Not enough time to workout?

fit00

Without a doubt, one of the most common reasons people cite for their lack of exercise is not having enough time.  Between work, school and family life, trying to fit an exercise routine into a busy schedule can seem like a tough task.  Today, I’m going to show you how to fit an effective exercise program into a busy schedule in two simple steps:

Step 1) Stick to the basics

The human body is only capable of a finite number of movement patterns.  Just about anything you do on a day to day basis can be broken down into a combination of the following patterns:

-Squat
-Hinge
-Push
-Pull
-Stabilize

Everything you do with your body- Walking, running, jumping, kayaking, swimming, golfing, etc. can be broken down in a series and a combination of these patterns.  An exercise routine built around these foundation movement patterns will target all major muscle groups and avoid an incredible amount of time wasted in the gym.   Let’s take a deeper look into each of these patterns:

-Squat:
We squat all the time.  We squat when we stand up out of our chairs and when we go up and down steps we’re actually doing a series of single-leg squats.  The primary muscles involved with squatting include the quadriceps (the front of your thigh) and hip muscles such as the glutes.  A great example of an exercise which targets this pattern is a goblet squat, as shown below:

goblet

-Hinge:
Hinging at the hips is movement pattern that becomes very weak, uncoordinated and restricted as we age and find ourselves in a sedentary lifestyle.  Instead of hinging at the hips to pick things up, our lack of mobility and strength causes us to try to lift things with our back and maintain poor posture, leading to one of the most common afflictions in western society: lower back pain.   The muscles involved with hinging consist of the large hip muscles, primarily the glutes and hamstrings.  Hinge exercises include any type of hip bridge or deadlift variation:

hip_bridgedeadlift

-Pushing:
From lifting yourself up out of bed to throwing a chest pass in basketball, pushing movements can be found throughout our days outside of the gym.  These tend to be the most commonly-performed patterns of movement, as just about anybody who has spent any time in a gym has done some form of push-up, chest press, bench press, military press, etc.  The muscles involved here include the chest, triceps, and shoulders:

pushup

-Pulling:
This is an all-too-often neglected aspect of fitness training.  As I said above, there aren’t many people who haven’t done their fair share of pushing in their gym-going life.  The opposite is true for pulling.  The muscles of the upper back such as the lats, rhomboids and middle and lower traps often become weak and inactive for two reasons: We sit at a desk all day long, which creates a shortening of the muscles on the front side of your body and a weakening of the muscles on the back side, and then when we go to the gym we tend to make matters worse by doing a bunch of presses and not enough pulls.   This also helps lead to lower back pain, shoulder impingement and other various issues that can be avoided. Any variation of rows, pulldowns, and pull-ups can be used to improve this pattern:
bent row

-Stabilize:
This concentrates on all things core-related.  The musculature of your mid-section is meant to stabilize your spine and resist excessive flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and rotation.  I’ve written extensively about those topics here, here, here and here.  The key to having a healthy, pain-free back is training your core to be strong and durable through stabilization techniques as described in the links listed.

It really is this simple.  If your workout has representation of each of the movement patterns listed above, you have yourself a very effective, full body workout.  Now that you know what to do, let’s talk about timing.

Step 2) Don’t waste time

We now know that you do not need a long list of exercises to hit all of your major muscle groups.  To expedite your workouts further, the next step is to cut down on rest.  Through the process of super-setting or circuit training, you can cut your workout time down tremendously.  A super-set is when you bounce back and forth between two exercises until you have completed the desired number of sets of each.  Let’s take the bench press and the leg curl as an example.  A typical workout might consist of doing one set of 10 reps on the bench, sitting and resting for say, 2 minutes, then doing a 2nd set of 10, resting, and a final 3rd set of ten before moving on to the leg curl.  Instead, you should use replace those 2 minutes of rest with a set of leg curls.  Go from bench press to leg curl, back to bench press until you’ve completed all 3 sets of each exercise.   You can super-set any two exercises together, but it is recommended that you use non-competing muscle groups.  This is important for 2 reasons.  For one, by super-setting an upper body exercise with a lower body exercise, you ensure that you’ll get the greatest strength benefit possible from each, without allowing muscular fatigue to be your limiting factor.  Another important, often over-looked benefit of this method is the cardiovascular effect.  When you perform an upper body exercise, your heart works to pump blood towards the muscles which are working.  When you turn around and immediately start working your lower body, your heart has to work even harder to push the blood from your upper to your lower body.  This has tremendous benefits for your cardiovascular system.  Circuit training is the exact same idea, except that you’re using more than 2 exercises.

