The Dead Bug, aka Happy Baby, is a core move you should be doing

The Dead Bug helps train the core muscles to be strong and enhance spinal stability.

Obtaining a strong core can be surprisingly easy. Even better, there are excellent exercises that you can do lying on your back, using a simple band as a progression. One of the best exercises taught by strength and team coaches, yoga teachers, Pilates instructors and the sports medicine community is the Dead Bug, also known as Happy Baby. The base move is an isometric bracing action, as if you’re readying to take a punch to the belly, which promotes core stability and strength in your torso. Progressions or regressions are then tailored to your abilities and fitness level.

In Dead Bug, the reciprocal arm and leg patterns, like a dying bug on the ground, resemble motor skills like walking, running and swimming. (Or a happy baby lying in a crib, arms and legs akimbo)

The key muscles you work during the Dead Bug primarily focus on the core musculature, the powerhouse of the body. Picture the muscles forming its structure of floor, walls and ceiling. This includes the erector spinae, the deep low back muscle known as multifidus, hip adductors, rectus abdominus and the internal and external obliques. Exercises like this enhance spinal stability by training the deep postural muscles that protect you while you play the sports that you enjoy. Core stability, or trunk stiffness, allows you to transfer force to your limbs so that you throw, strike, kick, push, swing or run better. In other words, all motions are generated from the core and are translated to the extremities.

Our nervous system prefers to move with the most efficiency at all times. If your core is weak, most likely your brain will want to make it easy for you, and compensate. But over time, the compensation will create greater degrees of wear and tear. For example, slouching and leaning on handles on a stair climber or treadmill will make it much easier. But the wear and tear is more likely to be around your neck and shoulders. This can result in even worse posture, as a weak core encourages slumping, which tips you forward and off balance.

It’s often thought that repetitive flexion and extension exercise, like the good old sit-up, are a good way to train the core. But these muscles are rarely used in this way because they are more often used to brace while stopping motion. Researchers found that disc injuries can develop through even low-compressive forces with excessive bending and extending. An isometric exercise like the Dead Bug helps train the core muscles to brace under heavy loads, which helps stabilize the spine and in turn prevents buckling.

Dead Bug/Happy Baby

Start by lying on your back. Your spine should not be arched or flattened. Draw the abdominals in to assume the neutral position.

Reach your arms up. Lift your legs off the floor, holding a 90-degree angle at your hips and knees.

Move your arms back and forth (like a baby reaching up to play with a mobile) Duration: 30 seconds. Progression: Extend your arms and legs towards the floor, creating longer levers to increase the level of difficulty. Click on the video to see more progressions: vimeo.com/389162099.


https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_9d47b746-490b-11ea-8988-9fc27539e035.html

Connie Aronson is an ACSM-certified exercise physiologist at the YMCA in Ketchum. Learn more at www.conniearonson.com.

Fix your back pain; don’t forget your glutes

Through proper exercise, movement, and posture, you can help low back pain.

Kevin Mullins, a master instructor for Equinox Sports Club in Washington, D.C. understands low-level chronic back pain and found three recurring issues that personal trainers can address with their clients. Excess bodyweight, sedentary lifestyles, and improper exercise selection, are areas a trainer can help a client with, all factors having a correlation to low back pain. It is estimated that over 84 % of the population will experience an episode of LBP, from children to the elderly, at some time during life.

As well, age, stress, occupational factors, lack of flexibility or hyper-mobility, sports, postural habits, and smoking are other contributing factors.

Recovering from low back pain is a long complex road. If you are in pain, but not dealing with any diagnosed or diagnosed medical issue, you fall into the category of mechanical low back pain, or LBP.

Unlike a car, says Dr. McGill, one of the most widely respected spine researchers in the world, where you change one thing and it’s fixed, fixing a back is different. Back pain is more complicated and is much more than just fixing one part. Because, McGill notes, it comes down to cold hard science.

How the  spine functions and it’s relationship the rest of the body is the key to being free of back pain. Through proper exercise, movement, and posture, even disc bulges can be made less painful, and usually pain-free, he notes. 

