Back pain sucks, and it inhibits every movement you make – and can drastically affect your desire to move around, which, by consequence impacts your quality of life drastically. Back problems are often a fact of life for many people over the 30. There’s just no way around it.
But what if there were?
For many folks, back pain can result from many different areas and imbalances, but for the great majority of those suffering such issues the root cause can often be traced back to an imbalance in the core muscles that control the majority of our bending and twisting.
Now, it’s important to note the word ‘core’ doesn’t refer only to the six-pack stomach muscles in the front of the body. In fact, for the purposes of this article, let’s even forget they exist for all the good they do the body. The core, then, refers to the zone of the body from the lower end of the rib cage to the knees, and one of the most important muscles there is called the transverse abdominis (TVA), which wraps around our waist like a belt.
How do we work that one, you might ask?
I’m so glad you asked.
We walk the plank!
The plank is one of the most fundamental exercises we can do as kinetic beings – and it’s a static position, which is sort of ironic.
Holding a plank means maintaining a nice, natural spine that is fairly straight and neutral horizontally while holding one’s body weight in a four-point stance, which can be both feet and/or both knees and either the elbows (directly under the shoulders) or hands (ditto) supporting the body, holding it neutral like a plank of wood. This will strengthen the TVA and help the body maintain good posture when sitting or standing – a fact of life that has become all the more apparent in the Zoom-call-era when more people are spending more time hunched in front of screens than ever before.
Start by holding the plank as long as 20 or 30 seconds. It’s excessively unpleasant the first time and the second as well. In addition, a minute in plank time feels at times like six or seven hours. Don’t be fooled. Set a timer or count slowly out loud and see if you can hold it longer than you did the last time. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll feel less strain on your back.
Let’s twist again
The body’s ability to twist is also controlled by the core muscles – in this case, the oblique muscles – and practising that movement is also a good way to strengthen your core. One way to do that is to do the transverse bazooka lift (as I call it) and that’s done by lifting a weight from one hip to the opposite shoulder and stopping it on the shoulder pointing straight ahead like a bazooka. Take a dumbbell, a can of soup, heavy book or some other object and do 10 repetitions, crossing your body each time on both sides.
You’ll notice we haven’t mentioned sit-ups, or crunches. That’s by design. Those movements have their place as a part of an integrated overall fitness routine, but they are far from recommended for those who are experiencing a sore back or back issues of any kind. In fact, they can exacerbate back issues.