Protect Your Back: Zip Up Your Core

Abdominal exercises to help you avoid back pain

Mindfulness is an invaluable tool when it comes to protecting and preserving the health of our backs. The best way to be “mindful” in our workouts is to have impeccable form. Impeccable form starts in your belly — yes, in your core

When we do a biceps curl, a heavy squat or even a plyometric burst, the first part of the body we should engage is the core. But what does that mean, exactly?

Your core is 360 degrees around your mid-section. It is comprised of your rectus abdominis muscle in the front, as well as your internal and external obliques on the sides, which form your waist. In the back are your quadratus lumborum muscles, which extend from your bottom ribs to the tops of your hips, and your erector spinae muscles, which run along your spine. Deep inside your belly are your intrinsic core muscles, the muscles that curl around your spine and that give stability to every move you make. The transverse abdominis is one of these muscles. 

Flaunt your form

Form — we talk about it often. Shift your weight into your heels, flatten your back, and never let your knees shoot past your toes. All of this is important. But the best place to start good form is in your belly, from the center of your being. Before your next workout, stand with your feet hip-width apart. Point your tailbone toward the ground and then roll your shoulders back and away from your ears. Now lengthen your spine. See it happen in your mind. What happens? Your belly engages. This is our starting point for everything from a lunge to a jumping jack. 

Engaging your core and gathering your intrinsic muscles around your spine creates both protection and stability for your low back. From a strong center, you won’t over-flex or over-extend your back, which could leave your discs vulnerable. 

Keep your abdominals and obliques strong with classic crunches and twists, but be sure your workout routine includes some balance work that forces your deep internal muscles to engage. Add some work for the erector muscles of your low back with some “Superman” or Locust Pose work from yoga. Doing this on a regular basis will provide 360 degrees of stability and protection to your back. From here you will be well on your way to excellent form when doing other exercises as well.

Work out at home with The FIRM videos on GaiamTV.com.

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