Of course it’s hard to stick to a program if you are in pain. You lose the very conditioning that could help treat LBP, or even more frustrating, gain unwanted weight.That extra weight is the number one reason clients turn to a trainer, with or without low back pain. Healing starts to occur when you keep the bigger picture in mind; a good diet,adequate sleep, and a matched activity/ training program.

Tip #1 The Big Picture 

A traditional strength training can improve strength and muscle mass. Overall body strength as well as a daily walking regime are important part of a client’s program to become free of back pain.

Tip #2  Bend at the hips, rather than the spine 

There is a direct correlation between posture and pain. You can reduce episodes of back pain by reminding yourself to bend at the hips, which is a ball and socket joint, not the back. The spine does bend, but repeated spine bending, whether it’s picking up a weight in the gym, or swinging a kettlebell, could eventually lead to delaminations in the layers of the discs. Someone swinging a kettlebell, along with their back, instead of stabilizing the spine while doing so, to protect the spine, risks further trauma to an already sensitive back. When you’re performing squats, for example, sink your hips back towards your heels, like sitting onto a low park bench. Keep your eyes forward. Use your hips rather than round your back.

Tip #3  Rethink the core 

To enhance back fitness, you need a strong focus on core strength, as theses muscles play a protective role. The internal and external obliques, transverse and rectus abdominals, and the erector spinae are arranged around the spine and act as guy wires to allow the spine to control movement, bear loads  and facilitate breathing. But all too often you see good athletes and gym members entirely focused on just the rectus abdominis, commonly known as the “6 pack”. If we go back to our car analogy, focusing on only one part won’t solve back pain.

The core musculature extends to the entire body,  from the upper back down to the pelvis, not just the 6 pack.The lats, trapezius, the gluteals, hamstrings, hip flexors and inner and outer thighs all have an impact on the spine. 

Typically what happens with someone experiencing low back pain, is that that pain hasn’t allowed them to adequately train. The outcome is weaker core and gluteal muscles. This is where science comes in.

To see how important the glutes are for strength, try this exercise; Stand on one leg and balance. Then sink your hips back slightly, behind your heel, and see how much more stable standing on one leg feels. This is a great demonstration of the role the gluteals play regarding core strength.

Your progression, with an awareness on good movement patterns, including planks, back rows, squats and bridges, for example, should be aimed at strengthening more and more of your whole body, back to health.

( edited )https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_d44c4e26-d581-11e9-bddf-b7175436d170.html
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Modernize your workout. Lose a few old popular exercises

Modernize your workout with safe new moves

You may already lift weights, but is your workout working? What if you modernize a few moves? With the growing prevalence of chronic and overuse injuries, particularly in the middle- age population, you might be ready for safer alternative exercises. In 2013, there were more than 10 million doctor’s office visits for both lower back pain and shoulder symptoms. The shoulder joint and the back are two important areas where the combination of previous injuries and inappropriate exercises can initiate injury, damage soft tissue or exacerbate an existing injury. Behind-the-neck pulldowns and loaded lateral flexion (e.g. dumbbell side bends), once fitness standards, are two examples. Choosing newer, evidence-based alternative exercises can save you time visiting doctors and physical therapists and help you reap better training results.

Be kind to your shoulders

    A traditional exercise is behind-the-neck pulldowns. Forget your old high school training and don’t put the shoulder and cervical spine at risk of injury. It is estimated that up to 70 percent of people have a shoulder injury in their lifetime. Shoulders need the strength and flexibility that allow you to reach, hold, lift, carry, press and pull, pretty much what you do daily. It’s the most movable joint, and very shallow at that. The shoulder joint is a ball-and-socket joint, with the ball—the head of the upper arm—attaching into a small shallow socket (glenoid fossa), giving the joint inherent instability, often described as a golf ball sitting on a tee. The shoulder is also held together with an elaborate system of muscles, tendons and ligaments, including the rotator cuff muscles, which stabilize the joint during all the pushing and pulling activities that you do. Pulling a bar down behind your neck can lead to rotator cuff instability, suprascapular neuropathy and an increased risk of anterior capsule instability.