A sample workout might look like this, using both of the steps listed above:

A1) Goblet Squat
A2) Push-Up

B1) Deadlift
B2) Dumbbell Row

C1) Plank
C2) Birddog
C3) Side Plank

A1 and A2 are super-set together, as are B1 and B2, while the C group is a core circuit.  Simple, effective, and incredibly time-efficient.

Advertisements

Baby Got Back- The Posterior Core and Anti-Flexion

As we move through our journey exploring core function and training, we come to another misunderstood topic- the muscles of the lower back.  We’ve already delved into the basics of core function and we’ve explored anti-extension, one of the 4 main components of core stability. Today we will look at the muscles that directly oppose the muscles of anti-extension.  Your anti-extension muscles are found almost entirely on the front side of your body and consist mainly of the Rectus Abdominis (RA), Transverse abdominis (TVA) and the Internal and External Obliques.  These muscles resist trunk extension, and we saw an example of them in use when we performed the partner drill where you and a partner face each other with extended arms and try to push each other over.

Anti-Flexion is the functional opposite of Anti-Extension.  The muscles involved with anti-flexion work to keep the spine neutral when there is a force- such as gravity, a barbell, or somebody pushing you from behind- acting to round your spine forward.  As you will see in the picture below, anti-extension and anti-flexion muscles cooperate to keep your body as close to neutral as possible as often as possible.

What muscles are involved with Anti-Flexion?

Lumbar-Extension-Muscles muscles-of-the-core-diagram

We will talk about the powerful muscles of the hip such as the gluteus maximus in a later post, and will focus on the oblique muscles when we cover our lateral core anatomy.  To get a basic understanding of the anti-flexors, we will narrow our focus down to the Erector Spinae and the multifundus.

The Erector Spinae (ES)

The erector spinae is aptly named as it is one of the primary muscles responsible for maintaining an erect spine.  It is a long, thin muscle which has attachments from the back of the head all the way down to the top of the hips.  The ES is composed largely of Type 1 muscle fibers.  Who cares?  Well, Type 1 muscle fibers are known to be very good at maintaining long duration, low force, and slow muscle contractions while not being very good at producing large amounts of force over a short period of time.  This means that Type 1 muscle fibers are made to work often, pretty much all day long, but are not meant to be creating a bunch of movement on their own.  We’ll see why this matters when we get to the exercise portion of this post.

The Multifundus

The multifundus is another muscle of the lower back which provides support and stability to the spine.  It is similar to the ES in that it is made up largely of Type 1 muscle fibers and is a long, thin muscle which spans most of the length of the spine.  Both the ES and the Multifundus have a very strong connection to the Central Nervous System and are therefore readily available for activation without much thought.

Stop Doing This:

superman

Superman, traditional hyperextensions, or any other movement which prioritizes LUMBAR extension over HIP extension. When people ask me whether or not I think they should do a particular popular exercise,  the reasoning behind my answer usually comes down to whether or not I think that exercise gives the individual an appropriate amount of bang for their buck or if there is another, safer, exercise which more completely accomplishes what they’re trying to do.  Because of this reasoning, there are not many exercises that I feel are totally worthless or that I completely discourage people from doing.  The superman is a rare exception.  None of my clients do this exercise and while I am always open to a reasonable argument, I don’t forsee my opinion on this one changing.  McGill’s research shows that the superman exercise imposes somewhere around 1350 pounds of compression force on the spine, all while performing an action that the muscles of the lower back are NOT MEANT TO PERFORM.  This exercise asks the ES, Multifundus and others to repeatedly contract/relax and take the lumbar spine well past a neutral alignment.  Remember earlier when we talked about their appropriate function?  To resist flexion?  Yeah, the superman isn’t doing that.

Traditional hyperextensions performed with the feet and legs locked and the trunk and upper body free are dangerous for similar reasons- excessive compression forces and very little bang for the buck.  I do not completely discourage this one simply because I know people who are strong enough and body-aware-enough to actually do this movement without extending their lumbar spine…but when I say “I know people” I really mean I know one or two people who are good enough to do this for reps and sets.  For most people, this is not even a remote possibility and as such the exercise becomes dangerous and rather ineffective.  That’s why it falls onto this list, though I will not go as far as I did with Supermans and say nobody should ever try it.  I view reverse hyperextensions, performed with the legs free and the trunk and upper body supported to be a completely different exercise from the traditional hyper.  They are much easier to do safely, and target the large muscles of the hips, which are meant to create a great deal of force, rather than the spinal erectors, which are not.

