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More on the Core

September 26, 2010

Strong cores, and healthy lower backs: it’s not just your everyday fitness enthusiast who is in search of a solid midsection, or relief from lower back pain.  Athletes of all competitive levels must deal with issues and complications resulting from muscular imbalances in this highly sensitive area known, collectively, as “the core”.

I touched on the idea of truly effective abdominal work a while back in this post; today I’d like to carry that theme “around back” and discuss how that rock-solid core can protect the vulnerable lower back from injury, whether from the repetitive impact resultant of endurance events, or from a sudden-onset event, such as lifting a heavy object at an imperfect angle, or from a hard, off-kilter stride impact.  Unfortunately, we can’t always use perfect lifting form in our day-to-day activities, and sometimes even the most graceful of athletic strides can quickly degenerate into an awkward stumble; a rock-solid core, though– which includes a strong, bomb-proof lower back — will serve as insurance against suffering an injury during those at-risk moments.

Without delving full-on into the anatomy of the human torso, we can think of “the core” as being a corset surrounding the mid and lower spine.  Simply put, when the corset is structurally sound and drawn taught, the spine is protected.  This musculature acts synergistically as (and in engineering terms), a mechanical composite; as in plywood, for example, the sum strength of the complete composite is much greater than the sum strengths of the components considered individually.  Another very important point to consider is muscular balance.  If one section of the corset is strong relative to another, the weaker section is apt to be overpowered and, sooner or later, will fail, resulting in the all-too-common (and usually occurring in the lower back), muscle pull, strain or tear.

So the answer to preventing chronic lower back pain and sudden-onset injury is simple: bomb-proof the core via intelligently prescribed exercise.  And what if you’ve already been bitten by the lower back bug?  The answer is the same — stability through strength — though we do have to be a bit more selective in exercise choice.  I have seen people with wrecked lower backs rehabilitate to the point of being able to perform amazing feats of strength and dynamic athleticism.  Recovery from lower back (or any “core” issue, for that matter) can most certainly be accomplished — it does, though, require a dogged determination coupled with intelligent exercise programming, the likes of which you’ll receive at Efficient Exercise.

For a bit more on this topic, check out this informative article from the New York Times, featuring a video clip from back specialist, Dr. Stuart McGill.

And for those of you who, like me, just cannot get enough of this stuff, check-out this excellent, and very in-depth podcast interview with Dr. McGill.  Listen in, and those of you who train with me will learn why I choose the particular exercises I do, and why I’m constantly coaching “tight core! Tight core!

In health,

Keith

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