A lot of people suffer from low back pain. And there are many reasons we suffer from back pain. These group into specific and non-specific low back pain.
Specific means we know the exact cause of your back pain (i.e. slipped disc, accident etc). This needs medical attention.
Non-Specific back pain, we can’t exactly point out the reason, it might be from lot of sitting down, poor posture, weak muscles (core, buttocks), tight muscles and so on.
Most of the people suffer from non-specific lower back pain, about 19/20 cases. And the reason behind it is usually a combination of all of the above, they are related anyway:
Sitting down too much -> (leads to) Weaker muscles -> Poor posture
Poor posture -> Weak muscles
Sitting with a poor posture -> Weak and tight muscles
You got the idea.
Today I will share with you a video with stretches to release tension in the lower back area, as well as surrounding muscles, in the case of non-specific lower back pain.
This is also a great stretch for the fascia (a thin membrane which connects everything in the body, I will write about it with another occasion). It’s also great to improve flexibility and mobility around the lower back and not only.
This is a video from the MTI Academy. Check it out here and here.
Remember, you can always book a free, no obligation consultation with me here to talk about the online academy of any questions you may have, or help you may need.
Have you ever thought whether there is a different exercise out there, more interesting and less boring than the usual diamond pressups and triceps extension? Among the best arm workouts you can do is this funny looking exercise, which uses only your own body weight? Yeah, you hear me right, I am an advocate of body weight training. That’s because for the majority of people, body weight training is enough and it can be progressed and regressed.
Furthermore if you practice this triceps exercise you not only tone your triceps bu you also:
improve your posture (probably the number 1 benefits of this triceps exercise in my opinion)
strengthen your core muscles (abdominal muscles, side of the abdomen, back muscles, hips and diaphragm)
protect your lower back and reduce the risk of low back pain (for many people standing exercises or pressups and planks can be detrimental if they do not have good core control and body awareness; problem solved with this triceps exercise)
stabilize your shoulder joint (stronger in a safer way)
stretching and opening up the chest and shoulders
mobility in wrists and ankles
finger strength (particularly if you practice on uneven terrain, such as the outdoors)
What does all this mean to you? It means you can have a toned, strong, fit, healthy and truly powerful body in a safer way (this is key). Well….you must do other exercises of this type as well, do develop the body all round.
When I say “of this type” I mean exercises that work more than just big muscles in the body, think about posture, fingers, toes, mobility, flexibility and much more.
Remember, you are as strong as your weakest link.
That’s why I believe this is triceps exercise is among the best out there. One that enables you to strengthen your body in a safer way than other methods.
The foot massage with a golf ball is an excellent exercise to release tension in the foot muscles, and improve foot flexibility and mobility. At the end of the day a goof foot massage feels really good, doesn’t it? See the video below on how to do it and if you have any questions contact me.
A strong and stable hip joint reduces the risk of injury in your pelvic joints, spine and knees. It also promotes a good posture, as there is no limitation in the hips flexors area (above the thighs, the muscles which help you bring your knee up, that’s hips flexion) and you develop a stronger core and stability muscles.
For runners, and not only, strong stability muscles, a stable hip joints, strong glutes maximus and hips flexibility and mobility can save a lot of injuries, help recover faster from injuries, and help perform better.
By strengthening muscles around the hips joints, which also stabilize the joint, you can relieve lower back pain as well.
All exercises must be performed with correct alignment. If you lost technique and perform them with poor alignment then it’s for nothing. Dozens of repetitions are useless if they are not performed correctly.
Running is more than just placing one foot in from of the other. Running with good alignment, and a stable, mobile and flexible hip joint is the key to performance, speed or endurance, and less injuries.
Lie down on your back.
Soles of your feet, hip width appart, flat on the ground and knees bent.
Keep heels as close to your buttocks as possible.
Lift your hips off the floor – using the buttocks.
This exercise activates your buttocks and hip stabilizers in your hip joints. It will reduce some of the back stiffness and lower back pain, and also improve your posture.
Particularly full or deep squats. These are excellent to strengthen your buttocks, and all stabilizer muscles from your feet all the way up to your core. It is a natural movement and should be practiced every day.
Balancing exercises are again exercises which should be performed daily. They strengthen all stability muscles from the soles of the feet to the core.
Balancing exercises do not stop at just standing on one leg. Not at all. Try variations such as:
standing on one leg and placing a pencil on the floor, then picking it up ( the SeeSaw)
making a big circle around your body as far as possible, close to the ground but without touching (360 Degrees) – see video below
imagine you are the center of a clock, stand on one leg and touch with the other leg (with the toes only) each number around the clock (without putting any weight on the leg that reaches out)
Get creative but do take care where you balance. Even if you have very good balance, in case you do lose balance make sure you will not fall and hurt ourself. Safety first.
These exercises and more are some of the balance exercises we practice on out Natural Human Movement coaching. They are also part of the online Academy – a 12 weeks, weekly training and planning on Natural Human Movement, with videos, audios and detailed technique descriptions.
If you want to know more about The Academy contact me.
If you’d like to experience the outdoors Natural Human Movements training, we have FREE taster sessions taking place in Surrey. Message me and let’s book you on a taster session. Click here to message me.
In active stretching there is no outside assistance, no walls, or other person stretching you.
It involves actively contracting one muscle or muscle group in order to stretch its opposing muscle group. When you stretch your triceps, the biceps relax, and the other way around.
This type of stretching is very important for athletes, because it is an essential aspect of dynamic flexibility and thus has a greater correlation with sports performance than passive stretching.
In the case of passive stretching you receive assistance from partner, another part of the body or wall. For example placing your leg on top of a bench to stretch your hamstrings.
This method is used by physiotherapists to increase joint range and muscle length.
Types Of Stretching
This form of stretching involves quick, repetitive bouncing or bobbing actions. This is done to increase the stretch beyond the muscle’s normal range. In this case you use momentum and body weight.
It is generally not the best stretch for the average exerciser, as it can lead to muscle damage that may occur as a result of the stretch reflex.
They are usually used as a radical method of stretching adhesions and stubborn fibrous tissue in physiotherapy and rehabilitation.
This is similar to ballistic stretching, however, there are no bouncing or jerky movements. These stretches are performed under control and should mimic the movements of the following sport or activity and act as a kind of rehearsal.
perform 10-15 repetitions of each stretch under control, gradually increasing the ROM
Dynamic stretches are recommended at the beginning of the workout. The following is a dynamic stretch:
Static maintenance stretching is where the muscle is taken to the end of its normal range and held without bouncing. These are short stretches, held for 10-15 seconds. They are used to maintain the normal length of the muscle.
Following repeated contractions during exercise, the muscle becomes shorter and thicker and a maintenance stretch is used to return the muscle to its normal length.
take the stretch to the point where you feel your muscles stretching, maintaining good alignment and posture
hold for 10-15 seconds
repeat if desired
These stretches are used in flexibility training to develop the length of the fibres themselves, increasing range of movement at a joint. It should follow this pattern
take the stretch to where you feel tension and your muscle stretching, maintaining good alignment and posture
hold for 10 or more seconds, until the tension within the muscle has reduced
relax and passively (assisted by a person or object) increase the ROM of the stretch until tension is felt again
again hold for 10 or more seconds, until the tension within the muscle has reduced
again increase the ROM of the stretch until tension is felt again
hold until the tension reduces, then slowly and carefully return the limb to its normal position
repeat the stretch if desired
When to stretch
Stretching can be performed at any time of the day, appropriate to each person. You can stretch at home, watching TV, or at the office, in order to balance out periods of immobility in positions of poor posture.
As part of your workout, stretching should form an significant part of the warm up and cool down. In Karate we used to have 15-20 min of stretching at the beginning and at the end. It is essential
There are many factors that may limit flexibility and mobility, long term or short term. It is good to be aware of them and adjust our workouts accordingly to maintain flexibility and mobility and reduce the risk of injuries.
The warmer your muscles and joints are the more flexible and mobile you will be.
Outside temperature, particularly if you workout outdoors as we do, is a big factor that may limit flexibility and mobility. In the cold season give yourself more time to warm up and more patience.
Type of training
If your sport or training style itself involves mobility and flexibility (i.e. Martial Arts, gymnastics) you will naturally be more flexible. No matter how much a runner stretches there will be limitations compared to a Martial Artist or gymnast.
This is why we train in natural movement, we incorporate mobility and flexibility in all exercises. If you are a runner, for example, you should consider yoga classes at least 3 times a week I’d say.
Time of stretching.
In the morning when you wake up you may feel a bit stiffer than normally. In the afternoon your body is probably the most flexible.
Age is indeed a factor that limits mobility and flexibility. However, if you constantly trained to be mobile and flexible throughout the years the limitations will be smaller.
Women are generally more flexible than men.
Sorry ladies, but wearing high heels is not going to be great for flexibility and mobility, ankle mobility will suffer the most limiting dorsiflexion (when you pull your toes towards your shin). Wearing high heels also alters posture and alignment.
In his book “Stretching Scientifically” Thomas Kurz says that flexibility can be affected by anger, happiness, sadness, frustration, stress or how mentally burnt out we are.
There are situations when joints or bony structures limit range of movement. These are cases, along with pain in the joint, when you should consider seeing a your GP and see whether there is a more serious problem which needs attention.
A body builder will be generally less flexible and mobile than a lean Martial Artist or a rock climber.