Start Doing This:

goblet

Goblet squats. Front Squats. Deadlifts.  You’re going to find these exercises in just about every good training program because they’re awesome for developing strength and power of the lower body.  What often gets missed though is their ability to strengthen the lower back muscles.  Taking the Goblet Squat (pictured above) as an example, the weight is trying to pull the lifter forward, into flexion.  As long as the weight is appropriate for the individual, the lower back muscles reflexively activate to MAINTAIN a neutral spine.  They don’t extend the spine, they don’t jack the spine into positions it doesn’t like.  They simply keep it upright, just like they’re supposed to.

This “anti-flexion” force is not limited just to goblet squats.  How about a bent over row, as pictured below:

bent row

You can replace the dumbbells with a bar, a cable, a band, or whatever you want.  The resistance is trying to pull him into flexion, and the muscles of his lower back are acting to resist that flexion.

Just about any exercise which is front-loaded, meaning the weight is set out in front of the individual trying to lift it, exerts a flexion force which the body must react to in order to keep the spine neutral.  And the interesting thing with a lot of these exercises is that heavier loads tend to be better than lighter loads.  When a goblet squat, front squat, or deadlift is excessively light, the body really does not have to react to much and therefore technique gets sloppy.  When the load is heavy enough, your body is forced to counteract the load pulling forward to keep the spine neutral.  This is exactly what we’re looking for.  That’s the beauty of a well-designed training program.  If you’re doing the exercises you should be (deadlifts, front-loaded squats, etc.), then you don’t actually need to spend extra time training the posterior core.

Bottom line: Keep your spine neutral and lift weights that are heavy enough to create a reflexive stabilization technique in your core musculature…oh, and stop doing the superman.

Thanks for reading!

Adam

Back Health and “Six Pack” Abs: Anti-Extension at it Finest

My previous post outlined the various movements that your spine is capable of going through.  I also talked at length about how core function ultimately comes down to “anti-movement” rather than creating movement.  This means that the most basic function of your core musculature is to stabilize the spine and resist excessive movement outside of neutral.  This point can not be understated, and it is one of the most misunderstood topics in fitness today.  My most recent post broke core function down into 4 main components of anti-movement- Anti-Extension, Anti-Flexion, Anti-Lateral Flexion, and Anti-Rotation.  Today’s post will more closely examine the commonly-used component: Anti-Extension.

What is “Anti-Extension?”

Anti-Extension is your ability to resist the lumbar (lower back) spine’s tendency to move into an excessively extended position.  In my introduction to core anatomy, I mentioned that most people live with a slightly extended lumbar spine position, and this is completely normal.  Those of us who spend much of our day on our feet- construction workers, personal trainers, professional athletes, etc. live in slightly more extension than normal, while those who spend much of their day sitting at a desk live in a slightly less-extended position.  Regardless of where you start though, the idea with core training is to get as close to neutral as possible and to stay there while you train.

To get an idea of what anti-extension feels like, get a partner and face each other.  Extend your arms straight out in front of you with your hands about shoulder height while your partner does the same and put your palms against theirs.  Have your partner gently push into your hands and don’t let them knock you backwards.  If successful, have them push a little harder, a little harder, etc. until you’re unable to maintain a nice tall posture.  Your partner was exerting an extension force on your lumbar spine and your core musculature (along with your arms, shoulders, etc.) was creating an anti-extension force to keep you upright.  Notice, you didn’t have to think about this too much.  It just happened.  That’s the beauty of normal abdominal function– when core muscle function is working properly, it happens at a subconscious level that does not require much thought.  There is a fantastic internal feedback mechanism at work where you sense a force placed on your body, and your body simply reacts to it.  You don’t crunch, you don’t hollow your belly, you don’t “activate” your transverse abdominis.  You just don’t let yourself get knocked over.

What muscles are involved with anti-extension?

