The stronger your center of gravity, the stronger your movement.
Four core moves that prevent back injury
by Vanessa LaFaso Stolarski, Contributing Columnist
Sitting for long periods of time, carrying heavy loads or moving suddenly at the torso can all result in back pain or injury. Often, the injury is a result of limited strength or range of motion, not because you took on a game of free-throw with your kids. In other words, the answer isn’t always to decrease movement — as we age, this would be the worst strategy. Instead, the answer to your back pain could be to increase abdominal or core strength.
The abdominal wall provides stability to the back and hips. The stronger your center of gravity, the stronger your movement. You can test how your abs play a role in back support through your standing posture. Stand with two feet approximately hip-width apart like you were standing in line. Next, draw your rib cage down and tighten your stomach muscles like you are preparing for a punch in the gut. Notice how your spine aligns with this movement and takes the pressure off your lower back.
Stronger abs can be accomplished in more ways than just sit-ups. In fact, the sit-up is a less superior movement for purposes of spinal strength and stability. Instead, try these four movements that recruit your entire abdominal wall:
1. PLANK: Start in a push-up position with your hands shoulder-width apart and your feet hip-width apart. Lower your fore1arms to the ground and hold the position for as long as you can, keeping your body in a straight line from head to heels. Squeeze your glutes for added core strengthening. Three sets of 60-second accumulated holds.
2. HOLLOW HOLD: Lie down on your back with your legs straight and arms extended overhead. Engage your core muscles by pressing your lower back into the ground. You should not be able to fit anything between your back and the floor. Lift your heels and shoulders a few inches off the off ground. Make the shap2e of a banana. If you can’t hold this position, try tucking one knee to your chest so that only one leg is extended out in front of you. You can also hold the knee to your chest with your arm. Three sets of 60-second accumulated holds.
3. LEG RAISE: Lie down on your back with your arms at your sides and your legs straight. Engage your core muscles by pressing your lower back into the ground. Lift your legs off the ground, keeping them straight and together, until they are perpendicular to the ground. Slowly lower your legs back down toward the ground, stopping before they3touch the ground. Avoid arching your back or swinging your legs to gain momentum. Your back should maintain contact with the floor for every repetition. If this is too hard, try it by raising only your knee to your chest or one leg at a time. Three sets of eight repetitions.
4. SLOW MOUNTAIN CLIMBER: Start in a high plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart and your feet hip-width apart. Engage your core muscles by pulling your belly button toward your spine and keeping your hips level with the ground. Bring your right knee toward your chest, keeping your foot off the ground. Hold the position for a few seconds, feeling the contraction in your lower abs. Slowly lower your right leg back to the starting position. Repeat the movement with your left leg for one repetition. Three sets of eight repetitions.
Vanessa LaFaso Stolarski is a certified nutrition counselor, weightlifting coach, life coach and stress-management specialist.
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