Every weekend, I have the pleasure of training and educating other fitness professionals. I love my job. The life of a fitness educator is not glamorous; I live out of a suitcase. But I thoroughly enjoy working with other like-minded people. While training instructors in the Barre Above program, I have had numerous trainers complain of low back pain from other classes. After horror story after horror story, I want to explore common exercises that cause lower back problems. Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing one exercise that causes lower back pain and a solution.
Often in my trainings, I stop my class to ask “Does the risk outweigh the benefit?” Our industry teaches exercises without understanding the why behind the movement. Core exercises are often perceived as a movement that needs to be executed to the point of extreme pain to get results. We should stop and question how the anatomy of the core works to make a decision as to whether or not the movement is a beneficial exercise.
The First Common Exercise that Causes Lower Back Problems
The first exercise that is primarily considered a lower abdominal exercise is crunches with legs extended. The primary muscle that is being utilized in this exercise is the psosas major, which has the primary function of flexion of the hip. Now, what is America’s favorite past time? SITTING! The fact that we sit for such long periods during the day means that we are already tightening the hip flexors. Typically, the tighter the hip flexor, the more lower back pain.
A solution to this problem is to use a ball behind the low back. This not only protects the back but it also forces the rectus abdominals to lengthen against gravity, rather than shorten. Additionally, this position allows the hip flexors to move into the category of assistor muscles, not primary movers.