The same is true of behind-the-neck shoulder presses, with their risk of repetitive stresses on the joint because of the extreme range of motion. Bringing weights down behind the cervical spine causes excessive forward head tilt, or flexion, and has risk, as it could lead to transient upper-extremity paralysis or transient nerve injury. Aim for having your arms 30 degrees in front of you to allow your weights to be positioned in your body’s center of gravity throughout the lifts instead. You’ll have a better mechanical advantage, and better sports specificity.

Best abs ever

    What is the right workout that will preserve your back instead of destroying it? Dr. Stuart McGill, professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo, thinks that often the causes of back troubles are replicated in the exercises. When it comes to core work, often the public and even personal trainers focus on moves like sit-ups, often loaded with weight, or back hyperextension called ” Superman,” an extended posture that results in intervertebral disk loading. Similar exercises such as Pilates roll-ups or Russian twists, for strong abs, says McGill in his book “Back Mechanic,” put unnecessary loads, compression and strain on the discs. The loaded dumbbell side bend, for example, increases the likelihood of disc herniation.

  Planks and exercises like the framer’s carry improve core stiffness and trunk endurance—much better predictors of low back health. Super stiffness builds whole body stability, while sparing the joints. Splitting wood with an axe is an example that McGill uses as an analogy:  At the instant of impact, a total body “stiffness” is generated by a rapid contraction of all your core muscles, and spares your back. Check out link for safe alternative exercises~ /vimeo.com/251402324
Published in the Idaho Mt. Express January 19, 2018.

Extend your spine~ The Roman Chair for back health

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Our spines need to be subtle and strong

When it comes to musculoskeletal pain, the lower back reigns as king. About 80 to 85 percent of people will experience some sort of low back pain in their life. According to the National Health Statistics Survey in 2012, more than 28 percent of Americans live with lower back pain. Back troubles are the No. 1 reason people under age 45 miss out on activities.

Ironically, most people with low back pain overuse their backs, exacerbating the trouble even more. It’s better to use your legs to bend or squat down, or to use your hips in rotational sports like golf or yoga to spare stresses on your lower back.

Our spines need to be supple and strong, as daily tasks demand that the vertebrae bend, flex, rotate and side bend. The spine does an amazing job of handling loads straight down the back, but over time, poor mechanics repeated hundreds of times in daily life and activities can cause low back pain. Even more problematic is our forward bending posture, especially with aging. It seems we’re all forgetting to stand up and extend our spines. Our preference for slumping, sitting or driving is very hard on our back ligaments, and at worst, it becomes structural, resulting in bad posture or back problems. The end result is that greater compressive forces are placed on the intervertebral discs.

If you go to a gym, there is an overlooked piece of gym equipment to help strengthen your back. Typically used as a place to hang your gym towel, the Roman chair, looking somewhat like a stand, can isolate and strengthen the spine extensor muscles.

Exercises such as squats and deadlifts help strengthen your back, but the larger hip extensor muscles do much of the work. The lumbar extensors, multifidi (the deepest muscles near your spine) and the quadratus lumborum are the important muscles for spine health, as they help provide stability in the area of the spine most prone to injury. Think of your spine as two stacked boxes, called the vertebrae, with lots of padding between them—the discs, where most back problems begin. The natural curves of your spine help the discs cushion compressive forces.

Any exercises you do should keep spine stability in mind, and be done with muscle control rather than momentum. Avoid excessive range-of-motion movements that damage spinal ligaments or discs. End-range extension, or forceful hyperextension, places the posterior elements of the spine at risk of damage, especially with spinal stenosis or sports hernia.

 To use the Roman chair, you lie face-down, with the back of your ankles supported, and your navel in line with the edge of the pad. Round your back over the pad, slowly extend your torso parallel to the floor so that you are horizontal from your heels to head, hold for one second and lower for three seconds.  ( View video IMG_3055 )
Published in the Idaho Mountain Express June 30, 2017