Let’s get moving.
In the last post I talked about the major contributing factor of inter-vertebral disc problems. People who say, “I have a disc problem” actually have a movement problem that has caused the disc to break down. The antidote? healthy movement. The reality is that people are doing movements that can often times make the problem WORSE. For example, cycling or swimming is usually recommended for people because it is low impact but it can make problems worse by putting the lumbar spine in constant flexion (forward curve with cycling) or forced constant hyper extension (backward curve when swimming). As mentioned in the last article, prolonged flexion or extension “decreases the water content of the disc. When there is less water in the disc this decreases the strength and flexibility of the disc… making you more susceptible to injury.” The emphasis for people who sit throughout the day needs to be firing up the muscles in the back of our legs (gluteal and hamstring muscle groups) and stretching the front part of legs/hip joint (hip fexors). So how do we do that?
When we are in a seated position our legs bend at 90 degrees at our hip and our knee. This lengthens the posterior muscle group at our hip joint and low back. When a muscle is lengthened it gets weaker. In a state of constant lengthening and weakening it can begin to neurologically turn off and create many problems such as not having the strength to stabilize the low back through normal activities of daily living.
The body-weight squat is one of the easiest and more effective exercises for compensating for this constant imbalance of sitting. To put it even in simpler terms, stand up. That’s it. If sitting creates an imbalance standing up can help overcome that imbalance. Check out Mark Sisson’s fantastic tutorial on how to achieve the best and most effective body-weight squat here. The comprehensive video describes easy-to-follow-steps and follow through to achieve our goal of healthy movement in one of life’s most basic movements, standing up. Our butt muscles are part of the largest muscle group in our body, let’s use them.
Progressively we can start to build more dynamic movements in to our routine. Compounding on the positive effects of the body-weight squat a fantastic progression is the kettlebell swing. There are few exercises that pack as much power in the punch as this total body exercise. My favorite discussion on this exercise is provided by Tim Ferriss here. He provides and excellent video demonstration as well. Again, the importance comes from firing up the posterior chain (gluts, lower back and core) and bringing the hip through a full range of motion while doing so.
Two common exercises that can be implemented in to your routine TODAY. I truly understand the reality of sitting a lot but I am here to tell you that AS UNAVOIDABLE as sitting is these exercises, too, should be a part of your routine. As always, if you feel as though you are ill-equipped to perform these movements or experience any worsening of current symptoms please reach out to a healthcare professional that specializes in helping you achieve healthier movement for a healthier you.