There were several muscle groups involved with the example above and the total muscle groups involved will depend on the exact task at hand, but let’s narrow this down to the muscle groups that are most directly involved with anti-extension forces:

The Rectus Abdominis (RA)
Rectus_abdominis
The beautiful, wonderful rectus abdominis.  When this muscle is strong and doesn’t have a bunch of fat laying over top of it, this is the “six pack” muscle that everyone desires.  The RA runs from the xiphoid process (tip of the sternum) and 5th, 6th, and 7th ribs all the way down to the crest of the pubic bone.  It is innervated by the inferior intercostal and subcostal nerves.  If you look the RA up in most texts, function of this muscle is said to be flexion of the trunk.  This is where crunches, sit-ups, curl-ups, etc. come from.  And indeed, the RA does flex the trunk.  But knowing what we now know about spine health, the trunk does not need to be flexed repeatedly during workouts.  The much more important function of this large, powerful muscle is to resist extension through the lumbar spine.

Transverse Abdominis (TVA)
transverse abs
This picture illustrates the layers present in your core musculature.  On your right side of the picture, we see the RA and external oblique muscles (more on the obliques later).  On your left, we see the RA removed, revealing two muscles that lie deeper, or closer to your internal organs.  These muscles are the Transverse Abdominis (TVA) and internal oblique.  The TVA has received a lot of attention in certain circles lately as a cure-all muscle for back pain and breathing disorders.  The problem with is that, like with the RA and crunches from years ago, people have now begun to try to isolate the TVA by practicing what is known as the draw-in method of core activation.  Basically, just suck your belly button in towards your spine and ta-da! you just “turned on” your TVA!! Congrats!  Except, wait, your back still hurts every time you stand or do anything….shoot.  The problem with this approach is that your TVA does not function by itself when you’re not thinking about it, nor does your RA, nor does any muscle for that matter.  Your muscles are constantly working together to perform every task you ask them to on a daily basis, so isolating this one particular core stabilizer is clearly the wrong approach.  Now, you should have the ABILITY to draw in your belly button, and if you don’t, further investigation is warranted, but nobody is getting strong doing draw-ins and nobody is getting out of back pain doing draw-ins.  Instead, one must learn how to properly stabilize the trunk through a process known as “bracing,” which recruits not only the TVA, but also the RA, the obliques, the spinal erectors, the paraspinals, etc. etc.  More on bracing later.

Stop Doing This:
This point should be pretty clear by now, but most people should not be doing crunches, sit-ups, curl-ups, etc. of any kind on anything close to a regular basis.  Research shows that a traditional sit-up imposes approximately 730 pounds of compression force on the spine (McGill). Common variations aren’t much better including the straight leg sit-up (788 pounds), bent leg sit-up (753 pounds) and cross-knee curl up (666 pounds).  It’s time that these exercises make their way out of regular exercise programming for good.  They treat the RA as if it ever functions in isolation outside of the gym (it doesn’t), and they put a ton of stress on the spine.  These exercises also tend to become very easy very quickly, making it necessary to constantly add repetitions or load to an already ineffective and dangerous task. Taking a risk-reward audit of any of these exercises shows a whole bunch of risk with very little reward.  Very similar or perhaps even better muscle strengthening can take place by getting rid of these exercises and all of their variations, and instead using…

Start Doing This:
Planks and the many variations of planks.  One of the most basic exercises to build anti-extension stability is known as the forearm plank.  Get into the same position you were just in for the anti-extension example above.  Standing tall, keep your eyes looking straight ahead and reach your arms straight out ahead of you.  Keep your posture perfect and now bend your elbows so that your hands are roughly in line with your head and your elbows are in line with your shoulders.  This is your plank position.  Keep that nice, tall posture and bring yourself down to the floor, supporting your weight evenly between your toes, elbows and palms, and now you’re planking.  Do not allow yourself to lose the position that you had while you were standing tall.  Some shaking and sweating is normal and to be expected, but allowing your lower back to sag towards the floor, or allowing your butt to hike up in the air is unacceptable.  If somebody took a picture of you from the side, and then turned that picture 90 degrees, you should look exactly how you did while you were standing.  It’s as simple as that.

Hold that position as long as you can, up to about 1 minute.  Once you can hold that position for a minute, it’s time to make the plank more interesting- Start by rocking your weight forward (towards your hands) and backwards (towards your heels), using your toes as a pivot point.  Again, nothing about your posture changes, just your weight distribution.  Once this becomes easy, try taking a step or two back away from your elbows without changing anything else and hold that position for long as possible.  Lengthening that lever arm makes the challenge on your core much greater.  Variations to this exercise are only limited by 2 things: 1) Your ability to maintain that neutral posture that you found while standing and 2) your creativity.

