Warm weather is here which means more time spent outside running, cycling and playing around with friends and family. But with an increase in activity there is also an increased likelihood of you hurting your body, specifically your low back. One of the best ways to avoid getting hurt and staying strong all summer long is to strengthen your entire torso. That means your belly, back and sides all need to be touched on, with a little bit more detail than just crunches.
When your core is strong it allows your limbs to move more freely without any energy leeks or compensations in your low back. An example is when you throw a football, you rotate one direction and shift your weight in your feet. When you are ready to throw the ball you first push off your toe and that energy travels up your leg, into your low back and you finish with an explosive twist the opposite direction allowing you to throw the ball into the end zone. What happens when your core is weak? Well, you will still push off your toe but when the force goes up your leg, there is an “energy leak” in your core. That push and twist will put stress on your low back and you will end up compensating to try and get the ball to fly farther.
Your torso does four movements and four anti movements; flexion (forward bending), extension (backward bending), side flexion (side bending), rotation. The anti movements are the same except you are trying to stop gravity from pulling you into those positions. An example of an anti extension exercise is a plank. There is no visible movement, but gravity is trying to push your hips to the ground and arch your spine so you end up in extension. I.e. you are trying to “anti” extend your core.
Below are three core exercises that will improve your core strength all over. Each exercise should only be performed after a 5-10 minute light warm up and should not be completed if it causes any pain.
Anti Extension Exercise: Quadruped Hold (Aka Bear Hold)
Hands and knees begin on the ground with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Curl your toes under and lift your knees. When you hold this position each joint angle should be at a 90 degree angle so your thighs, spine, arms make three sides of box. Ensure your spine is flat so if you needed to, a bowl of soup could balance and not spill.
Hold for 20 seconds and repeat for 3 sets
Anti Side Bending & Rotation Exercise: Thread the Needle Side Plank
Begin with your elbow and forearm on the ground with your elbow under our shoulder. Straighten your legs and lift your hips up so you make a straight line from your head to your toes. Raise your free arm up to the sky and with control rotate down towards the ground to thread your arm in the space between your torso and the ground. Reverse the rotation and return to the starting side plank position.
Complete 10 reps and repeat 3 sets each side.
Extension & Anti Rotation Exercise: Prone Superman
Begin face down with your arms and legs straight. Carefully lift your opposite arm and opposite leg up and raise your head with the movement. Lower back down and lift the other limbs. Exercise should be done slowly, breathing steadily throughout.
Complete 10 reps and repeat 3 sets each side
NOTE: If you are feeling extra stiff try taking a warm epsom salts bath or shower to warm up your muscles prior to these exercises. Move in and out of each exercise carefully. All exercises should be PAIN FREE. If you feel pain during any of these exercises please STOP performing the exercise.
Hopefully these exercises will help relieve any tension you might be feeling in your low back this Summer. Please feel free to contact me at Therapy Lounge if you have any questions about these exercises, or if you would like to book a treatment.