Challenge Your Core

19 04 2018

When asked to identify one’s core, most people will point to his or her abs. The core muscles are more than just the rectus abdominal which are the “six-pack” of the stomach. The core muscles can include the gluteus maximus and minimum, hip complex (iliacus, psoas, pectinus), abdominals (rectus, transverse, and obliques), erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, multifidus, latissimus dorsi, quadriceps, and hamstrings. Although there is no specific definition for the “core”, we have to get away from thinking of the core as just your abdominal region.

The purpose of the core muscles are to provide balance and stability to your body(1). No matter if for sport performance or daily function, the core muscles help support the bones and increase ease of movement. The core also aids in keeping our posture in alignment. Picture the folks who are bent over from the waist and always looking down because their muscles in their backs aren’t strong enough to hold their spine in alignment. Also, if you’re an athlete or a weekend warrior, that core needs to be strong to get you through the sport or you’ll end up with some back, hip, shoulder, or foot pain. Yes, a weak core can also cause pain at the other end of your body!

If I ask you to think of some core exercises, you’ll probably come up with a bunch for your abs, specifically for your rectus abdominis, a.k.a “six-pack,” but can you come up with some exercises other exercises to challenge your core? Don’t forget that your body moves in three dimensions so exercises should also involve the three planes of movement; frontal (side to side), sagittal (front to back), and transverse (rotational).

Give your core a challenge with the following exercises. Disclaimer: If you have any health restrictions, please check with your physician before attempting any of these exercises. Also, check with a certified Personal Trainer if you are unsure of your technique. 

Rotational Side Plank with Hip Drop
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Start with your elbow or palm under your shoulder while lying on your side. Lift your hips up off the floor so as much of your side is not in contact. Taking the opposite arm, rotate and reach down and through the space created by the floor and your side. Return back to start and then lower your hip toward the ground. Before it touches, pause and lift the hip back up. Repeat for 8-12 reps, then switch sides.

Quadripeds
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Start in a pushup position with your feet shoulder width apart (you can adjust width to make it easier or harder; wider = easier, narrow = harder). Lift your left arm up in front of your body by your head while at the same lifting your right leg up. Pause for a second and then lower back down. Switch arm and leg lift and repeat for 12-20 reps.

Bicycles
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Lying on your back, extend your legs out with your heels just off the floor and hands behind your head. Begin to bring your right knee up toward your chest as you take your left shoulder (not elbow) and bring it up towards your right knee. Make the timing of this so that the knee and shoulder comes up at the same time. Return the leg and shoulder back down toward the floor at the same time. Then repeat the movement with the other side. Perform 12-20 reps.

Deadlift
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Yes folks, believe it, because this exercise is a total core exercise! I put this last because in order to get the benefits and not injure yourself, technique is paramount. Please use a certified Personal Trainer or Strength and Conditioning Coach if you are performing this for the first time.
Start with legs shoulder width apart. Grip a barbell with hands just outside of your legs (use an over-under grip if needed). Keeping your back straight and shoulders over your arches, push down with your heels to lift yourself and the bar up until you are standing straight up. As you lift the bar, keep the bar close to your legs and keep your back following your path upward so that the back doesn’t hinge forward from the waist. Pause a second at the top and lower yourself back down in the reverse order.

References:
1. “Core exercises: Why you should strengthen your core muscles“ Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/core-exercises/art-20044751





Show Osteoporosis Who’s Stronger

26 04 2012

Weakening Your Bones
As we age, our muscles and bones begin to wear. Without consistent physical exercise and proper nutrition, the marrow in your bones begin to deteriorate and/or stop forming. This condition is called osteoporosis (meaning “porous bone”). It is a condition where the marrow in your bones become brittle, leaving larger spaces within the bone. Osteoporosis affects half the population of women in the world, while affecting only one in every four (1:4) men. The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) states that today in the US, ten million individuals are effected by the disease while another 34 million are estimated to have low bone density which increases their risk for osteoporosis and broken bones. The two sites that are most commonly identified as osteoporosis is the lumbar (lower) spine and femoral neck (hip). When these two sites become too brittle, the risk of fractures increase and life expectancy decreases. Another condition may occur in the spine due to osteoporosis. As the vertebral discs weakens, a forward curvature of the upper spine will occur known as the “dowager’s hump”. Someone with a dowager’s hump can have balance problems, which will increase the risk fractures from falling, while at the same time subjecting their internal organs to a lot of overbearing pressure.

RiskFactors
There are several risk factors that increases the chances for osteoporosis. These include:

  • Age – anyone can get osteoporosis but it is more common to see it in older adults
  • Gender – females are more susceptible than men
  • Family History – genetics play a role in the predisposition of osteoporosis
  • Menopause – Females going through or have gone through menopause have a higher risk
  • Low Body Weight or Small/Thin Framed – People with small bones increases their risk of osteoporosis
  • Poor Diet – lack of calcium and vitamin D slows down and can stop bone growth
  • Alcohol – consuming excessive amounts will reduce the formation of bone
  • Sedentary Lifestyle – inactivity can lead to lack of strength, poor balance, and reduced bone growth resulting in falls and fractures

Get Tested
The only way to diagnosis osteoporosis is to get a bone density test. Other methods like ultrasounds, blood tests, and normal x-rays are used as quick estimations, not accurate data and can cause a false sense of security in individuals who actually have osteoporosis. The most common bone density test or scanning method is a DEXA or DXA (Dual Energy X-Ray) scan. The two most common sites tested are the left hip (Femoral Neck) and the lower spine (lumbar spine). Other sites that can be used are the right hip, ankles,  and wrists if surgery or injury was prevalent in one of the other sites (e.g. hip replacement, spinal fusion). The results of a DEXA scan will show three possible outcomes: Normal (T score ≥ -1), Osteopenia (T score between -1 and -2.5), and Osteoporosis (T score ≤ -2.5). Your bone density scores are critical when talking with your physician about treatment plans.

Medications 
If you are diagnosed with either osteopenia or osteoporosis, your physician will probably discuss medication options with you to help treat your condition. There are a number of medications currently available for patients with osteoporosis and osteopenia. However, each medication may not be suitable for you, so you might not want to take what you’re next door neighbor is taking. Read up on the medications so that you are as informed as your doctor about the medication that you are prescribed. Sometimes, the physician is not as knowledgable about your treatments, so be a team and know your information. The NOF has a great listing of the current medications and information on each one (click here for medication listing).

Strengthen Your Bones
Another way to prevent fractures and reduce the risk of further deterioration of bone is to follow a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, and dairy rich in calcium and vitamin D. Adding a little bit of sun exposure (vitamin D) can help improve absorption of calcium. For those of you who are concerned about skin cancer, all you need is 15 minutes of sun exposure to absorb enough vitamin D to get health benefits. Note that applying sun block while outside will prevent you from getting the vitamin D that you need. While you’re outside, do some weight bearing exercise (e.g. walking, jogging, jumping) to strengthen your muscles and also increase the density of your hip. To build up the density in your spine, resistance training should be done. A creditable, certified personal trainer can help you identify the correct resistance training for you. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 3-5 days a week of moderate intensity weight bearing cardiovascular exercise for 30 minutes. Supplement that with 2-3 days a week of resistance training. Those with osteoporosis should also implement a daily balance and stretch program to prevent possible falls.

References:
American College of Sports Medicine, Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription , 8th ed.

National Osteoporosis Foundation http://www.nof.org

WebMD, Anatomy Guide: Curvature Disorders http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/healthtool-anatomy-guide-curvature-disorders