Planks and their variations are extremely effective at producing core muscle activity to enhance strength, endurance, etc., while also keeping the body where it wants to be- in a neutral spine position.  They produce significantly lower loads on the spine, resulting in a safer and more effective bang-for-your-buck workout.  The plank is far from the only exercise we’ll use to improve your extension stability, but they’re a great place to start.  Together with the other 3 components of core function, this extension stability will put you on the fast track to a healthier back, better fitness, and better performance.

A quick note about the “Six Pack:”  It doesn’t matter what exercise you choose- pick crunches, sit-ups, planks, hanging leg raise, etc.  Whatever exercises you choose to strengthen your core will only take you as far as your diet lets you go in terms of being able to see the definition in your abs.  You will NEVER out- exercise your nutrition, and no amount of sit-ups, crunches or planks will get rid of the extra belly fat that is covering the muscle.  Spot reduction does NOT work and “feeling the burn,” is NOT you burning fat.

My next several posts will take a similar approach to anti-flexion, anti-lateral flexion and anti-rotation training.

Thanks for reading,

Adam

Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance. Stuart McGill Wabuno Publishers. 2004. Waterloo, Ontario Soft Cover

What Your “Core” Does for You (Part 2)

In my last post, I went over some anatomy of the spine and what it means to have a “neutral” spine.  If you haven’t read that post yet, I encourage you to do so as it will give you a better understanding of this post and several that will follow.  Today I want to talk about what it means to maintain that neutral spine, what it means to health and performance, and how your core musculature helps that process.

To review, a neutral spine posture consists of a slight arch in the lower back, a slight rounding of the upper back, a slight arch in the neck and very little side to side deviation.  This is in a normal, non-pathological spine, and of course there are varying degrees of neutral for each individual.  Why does any of this matter?  Spinal position is absolutely essential for back health, fitness, and performance.  To use a modern-day analogy, think of your back as a cell phone.  Your cell phone has a particular battery life which, with prolonged use, eventually runs out.  Every time that you take your spine outside of neutral, you are chipping away at it’s battery life.  When the battery life of your spine wears out, bad things can happen.  Back pain, disc degeneration, etc.  This is particularly true when you take your spine out of neutral repetitively under load, meaning that motion is occurring outside of a neutral spine position with load added to the exercise such as a squat or deadlift performed with a rounded lower back.

Now, every one of us takes our spine out of neutral multiple times a day, just like you chip some battery life away from your cell phone every time you dial a number or send a text.  This is not a bad thing and in fact spinal motion is an essential part of human movement.  You recharge your phone at night and the next day you’re good to go.  But when you get into the gym and add multiple sets with multiple reps and varying degrees of weight to this motion, you’re starting to chip that battery life away much more quickly.  When you perform an exercise and maintain a neutral spine you’re sparing your back and adding strength to the areas around it.  When you perform an exercise outside of neutral, you’re not helping the muscles around it much and you’re slowly taking away your spine’s capacity for work.  Doing this repetitively is akin to streaming video or playing a game on your phone– you’re stripping away the battery life in a hurry.

For these reasons, the true function of your core musculature is to RESIST movement in your spine, rather than to create it.  The definition of core musculature can be a broad one, with many muscle groups tied to the function of maintaining a neutral spine, but for this post let’s define the core as everything from your hips up to your armpits.  Whether you’re walking down the street, going up and down steps, hitting a baseball, or performing a deadlift, these muscles are responsible for keeping your spine neutral with little to motion in the lumbar area:

muscles-of-the-core-diagram

The muscles pictured above are large muscles fairly close to your skin.  If we peeled these muscles away we would also find deeper core muscles which lie closer to your internal organs.  All of these muscles combine to form the “core.”  As illustrated above, the core musculature exists in a cylindrical shape.  Your spine is capable of motion in 3 directions: Front to Back (known as flexion and extension), Side to Side (lateral flexion), and in a circular manner (rotation).  Your core muscles, then, function to resist all of these movements in order to keep your spine neutral.

The core muscles on the front of your body act to resist extension (excessive arching) in your lower back.  This is called anti-extension.  The muscles on either side of your torso resist lateral flexion of your spine, an act know  as anti-lateral flexion.  The muscles on the backside of your “core” resist forward flexion (rounding) of your lumbar spine, and many of the muscles combine to resist rotation through your lumbar spine (anti-rotation).  Notice, every function is “anti-” something.  Anti-Flexion, Anti-Extension, etc.

