What’s up everyone. I took a week off from blogging (will most likely do that sporadically). I am back and this post will focus on injury prevention, specifically the spine.
As some may know I have had a pretty ridiculous and random spurt of injuries over the past 18 months, which started with poor posture while spending hours upon hours doing academic work compounded with my necessity to lift big or go home without proper warmup dynamic stretching. Now most people who workout will likely say “ya bro I stretch” and then proceed to just do some leg kicks and arm circles. I am here to tell you that is not nearly enough. I stretch for around 10-15 minutes prior to workout and hit every part of my body with controlled movements. I also warm up on the elliptical or bike at moderate intensity for 5-10 minutes. I wish I was doing that all of my life, but one often doesn’t consider prevention until injury occurs. Someone once told me that an ounce of prevention protects from pounds of injuries. This is 100% correct, I understand when we get to the gym or wherever we workout we want to get in, get started, kill it and leave. I promise you though if you go in with this mentality without properly warming up your MIND AND BODY you will succumb to the injury bug at some point. If you love working out and exercise and cant imagine not doing it, well, forever than I suggest you read the following sections seriously.
These next few paragraphs will focus on the importance of protecting from spinal injuries by working your core (which is vastly different from “abs”). In fact if you wok your core hard you will get abs (but keep in mind, abs are made from the food you put in your body).
When I first injured my spine and therapists’ and specialists told me I need to strengthen my core, I looked at them like they were crazy. I was in the best shape of my life, I was strong and proportioned, and I had “abs”. I figured my core was strong enough how could it possibly get stronger? I was mistaken, your core muscles are in the front AND back, the stronger your core muscles are the better they can protect your back and spine in general from injury.
We live in a society where we sit at work, school, driving, eating and the list goes on. We sit far too much. When we sit for extended periods the discs in our spine start to compress and when they compress you are at high risk for an array of disc injuries and other spinal problems. Let me tell you from first-hand experience, YOU DONT WANT THIS TO HAPPEN TO YOU, if you can do anything for prevention, start right now and strengthen your core. If you do any type of exercise and cant imagine a day without it start taking stretching seriously and hit your core hard. If your spine is healthy you can lift and workout for a long time consistently and pain free, however it starts with paying attention to core and posture.
I do a ton of core exercises like pelvic tilt (this exercise works other body parts to), a variation of planks, supermans V-Ups and cat cow. Click those links for directions on how to do the exercises, these are not the only exercises that help strengthen the core but are some very popular, easy and effective ones. Also to loosen up your low back make sure you stretch your hamstrings, tight hamstrings can cause a tight low back and the problems will compound on each other. The cool thing about the body is that it is truly all connected, every part works in some correlation with other parts. Failure to identify weakness and neglect all parts will create imbalances leading to minor to serious injuries.
Posture is extremely important to protect not just your back but your neck. Like I previously stated, we sit too much and we are always staring downward at our phones or awkwardly looking at a television or computer screen. Poor posture leads to rounded, slumping shoulders which will shorten your bicep head and not only cause shoulder problems but potentially bicep problems (see how the body is all connected!). When sitting try to keep your core tight, tighten it up as if you are fitting into some tight jeans. Keep your neck in a neutral position and pull it back slightly creating what might resemble a double chin. It is important to remember here though that your not bringing your neck down, but rather bringing it straight back. (this ensures that the neck is sitting properly on the spine, getting used to this is a bit cumbersome but easy once you get the hang). Keep your shoulders back pay attention to how they hang from your sides. Many lifters create shoulder imbalances and postural imbalances by focusing too much on pressing movements like flat barbell and dumbbell while neglecting the part of the body you cannot see easily in a mirror…the back and rear parts of the shoulders. It is important to train all parts equally to ensure all muscles are equally contributing, warding off other muscles compensating and creating injury. Once you have one injury more seem to all fall like dominos, injuries are your body’s way of saying “ahhh too many imbalances” (one way at least).
A strong core and correct posture will ensure health for life. Don’t skimp on core and stretching. If you are addicted to exercising like me, than it will be difficult to imagine life without it for an extended period of time. DONT LET THAT HAPPEN. Take posture, core strength and nutrition seriously. Not just for people who exercise, but for everyone. Pain isn’t fun do what you can to avoid it.