The biggest complaint that I hear from my clients as a personal trainer is back pain. Caused by everyday factors such as sitting at a desk all day at work, lifting heavy objects, driving for extended periods, or even stress, back pain can be annoying at best or debilitating at worst. The best way to prevent the problem in the first place is having a strong core.
Many people think of the core as only their abdominal muscles. While strong abdominals are certainly important, they are not the only muscles involved in building your core. In fact, only working on your abdominals can actually worsen the problem. When you build strength on one side of your body, but not the muscles on the opposite side, you become imbalanced. The weaker muscles can’t keep up with the stronger ones and can cause pain and other problems with posture, etc.
Your core muscles are made up of the abdominals and the lower back. The abdominals include the rectus abdominus (the ones that look like a “six pack”), the external obliques which run diagonally down from your rib cage, the internal obliques under those, and the transverse abdominis which run from front to back (the deepest muscles which pull everything in). The lower back is made up of the latissimus dorsi, which is a large, triangular-shaped muscle that attaches at the top of your hip-bone, extends over the lower and middle back, and attaches at the rear of your upper arm. The erector spinae is the muscle group made up of three muscle pairs called spine extensors. They run the entire length of your spine on either side and attach at your ribs and spine. The erector spinae work to keep your spine upright in nearly every movement.
The number one exercise recomended by the American College of Sports Medicine for lower back strength is the Alternating Superman. This basic exercise concentrates on strengthening the latissimus dorsi and the erector spinae, and can be performed just about anywhere, anytime since there is no equipment needed.
The Alternating Superman:
- Lie face down on a mat with your arms stretched above your head (like superman)
- Raise your right arm and left leg about 5-6 inches off the ground (or as far as you comfortably can).
- Hold for 3 seconds and relax.
- Repeat with the opposite arm and leg.
Start with one set of 10-15 each side and work up to 3 sets as they get easier. Some of my clients find it difficult to lift their arms and/or legs more than an inch or so at first, but within a month are able to move through a full range of motion, so don’t give up.
Of course the best plan of action when it comes to preventing back pain is to stay as active as possible, stretch often, and incorporate this exercise into a total body strengthening program. Call me, Kerri Davis at 910-200-6641 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation.