Hey! I hope you’re having a great day.
Lately I’ve been doing a lot of studying and work on the computer in my “down time” and it has increased my sitting time which has been increasing the stress on my lower back. As someone who has battled lower back problems (and thankfully is currently winning) I know personally the importance of taking the proper precautions to ensure my lower back is well protected from the stresses of life.
Protecting the lower back is a big deal. In fact, lower back problems are the second most common reason people see a doctor and these problems leave over 2.4 million people chronically disabled every year. When it comes to protecting your back, one of the most critical elements is to ensure that each spinal muscle is working well and being exercised regularly.
The transverse abdominis muscle (pictured above) is one of the most important muscles to be exercising to ensure that your back is healthy and well protected. As you can see by the picture, the transverse abdomins forms a belt around the abdomen, pelvis and lumbar spine, which helps to secure them into proper alignment ensuring that the bones, discs and other tissues are not being compromised.
There are two elements to improving this muscle
If the muscle is very weak and is suffering from a common condition called inhibition than it may need to be activated by a practitioner, but often doing a special isometric exercise can also do the trick.
This video explains how to do that- https://youtu.be/ReKASRK_1Aw
I highly recommend you do this simple 30 second exercise at least once a day.
Also, here’s a surprising way to strengthen this muscle once its been activated…
Suck in your stomach!
That’s right, by simply sucking in your stomach you are contracting the transverse abdominis and pulling the belt in to protect your spine.
As an exercise I recommend sucking in as much as you can and trying to hold the contraction for at least 60 seconds, repeating a few times throughout the day.
In addition to doing this as an exercise it is also something that you should consciously do every time you sit or bend forward, which are two times when your lower back has additional stress put on it. While sitting, you can suck in about 50% and try to hold for the duration you’re seated. You may be surprised by how challenging this is in the beginning. If it is than it means you really need it!
While bending I recommend sucking in 100% and squeezing your stomach hard, especially if you are going to lift anything. Holding your stomach in for the duration you are bending and lifting will help prevent an injury.
On a practical note, just so you don’t forget, consider placing a sticky note on your computer, living room table and car dashboard as well as any place you would typically bend over that says “Suck It In!” This will help you make this important practice a habit. And, as an added bonus, you’ll look thinner too!