In the end the more you train the more flexible and mobile you will be. Be consistent and the above limiting factors will not influence you as much.
I give you this information not to discourage you but to help you train in a more complete way.
Do you know the difference between flexibility and mobility? In this short article I will explain what is the difference between the two and in subsequent article on the topic we will look at what are the limiting factors of flexibility, how to improve flexibility and mobility and examples of exercising.
MOBILITY – ability to move or be moved freely and easily. MOBILITY is an indication on how well and efficiently we move.
FLEXIBILITY – quality of bending easily without breaking. FLEXIBILITY is a component of MOBILITY.
MOBILITY – how loose you feel, or how stiff you feel.
FLEXIBILITY – muscles length
MOBILITY – the whole picture, how easily the body can move.
FLEXIBILITY – specific to a particular movement or joint and it can vary around the body.
A person with MOBILITY can perform daily activities or certain exercises with more ease.
A person with FLEXIBILITY may not be able to move as easily. They have the flexibility but not necessary the freedom of movement. Mobility can limit the potential we gain through flexibility.
Physical Therapist, Author and Coach Gray Cook explains that MOBILITY is actually more anatomically and physiologically correct because it encompasses any structure that could restrict motion.
FLEXIBILITY would only imply structures having tension on them. Calling all limited motion problems “flexibility problems” assumes that all can be helped with stretching. Sometimes it cannot.
Bottom line flexibility without mobility will limit our bodies to function and move as they should. In future articles on the topic I will also talk about exercises and how to improve flexibility and mobility
Before chairs came along humans used to squat. In some cultures, such as Indian, they still squat, that’s the natural way for them. In fact that is the natural way for humans, regardless of their culture. We all come from the same source, then we use labels. But that’s just the surface, we all come from the same place, the same source.
What is natural for one is natural for everyone. However, if we stop moving in a certain way the body, the muscles, are not adapted anymore, they “forget” but when they do go back to the natural state if feels amazing.
Squatting is probably the most primitive movement. And, as I always say, your body was designed to move. That is why you have joints, tendons, ligaments. Your skeletal system was designed to be used, and when you don’t it weakens.
Have you ever noticed the fetal position? You were squatting before you were even born!
Benefits of deep squat:
joint strength – ankles, knees, hips
muscle strength – particularly important are the glutes which are stabilizers for the lower back as well as strengthening the hamstrings, thus less risk of lower back pain
bone health – bone density is affected by the pressure you put on your skeletal system
healthy bowel movement
healthy nerve functioning
improved flexibility and mobility – we all know how we feel then our body is stiff, and as we age, mobility is even more important
reduce risk of injuries – as your body gets stronger and more mobile and flexible
posture – you learn a lot about posture when you learn to squat; you also learn about how to use your muscles in correct sequence
Squatting with weights
When you squat with weights stop at a 90 degrees angle at the knee, or stop when thighs are parallel to the ground.
There are many benefits of deep squatting. But the deep squat is, or should be, part of a series of exercises done on a regular basis. That does not mean every day, although squatting everyday can make a huge difference to your mobility, strength and overall fitness.
I gave you the reasons why not to isolate and now I will give you some example of exercises to do, with videos and instructions.
I like exercises which work the whole body. Some of them emphasize a certain area more than others but then we balance it out with other exercises.
I also like exercises which challenge mobility and flexibility. Because to be ready for anything your body has to strong and flexible in the same time. Not excessively flexible, that’s not good either. There is a balance.
Your body is as strong as your weakest link, thus we have to think not only about the obvious muscles, such as thighs and biceps, but also about:
Foot muscles –balance exercises, very simple; get creative and think safety first
Glutes (butt muscles)– they are stabilizer muscles; strong butt muscles are important for hip stability and preventing lower back pain; practice squats
Can’t go all the way down? Place a book under your heels (a stick or stand on an incline with toes facing downhill) and practice until it gets easier. Then change it with a thinner book and so on until you do them all the way on flat ground.
Core – it’s called a core for a reason, that is where everything comes from (even hiccups); practice crawls (or alternative locomotion); they strengthen the core without compromising posture, straining next muscles and lower back and they are fun as well. Here’s the basic one to start with: The Panther Crawl
Upper body – lifting, carrying, throwing, catching, they are day to day movements; your body needs to be strong, in its natural, healthy and balanced state. Use a bar for this exercise (skip the balance part, just do the leg lifts). This exercise will work the core as well.
Flexibility and mobility – you have to have both; without mobility strength is useless; imagine slipping on ice and having no mobility or flexibility, your body will not be able to respond.
If you avoid isolation and practice complex movement such as crawling, running, jumping, squatting etc you develop the body as a whole. Isolate and you will probably miss the smaller stability muscles.