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Health and Fitness Tips

It's All About The Back

Several of my clients are working to overcome back pain. They work hard to strengthen their backs to help them recover from back related injuries, surgeries, or so they are able to lift more weight.

Here are a few tips to help you save your back.

Check your mirror. It is easy to slouch on long car trips, or tense up on stressful ones. Angle your rearview mirror just a little too high so that every time you check it, you remember to relax your shoulders and sit up straight.

Steal a towel. Sitting for long periods pummels the disks in your lower back. A rolled-up hand towel tucked between the small of your back and your chair or car seat will help take the pressure off. Keep one towel at your desk and one in the car.

Lose the laptop. Laptops are designed for portability - and poor posture, because the keyboard is connected to the screen. If you can't work without one, use a detached keyboard.

Know squat. Whenever you lift anything, think nice legs. This will help you remember to squat and lift with your legs, and never, ever bend at the waist.

Take the time. Shortcuts brutalize backs. Take the extra time you need to correctly lift a shovelful of dirt or snow... to walk a message to a coworker instead of e-mailing it... to allow frequent breaks when hunched over a household project.

If you don't have back pain and you want desperately to keep it that way, follow these preventive plans. These plans both improve the strength, stability, and flexibility of lower-back muscles. Perform either of these plans at the end of your regular workout, or on off days. Do one set - 12 to 15 repetitions each.

Warmup - lie faceup on a foam roll and move your caves, then your butt, back and forth over it. Turn into your side and repeat for your thighs and lats. Next perform static stretches (stretch and hold) for your caves, thighs, hamstrings, hip flexors, and lats.

Plan One - This first plan works with Swiss balls and loop exercise tubing.

Lateral Tube Walk - Loop exercise tubing around your ankles. Stand with your knees slightly bent and position your hands next to your hips. Pull your belly button toward your spine and sidestep 12 to 15 times to your right, then to your left.

Swiss-Ball Squat - Place Swiss ball behind your back and up against a wall. With your weight against a wall. With your weight against the ball, slowly lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Pause, then push yourself back up.

Swiss-Ball Crunch - Lie faceup on a Swiss ball with your feet flat on the floor and your arms folded across your chest. Your head, shoulders, and back should be in contact with the ball. Raise your shoulders blades off the ball. Pause, then slowly lower yourself.

Swiss-Ball Glute Bridge - Lie faceup on a Swiss ball with your feet flat on the floor and your head and upper back on the ball. Draw in your abs and raise your hips so your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Squeeze your glutes, then lower your hips.

Swiss-Ball Back Extension - Place a Swiss ball near a wall. Lie with your stomach on the ball, your feet pressed against the wall, and your fingers touching your head behind your ears. Keeping your abs tight, raise your ears. Keeping your abs tight, raise your upper body until you form a straight line from your heels to your shoulders. Pause, then slowly return to the starting position.

Plan Two - This second plan works with the loop exercise tubing and the cable machine.

Lateral Tube Walk - Loop exercise tubing around your ankles. Stand with your knees slightly bent and position your hands next to your hips. Pull your belly button toward your spine and sidestep 12 to 15 times to your right, then to your left.

Cable Lift - Attach a handle to a low-pulley cable and stand with the outside of your left foot toward the weight stack. Bend your knees to lower your body into a squat. Reach across your body with straight arms and grab the handle. Keeping your abs tight, stand up and rotate your, bringing the handle above your opposite shoulder. Then slowly return to the starting position. After a set, repeat on the other side.

Cable Chop - Attach a handle to a high-pulley cable and stand with the outside of your left foot toward weight stack. With your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent, reach across your body with straight arms and grab the handle. Keeping your abs tight, pull the cable down toward your right hip as you pivot your back foot to the right. After a set, repeat on the other side.

Cable Rotation - Attach a handle to a midlevel-pulley cable. (If you don't have access to a cable station, you can use a resistance band.) Stand with the outside of your left foot toward the weight stack and reach across your body with straight arms to grab the handle. Keeping your abs tight and your arms straight, rotate your body away from the weight stack, moving your arms across your body. Your left foot should pivot to the right. Pause, then slowly return to the starting position. After a set, repet on the other side.

Back pain is just that - a pain. Take the necessary steps to preserve those back muscles.

Rick Gusler is a certified personal trainer and diet nutritionist who serves his clients through Gusler Body Sculpting and Fitness Center in central Denver. To schedule a free consultation or to learn more about the Gusler method of body sculpting, or Rick's Boot Camp, please contact him at 303.860.7131 or online at www.guslerbodysculpting.com.

Gusler Body Sculpting Fitness Center, LLC
459 Acoma Street · Denver, Colorado 80204 · 303-860-7131
Hours: Monday-Friday: 7-12, 4-9 · Saturday: 7-12 · Sunday: Closed