One of the most common questions I get regarding back pain and strength training is what is the best exercise to strengthen the back? My answer is often confusing, the best exercise is time. Over the past few years research has proven that the muscles of the spine are primarily stabilizers, this means they assist with movements and provide rigid stability to the spine, they are not primary movers. I am referring the muscles that attach from vertebra to vertebrae, not the visible back muscles that function as prime movers of the trunk and pelvis. What we have gleaned from the research is that the stabilizers need to remain active, firing, for duration. So thousands of back extensions and machine extensions will do nothing to actually strengthen your back, in fact those exercises actually predispose your spine to injury from excessive tissue loading. Training with the spine in neutral, the abdominal wall braced and the glutes contracted will allow the spinal stabilizers to fire in their optimal patterns.
So what exercises am I referring to, welcome to the DOG progression. Dog 1: On all fours, hands and knees, place a dowel rod on your spine. With the rod in contact with the occiput-thoracic spine-S1 junction slowly lift your opposite hand and knee 1/8 inch off the floor and hover for 10 seconds. Don not loose contact with the three contact points of the rod. Alternate sides trying to maintain proper contact with the rod for 8-10 repetitions per side. Dog 2: Following the same postural pattern as dog 1 lift the opposite arm and leg to the side. Keep the knee and elbow bent, do not allow the back to move, hold 10 seconds and alternate sides for 10 reps. (like a peeing dog). Dog 3: This level involves full arm and leg extension.
Follow the same postural patterns as before but this time raise the opposite arm and leg to full extension and hold for 5 seconds. Be sure to keep the back level, a good idea is to keep the hand and foot about 6 inches in the air. This allows the glutes and spine to properly contract without over-extending the back. Each level should take roughly one week to progress through. It will take time for the stabilizers to fire efficiently with out help from the overactive primary movers. Your torso and spine should be still and controlled throughout all three levels, speed kills. One last thought, stabilization muscles do not feel like normal muscles. They do not burn, ache or get sore. When they are tired they simply loose their ability to contract, this will feel like shaking or simply having lost the ability to maintain control, that is when you stop and rest.
Bryan Fass holds a bachelors in sports medicine, is a Certified / Licensed Athletic Trainer, Nationally Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Nationally Registered Paramedic. Bryan is also a highly skilled soft tissue and Myofascial Release therapist, And has over 10 years of experience in clinical and fitness settings. Specialties in Spine and postural re-education. Precision Fitness is an advanced personal fitness, corrective exercise, post-rehabilitation, and sports performance facility with locations in Cornelius and Mooresville. NL Natural Weight Loss understands that there is no standard diet program that works for everyone. They realize that everyone is different which is why they have created simple step by step guidelines that make it easy to personalize the plan for each and every individual. The plan doesn’t include costly meal replacements, supplements or pre-packaged food, only real foods from the supermarket. The simplicity, convenience and cost of NL Natural Weight Loss ($29.95 one time cost) puts it a step ahead of the traditional diet programs. This program sets the standard for modern permanent weight loss solutions, without the stress of dieting.
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