GET STRONG ALL OVER
Zeroing in on your stomach muscles makes almost nc sense, however, if you neglect everything else. At the Texa! Back Institute, specialists emphasize the importance of cardio vascular fitness for decreasing back pain and injury, and ree ommend aerobic exercise-walking, swimming, water exercis es, stationary cycling-for any back-building program.
"Cardiovascular exercise lubricates the joints and stretches muscles so they're less prone to strain arid tearing," says Stephen Hochschuler, M.D., surgeon and TBI cofounder. Research backs this up: A study of 1,652 firefighters found that the most cardiovascularly fit of them had ten times fewer debilitating back injuries than the least fit
Exercise also promotes the efficient transport of oxygen to muscles, which helps healing, and boosts daily production of your body's self-made painkillers, endorphins and enkephalins.
To strengthen specific muscles that support the spine and help the back do its job, you also need to include the abdominals, the oblique muscles (running from the back of the spine to the front of the abdomen), the extensor muscles of the lower back and the leg muscles that share lifting duty.
The following routine hits them all, but especially works those abdominals. You can do the complete workout at home in less than 15 minutes .
||The Short Leg to Back Pain
If you have an aching back, it may be because one of your legs Is shorter than the other. Even a slight Inequality can cause the spine to curve to the short side when you walk or run. Eventually, the bend puts painful pressure on disks. Most people can't tell If their legs are different lengths, says researcher Steven McCaw, Ph.D., of Illinois State University:
�� A tailor measuring for pants is often the first to pick it up." The simplest way to correct the problem is to put a Dr. Scholl-type therapeutic insert into your shoe to
give the shorter leg a lift.
First, some pointers:
- To get the most back-boosting benefits, do the exercises three or more times a week.
- Exercise with slow, controlled movements: Speed adds momentum, momentum carries you, and the muscles end up doing less work.
- Avoid full sit-ups, which use only about 30 percent of the abdominal muscles, leaving the hip flexors to do most of the ! work. If you rise only slightly, your abdominals will do 90 per'" . cent of the work.
- When you're performing these exercises, put something between you and the ground. A body-length mat, available at just about any sporting goods store, cushions your back much. better than a cold, hard floor.
- People with back pain can usually do light exercises. But see a doctor first if no position gives you relief, if your pain's lasted more than two weeks, if it radiates down your leg to your knee or foot, or if simple movement makes the pain worse.
Now, your routine:
Pelvic tilt. This exercise primarily strengthens abdominal muscles, but it also builds muscles in the lower back that keep it properly aligned with the pelvis.
Lie on your back, with your knees bent and your arms extended to the side. Press your lower back against the floor by tightening the abdominal muscles and squeezing the buttocks. Hold for ten seconds. Repeat five to ten times.
Partial curl. This targets the rectus abdominis muscles at the front of the body.
Lie on your back with your knees bent. Extend your hands straight out between your thighs. Slowly curl your upper torso until your shoulder blades leave the floor, exhal� ing while rising. Hold for ten seconds. Do 5 reps the first week, then increase by 5 a week until you can do 15.
Advanced curl. Move on to this exercise when you can easily do 20 partial curls.
Lie on your back, with your knees bent and your fingers lightly touching your ears. Slowly curl your upper torso until your shoulders leave the floor, exhaling. Hold for ten seconds.
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