Welcome to ‘The Art of Movement’ - my weekly newsletter!
This newsletter is not just an opportunity for me to touch base with my dear patrons and show my gratitude for your monthly support, but also to offer you a 5 minute, easily-digestible read around the world of health, fitness and exercise. Here I will troubleshoot many common difficulties my clients experience, offer practical, actionable solutions for you to put to work in your life immediately, and of course provide my weekly motivation in the form of a favourite quote, and a takeaway lesson from it.
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Week 22 - Posterior Chain and Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain is hands down (alongside knee pain) the biggest injury concern I help people to deal with on a day-to-day basis. Thousands of research studies have been carried out over the last few decades for lower back pain, in order to unearth the root causes of injury, most efficient rehabilitation strategies and preventative actions to deter onset of lower back issues.
So here are 3 summaries of the scientific findings around lower back injury reduction.
In general, the root cause of an injury tends to originate at either the joint above, or joint below the source of pain. Ie. The site of pain is not necessarily where we should focus our rehabilitation efforts!
Remember this little beauty? The joint-by-joint matrix highlights this important concept. If you have lower back pain, your first port of call should be to establish how well you are functioning in your hips, and upper back. Only doing lower back stretches to fix your lower back is like putting a plaster over a bullet wound - it isn’t going to be the answer to your problem!
Strengthening the whole posterior chain is the easiest way to reduce lower back pain. This means thinking about all of the muscles through the back of the body, and using training exercises to strengthen them. This means particularly the hamstrings (back of the thighs), glutes (bum), erector spinae (lower back), trapezius (mid-upper back), latissimus dorsi (side of the back) and rear deltoids (back of the shoulders). Strength training can consist of anything between 2-5 sets of 1-20 reps on the given muscle group, with ideally each muscle being targeted with at least 2 exercises, at least once per week (but preferably twice or more). This might look like:
Bw = bodyweight
Lower back stretching can be counter-productive. The primary cause of lower back pain is lack of stability - this generally means we have too much movement available at the joint (as we see in our joint-by-joint matrix above, this is not what we want). Focusing on lots of lower back stretches might temporarily relieve some pain, but in the long term we are not doing anything to improve our ability to create stiffness and tension around the spine to protect it, and prevent movements in our vertebrae. In fact, by stretching we are reducing this important ability we require to create this ‘corset’ around the spine - instead, become better at this by carrying out core stability exercises like plank variations, palloff presses and ab rollouts. This way you can genuinely reduce experiences of lower back issues quickly.
‘It is never too late to be what you might have been ’ - George Eliot
Movement of the Week: Plank March
3 x 10 (5 each side)
Plank marches are a great way to focus on creating this much needed stability around the spine. The aim is to keep a neutral posture (hips, shoulders and head level), and prevent movement around the body, while one leg carefully raises from the floor, squeezing up into a controlled activation of the glute (keeping the knees straight). Slowly bring the foot back to the floor and transfer your weight onto the other foot, alternating for 5 reps each side. The slower the better with this one - see how you get on!
That’s all for this week! Please spread the word about my Patreon channel so more people can enjoy the videos and newsletters!