The sun is finally starting to shine through (here in Michigan), and summer is finally here! The lack of vitamin D during the colder months may have reduced your ambitions to stay on your workout program and shot your ability to reduce your food cravings. Well now is the time to get back after it before summer comes. In order to shed body fat while maintaining and even build muscle, you need to have a […]
There are a few things in fitness and in life that seem to pop up all too often. One of the first things that come to mind is lower-back health.
In everyday life, it can stop us in our tracks. From long days to sitting at a desk to hours upon hours of manual labor, the lumbar spine can start to feel not as resilient and at times, painful.
In the gym and during various sports, having lower-back issues can limit your performance standard and even put you on the sidelines.
While there are many reasons for having lower-back issues, the good news is that it can be improved more often times that people think. If you have been told that your have degenerative discs, bulging discs, or arthritis, this does not mean that you have to stop workout out, participating in sport, and you definitely need to keep moving.
Avoiding movement or thinking that there is no hope is not the answer. The leading spine health researcher, Dr. Stuart McGill, out of Waterloo, Canada has spent his career looking into what exercises work best to improve lower-spine health and core function. He also has a great quote that I have personally taken to heart to give me the confidence to improve my own back health.
“ A degenerative disc disease diagnosis is equivalent to telling your mother-in-law with wrinkles that she has degenerative face disease”.
While this quote seems funny and even abrasive, Dr. McGill’s point is that we all will experience some disc degeneration at some point in our life. Some faster than others but it does not mean that we are crumbling apart and cannot stay active or improve.
Sometimes proper movement is the best thing for lower-back issues along with avoiding the movement patterns that cause harm.
Beyond that, you must focus on strengthening and improving the overall function o the core muscles. It is not all about abdominal work and requires much more than that. These three exercises are the tried and true core builders backed by science to help improve your core and keep low-back issues at bay.
The bonus- these are low to medium level intensity exercises they almost anyone of any fitness level can perform safely.
Key muscles worked: spinal erectors, lats, and glutes
Function: to improve rotary stability (improving the rotation and lumbar stability)
- Start by getting into a quadruped (all fours) position.
- Make sure that your wrist; elbows, and shoulders are in line with each other.
- Do the same for your hips and knees.
- Keep your head and spine neutral while reach out with your right arm and left leg until they reach parallel to the floor.
- Hold for 5 seconds while tighten up all the muscles in your body by making a fist with your hand and squeezing your glute.
- Slowly return to the start position while minimizing movement of your body.
- Repeat on the other side for 5 reps each side.
Key muscles worked: oblique’s and quadratics lamborum
Function: anti-lateral flexion (bodies ability to not bend side to sides with load or during sport)
- Start by lying down on your right side propped up on your right elbow. Make sure that your elbow is directly underneath your shoulder.
- Place your left foot in front of your right foot, not stacked directly on top.
- Elevate your hips until they are parallel to the floor.
- Keep your spine straight. There should be a straight line from your head to your right ankle.
- Hold for 5 seconds while bracing your whole body.
- Lower your hips slowly to the start position and repeat for 5 total reps.
- Repeat on the other side.
Key muscles worked– transverse abdominus, multifidi
Function: Improve the abdominal wall firing pattern and spinal stability
- Lie on your back on the floor with your left leg straight and flat on the floor. Your right knee should be bent and your right foot flat.
- Place your hands’ palms down on the floor underneath the natural arch in your lower back (Don’t flatten your back.)
- Slowly raise your head and shoulders off the floor without bending your lower back or spine, and hold this position for 7 to 8 seconds, breathing deeply the entire time. That’s one repetition.
- Do all of your repetitions, and then switch legs so that your right leg is straight and your left is bent.
- Perform four to five repetitions, rest for 30 to 60 seconds, and repeat one to two more times. To make it even harder, raise your elbows off the floor as you curl up. And for an even greater challenge, start by contacting your abs, and then curl up against that force.