July 08, 2013
BACK IT UP !!!
It's not rare for an office worker to sit by his/her desk for a solid 13 hour stint, only arising for the vital caffeine infusion to wrestle away sleep and/or depression! The poor human frame is not designed to be sat motionless in the same slouched position for hours on end, and the body suffers (& complains) in many ways as a consequence. Thanks to the ever-encroaching 'corporate culture', people are not just training less, but moving less in general on a daily basis, which promotes obesity, bad posture, repetitive strain injuries, and most commonly, back problems (to name just a few). For many, "back pain management" has become an unwelcome companion, and a crucial part of this is the importance of a strong core (including back muscles). Fortunately there are a some great exercises that can strengthen, stabilise, enhance range of motion, encourage improved posture and lessen (or even prevent) back pain. Only focussing on the abs as a means of strengthening your core is a mistake; back exercises should not be forgotten in place of the superficial 'glamour' abs, which cosmetically can have a higher visual impact (in conjunction with the right diet). It is very important that the back receives equal and complementary attention as the abdominals. Work both, otherwise you'll likely end up with muscle imbalance, and will slip discs far more readily in older age. It's all part of caring for your body now so someone else doesn't have to 30 years down the line! The essential benefits of exercising the back and abdominal muscles include a) injury / strain prevention, b) reduced likelihood of chronic / acute back pain, and c) enhanced healing after spinal surgery or back injury. With that in mind, here's my favourite back workout (outdoor 'stretching' shots taken in a very 'in bloom' Rose Garden of Regent'sPark, London) : 1) WARM UP (emphasises warming the muscles which are about to work out!) Rowing machine: 10 min Works: deltoids, latissimus dorsi, rhomboideus, biceps and trapezius to name but a few. 2) STRAIGHT ARM LAT PULLDOWN (as below pics) Works: teres major, lattissimus dorsi etc How to: 1. Stand with your knees slightly bent. Grab the bar with an overhand grip. 2. Pull the bar down until it touches your upper thigh. Keep the elbows slightly bent. Maintain a straight back. 3. Return to starting position 3) ONE-ARM DUMBBELL ROWS (as below pic) Works: Rhomboideus major, Latissimus dorsi, Teres major, Trapezius. How to: 1. Rest your left hand and knee on a bench. Hold a dumbbell with your right hand (palm facing in) Maintain a straight back. 2. Pull the dumbbell as high as possible whilst keeping the elbow close to your body. 3. Lengthen the arm and return to starting position. 4) CLASSIC DEAD-LIFT (as below pic) Works: Lower back, latissimus dorsi, trapezius, hamstrings, gluteus maximus, How to: 1. Stand facing the bar with feet slightly spread. 2. Hold the bar with an overhand grip. 3. Make sure your back is straight and engage your abdominals. 4. Slowly raise the bar up along your thighs whilst keeping your back straight. 5) TRX EXERCISE (as below pic) Works: How to: 1. Hold the handles in each hand facing the TRX. Place one leg slightly in front of the other. 2. Engage your core. Relax your shoulders and be mindful of your posture throughout. 3. Lean backwards, shifting your body weight on you back leg, straighten your elbows positioned at chest height. Palms facing inward. 4. Slowly pull yourself back to starting position keeping your elbows tucked in. Make sure not to arch your back. 6) BACK RAISE (as below pic) (on a mat, swiss ball or on a bench) Works: Lower back, iliocostalis thoracics, gluteus maximus etc How to: 1. Lie face down on the swiss ball. With you feet against a wall. 2. assume an arched position. slowly lift yourself up of the ground. Avoid overextending. Only go as far as you feel comfortable. b) Side & glide (as below pic): How to: 1. Feet shoulder width apart, hands by your side. 2. At the same time slide hips to the right and shoulders to the left. 3. Return to start position and repeat a few times and then change to the opposite side. c) Low Back Stretch: How to: 1. lie on your back 2. Slowly draw your knees up to your chest (keep lower back flat). 3. Hold your legs and squeeze the knees to chest ( for 10sec). 4. Release, and slowly return to starting position. d) Standing Extension: How to: 1. Stand with feet shoulder width apart. 2. Place hands on lower back and slowly lean backwards. A few more pics from the shoot: