitting something, or swimming butterfly or freestyle. The Bretzel stretches out these muscles and opens up the rib cage, while the bent press also opens up the rib cage as well as strengthening up the antagonist muscles to help keep the body balanced. While my volleyball kids may not be ready for bent presses yet, you can bet there will be a whole lot of Bretzels in their future.