Movement is the best treatment for low back pain and recovery from discectomy.
4th and final core exercise in our top 4...
If you are a client of mine you probably just felt a shudder down your spine...the beloved crawling pattern. You either love it or you hate it!
I personally love it as it is an awesome drill for:
- core stability
- core function
- connecting left & right brain
- getting back to basics
- having fun
- mental stimulation
It also follows on nicely from the previous mentioned BIRD DOG drill, the crawling precursor.
The video demonstrates the basic crawling pattern, there are many other versions of crawling. It is a challenge to fight gravity and this is required of us on a daily basis, so why not try this cheeky little drill yourself and see what you think...feel free to comment below and share your thoughts or experiences.
3rd core exercise in our top 4...
Another great core activation drill. Awesome for improving Multifidus function; neck & shoulder stability as well as overall core stability.
For full explanation of the exercise please visit "stability exercises" in our exercise library.
If you found this information (or any info on this page) useful, please share.
2nd core exercise in our top Four...
This is an awesome drill for core activation. The video pretty much says it all. I use this daily with clients and it's a great follow on exercise from the previous breathing drill. Also, don't forget to BREATHE throughout this drill! Exhale as your leg is lowering. Holding your breath is a cheat ;-)
Give it a go :-)
Four of my top core exercises everyone should make a part of their exercise regime...
First up is...
The first being BREATHING:
Before you laugh, yes, I did say breathing!
Simple right? Not really. Most of us (myself being a culprit at times) are dysfunctional breathers, this being due to stress; injury; emotional issues; poor health etc. We breathe around 20,000+ breaths per day, that is a lot of opportunity for dysfunction.
We use our core muscles for breathing; simplified our diaphragm & pelvic floor contract together on the inhale to create Intra Abdominal Pressure (IAP), this stabilises our spine & we recruit our remaining core muscles on the exhale.
The dysfunction comes in when we either hold in our stomachs for long periods (females being biggest culprits) or start taking shallower breaths. This makes it extremely hard for normal functional breathing and requires us to recruit our neck and chest muscles with every breath.
To learn how to work on your breathing keep reading. I would highly recommend ANYONE with lower back pain to focus on their breathing especially but really EVERYONE should be doing it...
Visit our exercise library and have a read through our Stability Exercises the first 3 exercises that come up which are about BREATHING.
How often do you take your shoes off just to feel the grass between your toes, walk around the house barefoot because you can? My guess is probably not often enough ...
Your feet are incredibly important and were designed to be mobile, otherwise you wouldn't have 26 bones in such a small body part. But feet that sit in shoes all day long (particularly high heels, steel-capped boots or any heavy, high-ankle or thick-soled shoe) are not happy feet. They need to breathe and have the freedom of movement.
Because of the amount of nerve endings found in the feet (more per square centimetre than any other part of the body) , they're your gateway to proprioception (awareness of where your body is in relation to space). So imagine if your feet were stuck in thick-soled, flat shoes all day, not knowing if there was a need to alter your movement due to uneven ground, inclines, declines or changes in temperature. These are all important messages that should be received through your feet, but when they're constricted within shoes, the brain doesn't receive the feedback.
Stiffness in your feet can eventually affect muscles and joints higher up in the kinetic chain, like ankles, knees, hips and spine. Paying attention to and exercising your feet can change pain experiences in other areas of your body...never underestimate the importance of happy, healthy feet! Here are three things you can do to reclaim your feet.
1. Mobilise your feet.
Using a tennis ball, golf ball or a posture pro (as seen in picture), gently apply pressure to the bottom of the foot and roll back and forth along the whole arch, targeting any areas of tenderness. This can be done in sitting or standing. Spend at least one minute working on each foot, if not longer.
2. Get your feet moving.
Though they seem simple, these foot mobility exercises can make a huge difference. Try any of the following:
- Spread your toes apart, then squeeze them together.
- Point your toes, then flex.
- Point your foot up from the ankle, lift it up a few inches and move it side to side, making small circles with your foot one way, and then the other.
If your feet and toes are really stiff and you struggle to connect with them, use your fingers between your toes to help get your feet moving!
3. Take your shoes off.
Spend as much time as you can barefoot. Walking your dog in the park, doing chores around the house, train barefoot in the gym...anything that re-connects your foot with the ground.
Try it! Your feet will thank you. You'll gain more mobility, stability and, if you're someone who suffers from repeated ankle sprains, you'll definitely benefit from a barefoot lifestyle as your ankles are clearly trying to tell you something!
There are two very common myths that people have been led to believe and I have them come up repeatedly in my work, I'd like to draw attention to them and ask that you please please please think before taking these myths on board.
Number 1 Myth: "I need to do situps to strengthen my core"
What I would say to this: No offence to anyone who has ever used this phrase but it is Balderdash!
Number 2 Myth: "I need to use a weightbelt to support my lower back"
What I would say to this: Please see Balderdash comment above!
Now these are extremely common and easy mistakes to make as these days there is so much access to information out there that it is hard to sieve through the crap and find the honest truth. And I hate to say it but there are a lot of trainers out there who have very basic knowledge and either haven't been exposed to or sought out the truths as yet or don't have the understanding.
There are also issues of jumping onboard the "things that are cool" train and accessorising the crap out of yourself in order to look the part. Last time I checked, all I needed to train was myself, just a body, maybe some clothes, leave the shoes at home though!
Maybe a mate of yours trains in a belt and raves on about how "secure & strong" his back feels when he's lifting. So you're like "cool dude, mind if I try?", then you're like "wow, I can lift more with this belt on and everything feels so tight". Or maybe your trainer encourages you to wear one as they think it will protect your back. If any of these scenarios ring true please please please stop and ask yourself WHY???!!!
