It’s time to put away the Panadol and grab your exercise mat! There are 3 basic movements that you can do at home that will set you up for a pain free lifestyle.
“What are the best exercises to perform to prevent low back pain?”
This is a question we hear a lot in our clinic. The below exercises are my ‘go-to’ for prevention of low back pain. They are straight forward and effective. They have been termed ‘The McGill big 3’ – named after the researcher Stuart McGill.
Stuart McGill is a spinal biomechanics researcher from The University of Waterloo, Canada. The goal of these core exercises are to create spinal stability and endurance – which is essential for creating a stable foundation for the lower back.
“How do core exercises help my lower back?”
Let’s talk briefly about muscle movement first. Whenever a muscle contracts to perform a movement, this muscle is considered the “Agonist” muscle. Every agonist muscle has an opposite muscle that is generally relaxed. This is known as the “Antagonist” muscle. The definitions are below:
*Agonist muscles cause a movement to occur through their own activation.
*Antagonist muscles are simply the muscles that produce an opposing joint torque to the agonist muscles.
We experience this every time the arm moves to pick something up. The bicep and tricep muscle in the arm work together as a team. When one is contracting, the other is relaxing. The arm does not bend unless both muscles are involved.
Similar to the team work between the bicep and tricep muscle, the abdominal and back muscles are opposites. Both are required for efficient movement of the torso. When one side of the team is not engaging properly or is weak, the opposite muscles will get over loaded and fatigued.
By strengthening the core muscles, you are training the torso to work together as a unit. When the core is strong, the lower back does not have to work as hard.
The exercises aim to tighten up the front and sides of the core, while supporting the spine and remove gravity from the equation. The exercises are of a low intensity and are safe to perform;
Curl up – 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Bird dog – 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Side Bridge – 3 sets of 8-10 seconds holds, each side.
If the above rep scheme is too hard, you can always modify it by reducing the number of reps and work your way up to the noted rep scheme.
Try doing these exercises before training as well, as it has shown to tighten and stiffen the core.
Perform these exercises once a day, not into pain. If you do have questions, pain or discomfort when performing these exercises, come in and see us and we can either correct your technique or advise you on alternative exercises.
McGill, S.M. (1997) The biomechanics of low back injury: Implications on current practice in industry and the clinic. J. Biomech. 30: 465-475.
McGill, S.M., Low Back Disorders: Evidence based prevention and rehabilitation, Human Kinetics Publishers, Champaign, Illinois, 2002.