Monday, January 23, 2012

Slave to the Seated Position

Stuart McGill's book "Low Back Disorders" is a must-have, must-read on any fitness trainer's shelf. Although it can be comprehensive at times [the book], McGill has conducted numerous research studies throughout the years and packs them into one informational resource. I won't lie to you, I got this next drill from that book.

I deal with alot of clients that sit all day. It is true. And it is probably true of your clients and most people you know. Heck, you are probably sitting in a chair as your read this. Vertebral disc compression is happening right now. As gravity takes it's silent toll on the spine, each disc in your spinal column is being compressed like a grape in a vice-grip.

Each vertebrae houses a disc. In our younger years, the disc is a like a brand new car sponge fresh out of the package. It is firm, and retains its shape--even after it soaks up water and releases--it bounces back to its original shape. But as time goes on, it undergoes more and more stress and use, it doesn't bounce back as much. It actually begins to lose its ability to retain its shape and it becomes very lax.

Now, replace water in that scenario with gravity. Silent, but can be deadly to our spines if we don't take care of it properly and consistently. Take the average desk worker: slave to the seated position. His spinal discs have absorbed enough stress throughout the years that now he has developed a massive kyphotic curvature in the spine and an accentuated lordotic curve in the cervical spine.Your average desk sitter probably suffers from some kind of lower back pain, creep, and tight cervical muscles. In "Low Back Disorders", McGill suggests raising from the seated position every 50 minutes. I believe in recommending more than that. I tell my clients to stand up at 4 times an hour.

I also teach them to perform this very simple stretch:

Performing this stretch--right at the desk--actually helps the discs to "bounce back" from the stress of gravity. Once a hunched over posture has developed, gravity's stress is maximized. That is why maintaining optimal posture and exercise is vital to low back health. Again, once you develop that curvature or upper-cross syndrome--the stress of gravity on the spine increases. It is sort of like a levy being compromised by strong tides. Once a crack in the wall occurs, the water rushes in and becomes stronger and stronger.

In the video, you will notice I sit in this incorrect posture purposely. Then, I correct my posture by pulling my shoulders back (lower traps & rhomboids do this) and I stand up to raise my arms overhead. With a deep breathe and release, I push my arms up as high as I can. Please note: keep the abs and pelvic girdle tight. Do not let them "bow" forward. Press the feet firmly into the ground and stretch hard.

Try this stretch after you read this post. Your back will love you back for it.

1 comment:

  1. John-

    Thanks for posting this! I have an amazing client who is in really great shape, but has low back issues. Yes, she sits at a desk for work AND had done Spinning twice a week for like a decade. She's not Spinning anymore, and that has helped. I love the simplicity of McGill's approach and this is a stretch that would help pretty much anyone. I'm going to have her try this on Monday, and suggest that she does it every single stinkin' time she stands up from her desk! There is this little computer program you can download that is basically a will pop up on your screen to remind you of this, that, and the other. I think it would be a good idea to have clients set this up, perhaps so they are reminded to stretch every 30/45/60 minutes or so. Just a random thought! :)
    Have a good one!


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