Ditch the Sit-Up - Your Low Back Will Thank You!
My friend, Dr. Levi Irwin, Doctor of Chiropractic, wrote an article for my recent newsletter on the connection between sit-ups and low back pain. He gives tips on ab exercises that won't hurt you. Please read on!
My Advice for New Years Resolutioners:
Ditch the Sit-up - Your Low Back Will Thank You!
Professionals from the worlds of healthcare, fitness, and performance know that when it comes to preventing and recovering from spinal pain, Core Stability may be the MOST IMPORTANT factor. So I am always glad to see the nods of agreement when I talk with people about the importance of Core Stability in their long-term health and fitness. It seems we can all agree that a well-stabilized mid-section is a good thing.
Unfortunately, I feel that the question of HOW to best stabilize our bodies’ core is still one that many people are confounded by. Logically when we think of our core we think of our Abs, and associate a strong core with a good six-pack. So when we think of Core exercises the ones that come to mind probably involve some variation of sit-ups, crunches, and Russian twists.
While these exercises all target the “Six-Pack” muscles of the rectus abdominus and their close associates the oblique abdominal muscles, they are also often the cause of MANY low-back injuries and flare-ups.
The reason these sit-up and crunch exercises can be bad for the back is that it is very difficult to maintain a NEUTRAL lower spine while doing these exercises, and with every sit-up we actually round our low backs into the same position that leads to low back injury. When we add in a twisting motion (a la Roman twist) the low back tissues are now at maximal risk. Add that to the fact that most of us are already at increased risk of low back injury because we have been deconditioning and straining our low back tissues sitting in a chair for 8 hours/day, 5 days/week, since... the first grade? What we have here is a recipe for injury.
As a result, all too often I see patients show up in my office a week or so into a new “Core” routine with back pain, spasms, or even nerve symptoms into their legs and feet (if you have any of these problems, I highly recommend you get them assessed and treated by a Chiropractor right away!) The problem is not a lack of desire or work ethic, but EXERCISE CHOICES that repeatedly round and twist the low back under strain.
The good news is that there are simple exercises out there that help to stabilize your spine without placing your strained Lumbar spine at risk of injury. These are the ones that allow you to get your spine into a neutral position, then keep it there while training/challenging the muscles that stabilize it.
My favourites among these are:
The Plank The Side-Plank & The Bird-Dog
A simple way to make sure you’re doing these exercises safely & correctly is to talk to a Healthcare Professional. And remember that there is always a way to make them more or less challenging depending on your level of fitness.
So this New Year I encourage you to go ahead and relentlessly pursue a more Stable Core. For your back's sake, however, leave the sit-ups in 2015.
If you are in Calgary and are in need of some chiropractic care, I highly recommend Dr. Irwin. Here is a link to his website: http://www.motion-city.com/