Wrists of Switzerland — why are neutral joints so important???
If you’re like most polers, at some point you’ve heard the word “alignment” in regard to spins or tricks. And you may have nodded your head, but how much do you really think about alignment as part of your day-to-day training? If the answer is “um, not much” then you should absolutely think about changing that, because proper alignment (which normally equals *neutral* alignment) is crucial for safety, aesthetics, strength, and long-term stability of your body. You are at your most solid and safe when your joints are neutral for the work they are doing.
1) SPINS. Do you find yourself getting friction burn on your wrists when you do a lot of spins? Do your shoulders hurt? What about your elbows, or even your forearms? Many spin-related pains can be traced back to joints that are placed under stress by improper alignment. There are a few things that contribute to poor alignment. The first is overgripping the pole. For baseball grip spins, as shown below, the ideal position is a straight line that runs through the wrist and elbow to the shoulder, which is held in a stable and neutral position by way of core and back engagement, allowing your weight to be distributed equally across some very powerful body parts.
Overgripping the pole, where your wrist completely wraps the pole in a position of flexion (see figure below), puts unnecessary pressure on the wrist and other joints while asking them to bear your weight . . . and chances are that your joints won’t like it.
Many new polers have “beginner death grip” because they have not yet learned how to control their momentum to aid in spins, and so they overgrip out of a fear that they will fall or slide. The irony is, overgripping is counterproductive and actually hinders your ability to hold your body weight, because grip strength is lessoned significantly when the wrist joint is not neutral! And unfortunately, overgripping can quickly become a habit, one that’s difficult to break once it sets into your muscle memory.
The second alignment issue related to spins comes when polers bend the weight bearing arm at the elbow. This in turn puts more pressure on your biceps to perform, and unless your elbow alignment is neutral — when bent, that means a 90 degree angle of the elbow joint — your strength is bound to suffer, and with it your form. Loss of strength and form can set off a chain reaction that reverberates through the rest of your body as it tries to compensate.
It all comes down to alignment. Neutral joints put less pressure on the muscles around them, which allows those muscles to act more efficiently and exert greater force. If you don’t believe me, just ask the Department of Health and Human Services at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who published an entire bulletin on ergonomics (click HERE to read it!), devoted to alignment and its effect on how human beings perform.
And in case you want a little refresher on what neutral alignment actually is, well, the CDC has some drawings to show you! Spin alignment is mostly about flexion or extension in the wrist (almost always flexion, it’s the rare poler who gets ahead of him/herself with the wrist!). We’ll get into specifics about radial deviation and ulnar deviation in the next post for this series.
So there it is. Real for sure science backing up what your body already knows instinctively. Neutral is where it’s at, baby!