This is the most commonly misunderstood area of core training- the muscles of your core are not meant to CREATE motion, they are meant to RESIST it!  So why then do we still see people doing sit-ups, crunches, curl-ups, etc.?  That’s a good question, I have no idea.  Now, I am not saying you should not strengthen these muscles, quite the opposite- these muscles should be made to be incredibly strong and durable.  The stronger these muscles are, the easier it will be to maintain a neutral spine, and the more efficient you will be when you try to transfer force from your lower body to your upper body such as in athletics.  I’m saying that we need to change the way these muscles are trained and respect your spine’s need to stay as neutral as possible in a training setting.

Now that you have a good understanding of what the core is and why your body needs it, in my next few posts I will go through each movement that the core musculature performs, a common exercise for each movement we see in the gym on a daily basis, and what you should be doing instead.

Until then, thanks for reading,

Adam

What Your “Core” Does for You

I always find myself putting the word “core” into quotation marks because, like “functional,” the word Core has become one of the most over-used buzz-words in the fitness industry.  Despite it’s growing popularity among the common gym-goer, the core is still widely misunderstood and misused by fitness enthusiasts, coaches and trainers alike.  Over the course of my next few posts I’d like to clear up some common misconceptions about core training and explain how the core and the spine interact.  In the future, I’m also going to show you some exercises that I no longer have any of my clients do, why you should avoid them, and what you can replace them with to keep your back healthy and strong.

To understand core function, we must first talk about the spine.  Your spinal cord is enclosed within a series of bones called vertebrae which extend from the base of your skull to your pelvis.  Starting at the base of your skull, the top 7 vertebrae are known as their cervical vertebrae, together forming the cervical spine.   The cervical spine ends right around the top of your shoulders, where the thoracic spine begins.  The thoracic spine consists of 12 vertebrae which extend from the top of the shoulders down to the bottom of the rib cage.  Where the thoracic spine ends, the lumbar spine begins, consisting of 5 vertebrae which extend from the bottom of the rib cage to the top of the sacrum, one large flat bone which forms your “tailbone.”  The sacrum attaches the rest of the spine to the pelvis, where it sits like a wedge between your two hip bones.  Because of this relationship between the sacrum and the pelvis, pelvic function and alignment plays a vital role in what your spine is doing, so we will look at pelvic position a great deal whenever we’re talking about the core.   The areas of the spine are referred to by their location on the spine, with C1 referring to the first cervical vertebra (closest to the skull), T1 referring to the first thoracic vertebra, L5 referring to the bottom lumbar vertebra, etc.

A popular term in the fitness industry is “neutral spine.”  What does this mean?  As you grow and develop from a young age, your spine forms natural curves from front to back in a normal situation.  These curves are referred to as either “Lordotic,” meaning arched, or “Kyphotic,” meaning rounded.  The cervical spine naturally has a slight lordotic curve, the thoracic spine has a naturally kyphotic curve and the lumbar spine has a naturally lordotic curve.  None of these curves should appear to be dramatic.  This is the neutral spine posture that is so often talked-about in fitness circles.  The exact degree of curve in a neutral spine is going to vary from person to person but this is what we generally expect in the absence of pathology.  Take a look at the picture below for a visual representation of the spine with normal curves:

Gray_111_-_Vertebral_column-coloured

 

 

Our environment can have a monumental impact on our spinal position.  Those of us who spend most of the day on our feet, such as construction workers, personal trainers, and many athletes, tend to exhibit an exaggerated lordotic curve in our cervical and lumbar spine.  On the other hand, those who sit at a desk for most of the day will tend to exhibit exaggerated rounding in the cervical and lumbar spine, simply due to the posture we find ourselves in.  Imagine the position your spine is in if you find yourself in this posture for long periods of time:

badsitposture1

Because of this, it is incredibly important to change your posture as often as possible throughout the day.  If you find yourself sitting for a long period of time, simply standing up and walking around or stretching can “rest” your body’s tendency to round forward.  If you find yourself standing all day long, take a break down on one knee, keep your spine tall but not extended and let your body reset itself.  These small postural resets can have a monumental effect on lower back pain, neck pain, and movement ability.

While our daily posture does have a giant effect on back health, the way we choose to exercise is just as important.  In my next post I will cover how your core functions to keep your spine in a neutral alignment and what that means for your exercise program.

Adam

Spinal Picture from:
Gray, Henry. Anatomy of the Human Body. Philadelphia: Lea & Febiger, 1918; Bartleby.com, 2000. www.bartleby.com/107/.