When your abdominal muscles are working properly they provide essential protection for your spine. Sadly, this is not the case for many people. I see this in the large number of troublesome backs that come through my office.
There are four layers of abdominal muscles. The deep layers are among the most important for stabilizing the lower back. These muscles are all too often weak and uncoordinated.
Sit-ups and crunches exercise primarily the more superficial layer of abdominal muscles. Sometimes these muscles are strong but without the deep abdominal muscles functioning properly your spine is at risk.
It takes more than sit ups to properly strengthen and coordinate all layers of your abdominal muscles. For maximum protection of your back seek coaching on how to strengthen and coordinate all the abdominal and other muscles that stabilize the spine.
An Exercise to Try
Stand up straight. Reach up to the sky with your arms. Take a deep breath. Start exhaling as you stretch your hands upward. When you reach near the end of your exhale force the remaining air out through pursed lips.
Did you feel the abdominal muscles contract to expel the air? Those are your deep abdominal muscles. Keep those muscles active while pushing, pulling, lifting, or bending, and you will better protect your spine.
Now that you’ve become acquainted with your deep abdominal muscles you should endeavor to engage them regularly in your daily activities.
Suggestions made in this publication are no substitute for medical advice. If you have any pain or difficulty performing the described exercise, seek advice from your appropriate health professional.
About the Author
Domenic Lopez B.Sc., Exercise Science, is owner and operator of Healthy Moves, a private practice where massage therapy and movement education help you achieve better living.