Your core affects your every movement. It stabilises your body. And whether you like to train it or you find it boring, it WILL impact your strength but also; all aspects of your training and your posture (we’ll have you walking around upright and straight like iRobot before you know it, jokes). Do not be foolish enough to think that your core is only your visible abs though. It’s more than that. Your core is your abdominals, deep laying abdominal muscles AND your back, mainly the highly underestimated lower back ( erector spinae).
Instead of throwing a million and one exercises your way, we’ll keep it simple, and focus on one exercise that will make a difference and strengthen your lower back… back extensions! This exercise will work the erector spinae (three parallel muscles; iliocostalis, longissimus and spinalis) which runs the entire length of your spine. From the base, to the neck. There’s only two rules to this exercise:
- Keep your back straight, Keep tension.
- You don’t have to use heavy weights on this exercise, keep it light, keep it tight! Some flexion in the bottom position can be okay to really get that stretch, but… KNOW YOUR LIMITS!
It’s important to build your strength, beginning back extensions with body weight. You don’t want to be putting too much strain on it or overdoing it by jumping in with the ‘big boys’ too early. You can progress this exercise by holding a plate to increase the weight. Personally, with a plate extended version (keep reading) I haven’t held more than a 5kg plate. What’s the best way to hold the plate? Close your eyes and jump into the world of imagination with me! Stand upright, hold a 2.5kg plate in your hands so it’s hanging in front of you so your arms are relaxed (but straight) and shoulders back (don’t be a smart ass and overdo it, comfortably back). Now raise the plate above your head and hold it just PAST vertical. This is the position you should be holding whilst extending and relaxing your back extensions. Eccentric, eccentric, eccentric, focus on the eccentric and FEEL THE BURN, trust me, I’m a blogger.
Dont forget eccentric phase recruits more muscle fibres than concentric movement. Eccentric phase when focused on causes more damage to muscle tissue than concentric phase, more gains!
Back extensions are perfect for working your lower posterior (glutes, hamstrings and calves as well as lower back), so if you’re feeling burning here as well, do not be alarmed! All this can contribute to good posture, yaaaaaay.
Underestimating the importance of your posture alone can contribute towards shoulder and spinal injuries, (the obvious) back pain, headaches, stiffness, impingements and digestive issues. Although it’s not even underestimating it. Let’s face it, how many of us can actually be bothered to do something about our posture? Your posture says a lot about how to treat and value your body, so how do you value yours?
SO IT’S HELPS POSTURE, BUT HOW DOES IT HELP IMPROVE ALL ROUND STRENGTH?
Strengthening lower back can improve your military press and standing bicep curls. Why? By increasing strength in your lower back, you have the ability to hold yourself up more steadily with ease. This will prevent you from exerting energy to purely keep yourself upright, instead of swaying from side to side, so you can focus on the muscle group that you’re working! This relates to leg exercises such as walking lunges or squats, if you’re unable to hold the wait on your back, how do you expect to move with it!
Nobody wants to walk around with poor posture like the hunchback of Notre Dam, nor do they want to be blown over in the wind like a tree! Think of your lower back as the roots of the tree. It’s time to grow those roots, strengthen them and really make some all-round gains.
YOUR CHALLENGE OF THE WEEK is to incorporate back extensions into your weekly programme. 2-3 times per week, begin from bodyweight, and start with 3 rounds of 12-15 reps. It’s time to focus on the fundamentals.
Fisher, J., Bruce-Low, S. & Smith, D. (2011). A randomised trial to consider the effect of Romanian deadlift exercise on the development of lumbar extension strength. Physical Therapy in Sport, 14 (3), 139-145. Doi: 10.1016/j.ptsp.2012.04.001
Poliquin Group. (2013). Bulletproof Your Spine with Back Extensions. Retrieved from: http://main.poliquingroup.com/ArticlesMultimedia/Articles/Article/1063/Bulletproof_Your_Spine_with_Back_Extensions.aspx
Sandvik, E. (2016). Tip: 4 Ways to Strengthen the Low Back. Retrieved from: https://www.t-nation.com/training/tip-4-ways-to-strengthen-the-low-back
Schmidt, K. L. (2017). Posture Power: How To Correct Your Body’s Alignment. Retrieved from: https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/posture-power-how-to-correct-your-body-alignment.html