By Christopher Crawford
Many people exercise to get in shape and feel better about themselves. Unfortunately, just because they are working out that does not mean they are building better, stronger and fully functional bodies. There are many people that build more imbalances in their body by working out with incorrect form or by using machines that require no core stabilization, which basically shuts off the core muscles. Training improperly and weakening your core will lead to bad posture, inability to perform functional movements and potential injury being that the core is not stabilized.
Believe it or not, the core does not only include the abdominal muscles, it actually refers to the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex, which consists of the abdominals, lumbar spine (lower back), hip flexors and glutes. Imbalances in the core have huge affects on the way the body moves and even stands erect.
For example, there are several different types of bad posture that are caused by instabilities in the core.
One example is a hyperlordotic posture, which is caused by tightness in the lumbar spine and hip flexors and inactivity in the abdominals and glutes.
Furthermore, the squat exercise, which is a basic movement pattern that is similar to sitting, can be difficult for someone to perform if they have imbalances in the core. These instabilities within the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex may be attributed to several causes. Due to sitting, the abdominals and glutes will be inactive which will make it difficult to balance on the descent of the squat.
Also, performing a lot of seated leg extension exercises and not stretching out the quadriceps muscles, one of which is the rectus femoris, which connects from the hip to the knee will contribute to improper squat form. Also, by not stretching the rectus femoris, the hip flexors will become overactive due to being in a hip flexion position (seated) while performing the leg extension exercise, also contributing to tightness in the lumbar spine and creating an excessive forward lean during the squatting motion.
In order to fix these imbalances within the lumbo-pelvic-hip region, a self-myofascial release, stretching, corrective exercises and integrated movements must be performed consistently. For tightness in the hip flexors and the lumbar spine, and inactivity in the abdominals and glutes, there are several steps to lengthen and strengthen these muscles:
1. Foam roll and stretch the hip flexors and quadriceps
2. Stretch the lumbar spine
3. Activate and strengthen the abdominals and glutes by performing
the plank glute bridge
4. Perform an integrated movement such as a lunge to feel the glutes working during hip extension and the abdominals working to balance during the descent
If this procedure is performed consistently, you will see and feel a difference in your posture and in your ability to perform a proper squat.
It is important to not only workout but to have a well thought out plan that will get you the results you desire in the most efficient way possible. Although getting to the gym is a victory in itself, it is also vital that you determine your imbalances then stretch and strengthen the problem areas in order to correct them. Remember, your body is a machine in itself and it is essential that you train properly in preparation for keeping yourself healthy for years to come.
Christopher Crawford will contribute a once a month fitness column. To consult with Christopher about a training regiment or personal training contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.