The lower back has two sets of muscles: one for heavy lifting and another for the less glamorous job of stabilizing the part of the spine that supports the weight of the entire body structure.The erector spinae or spinal erectors are the muscles that help us to lift heavy objects from the floor. There is one spinal erector along each side of the spine, and three sets of muscles within each spinal erector. These muscles spread up the back like vines clinging to a brick wall, and comprise the longest muscle group of the body. When we bend forward at the waist, these are the muscles that bring us back to an erect posture.One aspect of concern with spinal erectors is hyperextension (arching the back to lean forward). Although hyperextension could be dangerous at the knee or elbow, the back, however, can hyperextend without negative consequences.EXERCISE OF THE WEEKThe following is a fantastic, simple exercise that anyone can do at home, on the bus, train, or during those boring meetings at the office.
Seated tummy and cheek squeeze!
Sit at the end of a bench, chair or a Swiss ball (the big inflatable exercise spheres found in every gym) with your knees and feet together. Your feet should rest on the floor, your chest up, and your back straight.
Place your hands on your abdomen.
Contract your lower abs, creating a thin tummy.
Simultaneously contract your glutes, and raise yourself up an inch or so above the bench, chair, or ball. The contraction of the gluteal muscles should intensify the contractions of the abs.
SPINE STRENGTHENING STRATEGIES
1. Eat foods rich in minerals, like sunflower or pumpkin seeds. Vine ripened veggies such as eggplant are rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium that help maintain strong bones.
2. Sleep hugging a standard-size pillow and place another between your legs. This prevents us from rolling onto our backs, which, over time, can strain the soft tissues on the lower back.
3. Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes. High heels rotate the pelvis forward and put stress on our lower back. ■
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