(NaturalNews) Core strengthening is a hot topic in the health and fitness world. Most individuals focus on strengthening their abdominal muscles with a wide range of sit-up like exercises. Some of the key muscles to focus on include the hip extensor group and deep abdominal muscles that surround the spine.
One of the most common biomechanical problems is poor muscular synergy in the core and hip musculature. This pattern typically includes hypoactive hip extensor and abdominal muscles while having hyperactive hip flexors and lumbar extensors. This leads to poor joint mechanics and increased susceptibility to pain and injury.
Strengthening the hip extensors
We have been taught to lift with our legs but when we bend down like this, we often put a lot of torque and strain on our knee joints and lumbar spine. We really need to focus on lifting with our hip extension group which are the glutes and hamstring muscles.
In order to effectively lift with our glutes and hamstring muscles, we need to train our nervous system to recruit these muscle fibers. Here are the best tips for that:
1. Throughout the day, repeatedly squeeze the butt muscles together and relax. Do 20-30 reps two to three times per day to train the nervous system to fire these motor units. 2. Use focused awareness when bending or lifting in order to use the hip joint as the fulcrum and focus on firing the gluteus muscles on the way down and the way up. 3. When exercising, perform lunge movements without allowing the forward leg's knee to go in front of the ankle joint. The knee should be parallel with the ankle joint. Then fire the gluteus and hamstring muscles on the way up and squeeze tight at the finish. 4. Perform straight leg dead lift exercises with a slight knee bend and tight core and fire the gluteus and hamstring muscles slowly on the way down and explosively up with a tight squeeze at the end of the up-phase. 5. Perform squat exercises in a similar fashion with slightly more of knee flexion but be sure to control the motion with the hip extensor muscles and explode at the top with a tight squeeze of the gluteus muscles at the culmination of the up-phase.
Strengthen the abdominal muscles
Many individuals who exercise regularly have strong abdominal muscles but they also have very tight hip flexor muscles. In order to have effective biomechanics, it is important to have stable hip flexors while having very strong abdominals. Exercises that relax the hip flexors while strengthening the abdominal muscles should be emphasized.
1. Throughout the day, take some time to squeeze the abdominal cavity and hold for 10-20 seconds. Relax and repeat for 10-20 reps. 2. Do crunches off of a stability ball. The hips are in extension in this position and it allows the individual to isolate the abdominal muscles without any involvement of the hip flexors. 3. Perform plank exercises and hold the contraction for 30-60+ seconds. 4. Do downward and upward dog poses to stretch the lumbar spine, hip extensors and abdominals. Add in hip flexor stretches. 5. Rotate the trunk and hold onto the side of a wall to stretch the oblique muscles and lumbar extensors.
The key to good core stability and lifting habits is neuromuscular recruitment. These exercises and stretches help drill proper muscular contractions and synergistic activity of multiple muscle groups. With focused training, these contraction patterns become stored in the muscle memory of the individual and the motions become simplistic and powerful. The benefits include reduced pain, increased strength and reduced risk of injury.
About the author: Dr. David Jockers owns and operates Exodus Health Center in Kennesaw, Ga. He is a Maximized Living doctor. His expertise is in weight loss, customized nutrition & exercise, & structural corrective chiropractic care. For more information go to www.drjockers.com To find a Maximized Living doctor near you go to www.maximizedliving.com Dr. Jockers is also available for long distance phone consultations to help you beat disease and reach your health goals
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