Our abdominals (external obliques, internal obliques, transverse abdominis and rectus abdominis), in conjunction with our lower back muscles, sometimes called the erector spinae, are an absolutely vital component of our muscular system. They support our spine and, if they are weak, it can cause us a lot of pain. Many people find that working at strengthening their abs and lower back muscles can really reduce any back pain they are experiencing. By strengthening these muscles you will also reduce the likelihood of injuring your back.
Most of us have now been working from home for a considerable period of time. It is likely that we are working in make-shift home offices or perhaps teaching our children whilst bent over a kitchen table. Essentially, we are unlikely to have ergonomically designed furniture and this may well be placing our backs under more pressure than ever before.
A number of general tips can help relieve the pressure on our backs:
1. Get up and move around frequently when you are working at a computer. Ideally try and stretch out every 20 minutes. On the hour it would be beneficial to introduce a mini fitness break – try some squats along with some shoulder press movements. Even exercising for a couple of minutes will get you moving and reduce the pressure from sitting for long periods.
2. Even if you only shift a few boxes around remember if you lift something be careful to adopt a proper lifting technique – use your legs and not your back.
3. Any excuse to take a break and move will be beneficial. You could, for example, make sure your glass of water is always topped up; this will get you moving and have the added benefit of keeping you hydrated, something is essential for good health.
These are all great tips but here at Functional Fitness what we really recommend is strengthening the abdominals and the lower back muscles. Perhaps you could challenge yourself to work this area for a month and see how much better you feel.
Before starting any routines focusing upon this area you need to understand how to use your breath to engage your core muscles and, in doing so, give your spine stability. This is something which we teach our clients. To begin with we suggest that you lie on your back and inhale very deeply through your nose – you will feel your rib cage expand. Next slowly breath out through your mouth and feel your core engage so that all your abdominal muscles feel tight. Once your core is engaged you should be able to continue to breath normally. It is important that you then breath correctly through any work which you do on your abdominal and lower back muscles.
Here are a few of our favourite exercises which you can try at home:
20 x Crunch abs straight legs
20 x Spider leg abs
30 second Plank
20 x Side plank drop
20 x toe taps