Help: I have 6 pack abs and a broken back
A few myths that needs to be addressed:
#1 Back injury is rare while training
#2 You need a flexible back
#3 Having a strong back prevents injury
You have probably heard many times that to have a strong back, you need to strengthen the core.
That is certainly true but how come that we see so many people suffering from back pain after exercising. I would even add that people exercising are more prone to back pain than others.
Does it mean that it is better to slouch in front of the TV eating crisps watching Big Brother? Certainly not.
Are we really doing the right thing? What is a good work out?
For example, there is a strong belief that a good work out should in particular focus on the transverse abdomini, a deep abdominal muscle. However, it seems that working on this muscle may not prove so useful. Professor Stuart Mc Gill, expert in spine bio-mechanic at the University of Waterloo (Canada), who has conducted numerous studies on world class athletes of all disciplines, explains that this muscle does not really maintain the back. It is therefore advisable to focus on more useful muscles.
Generally, many people work out their abs to maintain and protect the back. While they are doing so they actually harm their back.
If we are really serious in working out, it is important to understand the function of our various muscles. Some are meant to produce strength other to protect.
It all comes down to what is the core and what is its function?
Newton’s third law of motion “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”. The body is no different.
Professor Mc Gill makes the following distinction:
- (1) the region between the ball and sockets of the shoulder joint and the ball and socket of hips
- (2) the region between those two: the spine.
Hips and shoulders are designed to create power. Muscles of the ball and socket joints are designed to move.
The spine area is their polar opposite. The spine is a bending beam. The muscles around the spine stop motion.
The idea is to create a strong spinal area where the muscles act as a stable protective corset.
Let’s say you take a coat hanger you bend it back and forth, it will eventually crack somewhere. So if you keep creating a stress stream reversal in that coat hanger, it is going to break and that is why people do with their spine. Statistically, those of have a greater range of motion in their back have greater risk of back disorders in their life.
You understand now why a flexible spine is not protective. It is quite the opposite
No high level athlete could go on exercising if they were to bend their spine. That is why the secret of high performance is a stiff proximal core (around the spine) and powerful distal muscles (hips).
For example, if you can picture Venus Williams playing tennis, before hitting the ball, she makes this grunt noise. She is actually overdriving the stiffness in her proximal core which allows more power and speed on the distal side of the shoulder.
The muscles of the spinal region are all about creating proximal stiffness to enhance distal mobility (mobility of the limbs). If you have a soft belly and a soft back then your spine bend which in sport is considered as an energy leak.
AVOID EXERCISING ROUTINE THAT CAUSES THE SPINE TO BEND UNNECESSARILY: NO SIT UP, NO CURL UP!!!
CONCENTRATE ON WORKING ON THE RIGHT MUSCLES THE RIGHT WAY.
Which are the good muscles to work on?
The latissimus dorsi (the large muscle on either side of the back), fantastic core muscle, helps you lift. When it stiffens it create more power distally through the shoulder.
The whole erector spinae complex (the lower back) and the gluteus muscles (buttocks and hip area) are expressing the power out of the core through the distal femur.
See here under a few exercises you can easily do at home showing basic moves targeting the muscles of the back including the latissimus dorsi, the upper back muscles (rhomboids and trapezius muscles) and the lower back (erector spinae). It's important to work all areas of the back when strength training, so try choosing a variety of exercises to target the upper, mid and lower back areas.
Start easy and first warm up with a 10 min brisk walk for example. Core muscles are more prone to injury if worked without warming up.
The intensity of the exercises and number of repetitions are given as an indication only. Do not force it especially at the beginning and increase progressively.
Consult your doctor is you have any concern or hesitation about the movements.
With time and as you are becoming stronger, you can wear weight around the wrist or the ankles to intensify the exercises.
Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Placing your hands on each side of your body, palms flat on the floor, Lift your pelvis straight up and hold the position for 10 second. Repeat 3 times
PlankFacing forward, Rest on your forearms and leg backwards toes resting on the floor, Keep a nice straight line from the shoulders all the way to the heels, Hold the position for 10 seconds. Repeat 3 times
Lie face down on a mat and place on each side of the head Contract the abs and keep them contracted throughout the exercise. Squeeze the back to lift the chest a few inches off the floor. Lower To add intensity you can lift up the legs at the same time 1-3 sets of 10-16 reps total on each arm.
The bird dog
Position on all fours and flex the spine up and down by gently lowering down and rounding up your lower back. Once you have done that a couple of times, you will identify the neutral position (somewhere between lowering down and rounding up) which is the less stressful for your lower back. Then extend the right arm forward and opposite leg backwards moving above the hip and the shoulder. Hold the posture for about 10 seconds, Release the cramp by sweeping the floor with your hand and knee. Back up again with all motions taking place at the hip and shoulder. Hold your back stiff. 10 times and change arm and leg. You can do 3 sessions
Semi squats against the wall
Lean your back against an even wall, Pay attention to keep the back straight, Sit down keeping your back against the wall until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Hold for 10 seconds if you can, repeat one time
The Chair climbing
Take a chair put one foot on the chair seat while the other is on the floor, You can place your hands on each side of your waist or leave them along your body, Keep you back straight. Lift the feet from the floor to place it next to the other one on the chair, And come back down. Repeat 10 times. Change feet and do it 10 more times.
Bend over at the waist until the torso is parallel to floor or at 45 degree angle, abs in and knees slightly bent. Hold medium weights straight down without locking the elbows. You can use bottle of water or cans just make sure you have the same weight on both sides. Bend the elbows and pull the weights up until the elbows are levelled with the torso in a rowing motion. Try to keep the shoulders relaxed and away from the ears. Lower and repeat for 1-3 sets of 10-16 reps.
If you feel any back pain, do the one arm rows where you can support the back with the non-working arm.
Support your lower back by propping one foot on a step or platform (even a book will do) and using the non-working hand to support your body. Place the left foot on a step or platform and rest the left hand or forearm on the upper thigh. Hold a medium weight in the right hand, Lean forward keeping the back flat and the abs in, and hang the weight down towards the floor. Bend the elbow and pull it up in a rowing motion until it is level with the torso or just above it. At the top of the movement, squeeze the back while keeping the hips square and the abs engaged. Lower down and repeat for 1-3 sets of 10-16 reps, then switch sides.
Make sure you keep the movements in the arms, avoid turning the hips. Only pull up the elbows at torso level.
Just shrug both shoulders while you are holding medium heavy dumbbells in both hands. Stiffen the torso and keep the back straight. 3 sets of 10 rep
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