What we eat, when we eat, how we eat, how we prepare our food and it what environment we eat our food in all influence the quality of the food we consume and how our bodies can use it.
You would probably agree that having a plan and doing a little prep is necessary to avoid diving face first into the wrong type of foods. But, how do you get the prep in with work, family, school and all the other things that require your time and pull you away from prepping food?
It isn’t easy, but it is doable.
Low back pain (LBP) is common. Way too common. Treating it is difficult as there are often many factors contributing to your pain. The strategies I am going to share are meant to improve your situation. At worst, they should do nothing, meaning they will not make it worse.
All of the strategies will have multiple videos to help guide you through the process. These are strategies I have used with both clients and patients to not just manage, but ultimately resolve their LBP.
I am going to go over each in more detail, but the 5 strategies are:
Supine deloading - I will also share how to deload in sitting and standing
Core stabilization - it’s not so much what you do but HOW you do it
Glute exercises - in general, when the glutes are strong there are less issues with the knees and low back
Hip mobility - when the hips are tight, there tends to be more movement through the low back to compensate
Hip hinge - poor awareness and understanding of how to properly bend at the hips will routinely flare up the back
Low back tightness is common. Feeling some tightness in the low back is not uncommon. The reasons why the back can be tight are numerous. Most do not even involve the low back itself.
Other problems in the body (weakness, tightness and poor mechanics when moving) tend to manifest as low back pain. Sneaky sneaky.
Because of this, stretching the low back directly is often not the solution.
Don’t just start running. At some juncture, people realize they need to exercise. Or maybe they used to and they want to get back into it. They grab their favorite shoes and go for a run. Sounds harmless, right?
Don’t just start jumping. Maybe you were never much of a runner. You decide to join a gym. Or maybe you already belong to a gym but visit it “occasionally”. You think about taking some strength training class the gym offers.
It’s day one and you are squatting, lunging, pushuping and jumping more than you have in months. You feel like a dish rag when you are done. You are on your way, right?
Decreased shoulder range of motion.
Decreased neck range of motion.
Numbness and/or tingling in the arm or hand.
Any of these issues can have an origin within your thoracic spine. In case you are not familiar, the thoracic spine is that fancy piece of real estate between the neck and the low back.
LBP is complex. No one thing is going to resolve your back pain so stop looking for it. If you truly want to resolve your pain, you will have to tackle this on multiple levels. This means you will have to:
Let’s keep the holiday train rolling along. In Part 1, we discussed just getting moving more using dynamic warm-ups.
In Part 2, we are going to look at a bunch of different stretches that you can utilize to avoid ending up a complete ball of stress and knots come January.
Back on Thanksgiving morning, I started sharing different ways to help get people through the holiday season without having to give up exercise.
I even suggested that it is NOT a crazy thought to begin doing some extra activity or exercise during this time of year.
Understanding that many people would view that as crazy advice, I gave examples of things you can do.
One thing that is common for most people this time of year is eating a lot of extra food. There are lots of parties and very nice people bringing in tons of goodies to where you work.
This is also the time of year when exercise is sacrificed for other commitments and food choices can be made because of proximity (goodies at work), less time to prep (holiday shopping, parties, and all the extra traffic) and stress (not everyone enjoys this time of year).
Pancakes are delicious. Now, I know I am not telling you something so earth-shattering that you did not already know it.
But, depending on your fitness goals, pancakes may not be part of the current plan. Or could they?
Most people stretching their hamstrings are really stretching their sciatic nerve. The hamstring runs from the bottom of your butt to the back of the knee.
Rounding your back to stretch the hamstrings makes no sense. It does not improve hamstring flexibility but it does tension the sciatic nerve.
Most people attempt to stretch the hip flexor incorrectly by moving too far forward and arching the low back too much. If this is you, watch the video. The key is the setup.
Rows, pulldowns, pull-ups, and other movements that initiate movement through the scapula should make up a good amount of your upper body exercises in your program.
Rows and other horizontal pulling movements should outnumber both pressing movements and vertical pulling movements.
Single leg hamstring drops w/ ball.
For now, this one if the grand daddy of the hamstring drop family.
Set up with your feet under something that will not move. A dumbbell rack works great but not all are low enough to the ground.
I have used a standing hamstring curl machine to perform hamstring drops when the DB rack was not an option. See below.
Set up with your feet anchored under a dumbbell rack or other solid structure that will not move. Focus on bracing the abs, staying tall throughout the motion and not bending at the hips. Perform the hamstring drop with only one leg on the way down and both legs coming back up. Try to keep the emphasis on the hamstring, not the arms and shoulders. The upper body is definitely assisting the movement, but the hamstrings should be the focus. Enjoy.
This will punch your hamstrings right in the mouth. Set up with both knees bent, feet flat on the ground with a slider under one of your feet. Lift the foot that is not on the slider off the floor. Perform a single-leg bridge with the other leg. Once at the top of the motion, straighten the knee by sliding the foot away from the body. When the knee is extended, keep the hips on the floor, bend the knee and start again with the single-leg bridge.
This is a great alternative if using some attachment for the hands increases back pain or you find yourself pulling too much with the arms. Start by setting the pulley so it is around hip-height. Set the strap so it goes around the front of your hips. Set and brace your neutral spine position. Focus on keeping pressure through the heels and sitting back through the hips. To return to the start position, squeeze the glutes and push the hips forward. Avoid overextending the hips and straightening the body as this will cause you to lose your balance and fall back.
Stand in front of a bar (or another surface that is stable and will not move - kitchen counters also work great for this).
Walk the feet back, perform a hip hinge and pivot forward until you feel so resistance to the movement in the thoracic spine. Hold this position for 5-6 seconds. Repeat as needed.
NOTE: this may cause the back to crack. Not getting a crack in the back does not mean the movement was ineffective.
Mobilizing the first rib is not something many people know about which is unfortunate. The first rib is right under your collarbone and can be elevated which causes all sorts of issues for the neck and shoulder(s). Check out the video to see how to mobilize the fist rib.
This is an excellent movement for mobilizing and stretching the hips. Start with the first position and progress to the others as needed. Remember, focus on a mild-to-moderate intensity in the hip and glute area when performing these. Start in a pushup position. Bring one leg forward to the outside of the arm. In the second video, bend the elbow and try to get it as close to the floor as you can. In the third video, rotate the arm up towards the ceiling. Make sure to rotate the body, not just the arm. One way to help do this is to keep your eyes on your hand. The arm should not travel where the eyes cannot follow it.