Are you sitting at a computer right now? Do you ever experience back pain? Back pain sucks! Sitting and back pain are often related to each other. When we sit for too long, muscles around our hips get tight and weak. That wreaks havoc on our body by pulling the pelvis into a forward tilted position. Getting up and walking more is helpful, but it doesn't always cure the problem.
Too much sitting
When we sit all day long we create issues that lead to our hips tilting forward. The muscles in the front of our hips get cramped and tight. Our precious abs get weak. And we flatten our butt cheeks to the point that they forget how to do what they’re supposed to do. What you often end up with is a condition called anterior pelvic tilt. Which means that our hips are stuck in that forward tilted position.
Once our hips get stuck in anterior pelvic tilt, everything is leaning forward. So we begin to tighten the muscles around the spine and arching the lower back more to stay upright. This is extra arch in the lower back is called hyperlordosis. Overtime this hyperlordosis may be what’s causing you back pain.
Correct the posture
To begin fixing this we have to train the muscles around the hips to hold the pelvis back in a more neutral position. I often tell personal training clients to imagine that we are trying to keep a bowl level. If it tilts too far forward, we'll spill our Lucky Charms. And that is sad.
We can start stretching the hip flexor muscles. This will help them quit pulling the pelvis forward as much. Our abs and obliques should be trained to pull the front of the pelvis up. And the glutes need strengthened to pull the back of our pelvis down. All this means we're gonna quit standing around with our butts arched out like Kim Kardashian.
How do we do all this? With 3 exercises. I'll show you.
Tall or Half Kneeling Stretch
I love the tall kneeling and half kneeling stretches. You can practice them on their own or combine them with other types of exercises, like pressing. No matter how you do them, these active stretches help reduce tension in your hip flexors. That starts getting you back to a more neutral hip position.
A tall kneeling position starts by getting down on both knees.
- Tuck your toes under.
- Sit up as tall as you can.
- Draw your navel in and to keep your fanny pack.
Keep tall and keep the fanny pack (real or imaginary) in place. You should start to feel your abs get tired. Your glutes and hamstrings will be working as well and may get a bit quivery. Hold this position with your hands on your hips or behind your head for a minute. Bam! That's a start to less back pain and better posture.
A half kneeling position is similar. Instead of being on both knees though, you place one foot flat in front. This should put your knee at about 90 degrees.
- Sit up tall.
- Squeeze the glutes on the down side.
- Draw your navel up in to lift the front of the hips.
You can increase the stretch by untucking your toes and pressing the top of your back foot into the floor.
You now know a couple ways to work on stretching your hip flexors more often. Practice them often. Your back will thank you.
Dead bugs are an awesome ab exercise that really sneak up on you. Before you plank you should get awesome at dead bugs. Dead bugs train our abs and obliques to hold and stabilize the pelvis in to a neutral position. When we can do that we can lift more and our belly won't stick out as much when we're standing.
Set up for the dead bug exercise by lying down face up on the ground. Hold your hands straight up over your shoulders and lift your feet off the ground. Your knees should be straight up over the hips.
- Press your back to the floor and keep it there
- Extend the opposite arm and leg and hold
- Exhale fully and forcefully like you're blowing up a balloon
As you push air through your lips, you will feel the muscles of your midsection engage more and more. After you exhale pull your arm and leg back up to the starting position.
Perform 5-15 repetitions each side. Each rep should take 1-3 full seconds. If you have trouble keeping your back flat to the floor place one foot flat on the floor while you extend the other leg. Your abs will feel tighter and your back will feel more supported when standing.
Everybody likes strong glutes! Strong glutes take strain off of our back by keeping the pelvis neutral and doing their share of lifting. They look good too!
Sitting all day weakens the glutes because they're stretched and inactive. Glute bridges help us get the pelvis back to neutral. They also remind us how to activate our butt cheeks better when we lift.
Set up for the glute bridge by lying down face up on the ground. Place your feet flat with your knees up. Let your hands rest palms up at your side.
- Tilt your pelvis back
- Squeeze the glutes to lift the hips
- Hold the top and forcefully exhale
During the exhalation you should feel your glutes and abdominal muscles contract even harder. When you have exhaled completely, lower your hips back to the floor and repeat.
Complete sets of 10-20 repetitions. For added challenge squeeze a yoga block or water bottle between the knees during your set. This will help you keep the pelvis neutral and contract the glutes even harder.
All Together or Al a Carte
These three exercises work together to help improve our posture and reduce back pain. Add them one after the other to the beginning or end of your workout for 2-3 sets. You'll be glad you did.
Practice them often. When you find yourself wasting time on Facebook or Reddit, try doing it in a half kneeling or tall kneeling position. Do dead bugs and glute bridges during commercial breaks when you watch tv or before you go to bed each night. The more often you can practice these types of movements the better.
You don't have to do them all at once. I stole the phrase from Georgie Fear, but now I'm constantly reminding my clients of how they can practice "workout snacking". The more often you snack the more it sticks. Kinda like regular snacks. The better this stuff sticks, the less likely you are to have back pain.
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