This important little 3 letter word has somehow become lost in society. No one seems to turn around anymore and challenge what they are being told. Everyone just accepts, particularly if it is coming from someone in authority or if it is someone you should be seen to trust. Go out there and find the truth for yourself and then challenge it!
The thing with the situps is that your Rectus Abdominus (six pack muscle) is not your core! It does not protect your lower back and if anything can actually make things worse if you overuse your Abs and cause dysfunction in your system. You can also do harm if you already have core dysfunction (which is highly likely if you have or have had lower back pain) and are doing multiple situps as your back will not be protected throughout the movement.
Your deep core muscles comprise of your Diaphragm (hence why I put so much emphasis on breathing when it comes to core function); Pelvic floor; Transversus Abdominus (TvA); Multifidus & to a degree your Internal Obliques as well. Your Rectus Abdominus is a global muscle and is not designed to be a stabiliser. The above mentioned muscles have to work in synergy (when you have a functional inner unit) to control Intra Abdominal Pressure (IAP) on lifting. If any of them are out of sync and being lazy or even being overkeen and have become overactive then it blows out the whole system.
Weightbelts prevent you from being able to access your breath properly (creating dysfunction) and last time I checked you were born with a weightbelt, it's called your TvA ;-)...try using it!
If you'd like to know the secret to a stable lower back and a better functioning unit, let me tell you...FUNCTIONAL BREATHING! :-) It's that simple, well initially anyway, that is where you start...no point in trying all these fancy core exercises or thinking 100 situps a day will save your back. Start with breathing please! Once again, please check my stability exercises library for the intro to breathing, My Youtube Channel has my video on it as well and you can refer to my facebook page for an awesome interview link on breathing and pelvic floor.
For further reading on why I hate the weight belt and how it is making your back WEAKER & DYSFUNCTIONAL, yes, I said WEAKER, please look back through my blogs for my blog post on the weight belt and all will be revealed in more detail!
Please feel free to leave a comment below if you can tell me the benefits of wearing a weightbelt. Same goes for the situps. I'm very interested to know what people's views are or what they have been told.
To quote Pat Flynn from Chronicles of Strength (love this simple, yet effective way of summing up this whole blog post in 3 small symbols)...
"- = +" :-)
The golden rule in movement: REGRESS TO PROGRESS!...
For the trainers out there: please don’t expect your client to “get” movement by handing them a weight they’re not ready for and just expecting them to move correctly by shouting out a few cues to them…it ain’t gonna happen!
The only thing that happens is they learn bad movement and possibly land up with an injury.
For the fitness enthusiasts out there: you have to break down movement and work on the weaknesses within a movement pattern in order to progress a movement. Don't just think that practising single leg squats or pistols is going to get you better at doing pistols...it's only gonna get you injured. There is a reason why you struggle with certain movements, you need to find that reason and work on it! Maybe your ankles aren't mobile enough; maybe your hips are unstable; maybe you lack good sequencing in your inner unit (core); maybe you have flexility issues in either certain muscles or joints; maybe fear is holding you back; maybe all of the above! :-o There are a number of possible, likely reasons but you need to find yours.
Just because your mate did loads of hamstring flexibility and went from finding pistols difficult to being able to achieve them, doesn't mean that's going to work for you. We're all individuals here and you need to treat yourself as one. And holding a kettlebell out in front of you is not the answer, yeah, you might feel more stable but maybe, just maybe that is because you have core issues and the kettlebell is forcing your body to react to the weight by engaging your core before you descend, but what happens when you try again without the kettlebell?
I'd suggest ditching the kettlebell and stepping away from the pistol for a while to work on core sequencing...once you've made progression there, find ways to progress. I'm just using pistols as an example, this applies to anything in life. And it takes time, you're not gonna fix things overnight.
So please, think before you cause yourself harm. If I gave you one Golden Rule of advice it would be CHECK YOUR BREATHING! This is highly important for any form of stability work. If your'e unsure, my stability exercise page has a great description of how to check your breathing and how to correct it, I have video links on Youtube to help as well & my facebook page has a link to an awesome interview with Dr Perry Nickleston & Julie Wiebe on the pelvic floor & breathing...Check it out! Core function begins with breathing!
I repeat: Regress to progress…Perfection before load…Get assessed if you're unsure...
Want to train your ABS in an efficient, functional way?
As mentioned in the previous Sit-up posts, you all know (unlike most personal trainers), I am no fan of traditional sit-ups. So here is the fourth and final of 4 alternatives that will hit your abs hard and give you that burn that you probably desire. As well as increase the function of your core area if done correctly.
No. 4 in our Top 4 ab exercises
4. TRX or Fitball Jackknife/Pike:
This is really two in one as the pike is a good progression from the Jackknife!
Using either a fitball or a TRX for the Jackknife.
Hands on floor in a pushup position with shins and ankles on fitball (or feet into TRX straps). Push your hands away from the floor to activate your shoulders, gently push your ankles into the ball and drive your knees towards your elbows. Make sure you brace your core and don't let your pelvis sag down or raise up too much. Keep your shoulders stable so there is no movement through them.
The pike is very similar but instead of bending the knees, keep them straight, push your feet into the fitball or straps and reach your butt towards the ceiling, whilst still pushing your hands away from the ground. Keep your neck neutral, I could probably have tucked my chin in a little bit more in this video.
Only lift your hips as high as is comfortable. Mine go pretty high but start by getting used to the movement first and making sure you’re moving through your hips and not your lower back.
These are both quite advanced moves so please only attempt if you have relatively good stability and strength.