Pump up the Jam (but keep injury at bay…)
In a previous blog, we highlighted the importance of keeping up movement – especially if you are a so-called “desk dweller”. Naturally, in order to keep moving, you need to make sure you avoid injury when engaging in exercise.
Sounds simple, right? Alas the journey to the land of wellbeing is littered with all manner of potential injury-causing hazards. Let’s have a look at how we can get our bodies into a condition so that we give ourselves the best chance of avoiding injury.
Pop goes the… (insert suitably affected body part)
So, what causes injury in the first place? Naturally if there is any impact during a sport or exercise activity, the cause of that injury is the impact itself. However, if we delve a little deeper, injuries can also tend to “build up” over a period of time, and one day you do something as mundane as bending over to put your socks on and – POP – your back goes! Or your hamstring pulls, or you feel a pain in your knee… the list is potentially endless. These are a different kind of “injury”… so, we could refer to it as an injury or just a poor movement pattern that has developed over a period of time.
Push it (but stability is key!)
Fact: Your core is your body’s entire support system.
Your core muscles play a huge role in your everyday activities, from getting out of bed, to walking down the street, and bending over to grab your handbag (or man bag!). Most importantly, they literally help you stay upright.
But what has this got to do with me? Well, here's an anatomy refresher…
Your abs aren't just one muscle. The deepest layer of abdominal muscles, and arguably the most important, is your transverse abdominis (sometimes called the "corset" or "Spanx" of the core), which stabilizes your spine and pelvis. Then you have two layers of oblique muscles, which control lateral flexion (think of a side bend), rotation, and other spinal movements. Last, but not least, is the topmost muscle, the rectus abdominis, which runs vertically in the front of your abdomen and is the muscle you see as a six-pack. It flexes your torso forward, like in a crunch.
And when you're talking about your whole core (versus just your abs), there are even more muscles involved: your pelvic floor muscles, the deep back muscles that stabilize your spine, and your diaphragm (the main muscle involved in breathing), so essentially your core stabilisers are also your breathing muscles.
Typically, the core muscles fire or activate prior to us doing an activity. Our nervous system anticipates the activity, and braces for support when we go to do anything. If you don't have that core stability and support acting as a brace or a girdle for your spine, you're likely going to compensate with other muscles, namely large compound muscles: The “BIG GUYS”, I call them! The Big Guys come in and take over because the “little guys” … your core… no longer activate in the way they should.
This is hard(core)
You need to build enough core strength before you can build strength anywhere else... so whilst there are lots of you out there putting a lot of effort in the gym with dead lifts, overhead press, pull-ups, etc. to build “strength”, your true strength comes from your core. The more stable your core the more likely you are to be stronger than you thought you could be. Naturally your body isn’t going to allow you to overhead press a very large weight if you don’t have any stability in your core to keep that weight over and above your head!
For the most part, core strength is what keeps you from being able to complete or continue an exercise, even in moves where you're not primarily working your abs. For example: During push-ups, are your hips sagging? Is your lower back arching and is your stomach is touching the ground first? In an overhead press, does your lower back arch and ribs pop forward to get the weight up? In a deadlift, does your back hurt or are you forced to either hunch forward or extend (arch) your back? These are all very small movements to consider when it comes to stability.
(How to) Use what your mama gave ya…
Having a strong core is just one part of the equation… You also need to know how to use it. The majority of people who come in to see me have weak abs, but often, they're not necessarily weak… their body just isn't in the optimal position to use them and may just not know how to 'turn them on.'
This could be due to prolonged sitting (yes desk dwellers and long-distance drivers, that’s you!), hunching, or even overextending/arching (which is what many people think good posture). When I see clients, the key thing is to increase the person's awareness of the muscle. Then, once they're able to activate it, it's much easier to activate that muscle in all exercises and as a result, the muscle performs its function better and there’s far less chance of overcompensation with other muscles, meaning less risk of injury.
Blow in this…
So, where does balloon blowing come into this equation, I hear you cry! Many of you always smile or laugh at me when I suggest blowing into a balloon as a great way to start stabilising your core – so here is the science behind it, courtesy of the North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy… https://bit.ly/2NAv8pZ
Being active – whether you choose running, fitness classes, CrossFit, or Greek Dancing – is ultimately the best way to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It is just critically important that you do everything that you can do mitigate any risk of injury so that you can keep active for longer. Make use of these exercises to give your core the best chance of serving you properly: https://bit.ly/2X1d6A2
Remember that if your body is sending you any pain signals, it’s probably a good idea to seek help and advice. Our team here at Intulo Health are fully trained and can provide you with the remedial massage that you require to keep your body in check. Get in touch to make your appointment today
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