Wednesday, 11 February 2009


I have several clients at the moment who seem to be suffering with bad backs for one reason or another. So, i've been doing some research and apparently one in three adults in this country suffer from some form of back pain every day. That's high, and back pain is horribly debilitating.

Chances are there's some muscle imbalances going on, and in particular a weak core area. When core stability is increased it protects your lower back from injury but not only that, it will improve your sports performance.

Your core is involved in what ever sport or exercise you choose to take part in,or most movements for that matter, but because so many of us do so much sitting every day, muscles become out of balance and are weakened. Particularly the core and the gluteals.

Core training is such an important part of keeping fit and staying healthy, and the exercises chosen will determine how your body adapts to the exercise. If your spine is stable and solid it's so much easier for your body to move in all planes of movement, and function optimally.

And ease of movement is the way forward........

For those who are interested, the core comprises the following major muscles which need to be worked to stay in tip top condition : Rectus abdominus (six pack), erector spinae (back), internal and external obliques (sides) quadratus lomborum, iliopsoas and transverse abdominus. Oh, and mustn't forget the diaphragm and pelvic floor (often weakened when we have children).Lots of them, hey!

It's important as a personal trainer to assist clients in training their 'abs' in the right way, from the word go. Activation of the TVA has to be learnt to ensure no 'popping' occurs, ie pushing out rather than pulling inwards.

An exercise called the 'Four Point Tummy Vacuum' is great for beginners. Done on all fours, hands under shoulders and knees under hips you envisage pulling in your abs from your pelvic floor upwards in four small movements, and then slowly releasing. Breath out as you suck in and in as you release.Practice lots to get the hang of it. the beauty of this exercise is that no pressure is placed on your back. Great for stabilising the spine.

The plank is also a great overall core exercise and lots of fun, there are many many versions of this (with one leg, with wobble boards/stability boards/bosu balls etc.)and when I get round to working out how to put videos on to Youtube, I'll demonstrate some of them! (Matt Clough if you're reading - help!).

To do the basic one, lie on the floor on your front, feet and knees together, on elbows, lift the trunk and knees off the floor and maintain position with a neutral spine and head for as long as possible. Suck that tummy in and hold it......but keep breathing.

Ben, my son has just timed me and I did a three minute plank - I think that's ok?! but I have just done an hours work out, so could do better. One of my clients is up to a minute and a half so I better get practicing!

Both of these exercises are great for core training, and if you have back problems they'll help re train your core muscles to keep your lower back stable.

They both focus on stability so there's little movement around the spine. Your lower back stays solid, and doesn't move. These exercises can be done by beginners and the more advanced, they will improve sports performance.

Having mastered core stability you can then progress to core strength and then core power exercises but getting the basics right is KEY. Having core stability will help you in all areas of your life from picking up children, to reaching up to kitchen cupboards to washing the car, leaving you LESS likely to get injured.

So off you go!

TODAY'S TIP : Focus on what you want out of life, visualise it, feel it, smell it, taste it and go for it........Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway!

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