Easy But Essential

By Elsa Storm

Looking back at previous blogs, there are definitely many guidelines as to corrective posture, movements and much more.  Still I keep getting requests for “easy to do” exercises but also “purposeful” exercises.

The following will provide a basic layout of the “easy essentials” which can be done on a very regular basis.

Movement 1.

(flipped over Dead Bug)

Start in an all fours tabletop position on hands and knees with a neutral spinal alignment.  Extend left arm and right leg simultaneously, hold for 5 sec and repeat on the other side. 
Purpose of the exercise:

This contra-lateral movement assists in lumbar strength, alignment and stabilization of spinal column, shoulders and hips.  It also assists in strengthening the abdominals, which in turn prevents a possible passive lumbar extension.  With the engagement of the core musculature during this movement, the neck stays aligned and no compensation, where you can find possible rotation in spine, hips and shoulders, takes place.  During this isometric holding position, all possible movement to limbs, are limited.  Learn to activate the glut in the extended leg while the stabilizing glut is getting stronger.
Try to finish 3 sets of 10 alternating lift-holds.

Movement 2.
The Plank

A very popular movement under most gym goers but very few of these planks are done correctly.  Most of the time they are done with incorrect form, which leads to none of the benefits that will follow herewith.  The best way to start, if you know you are carrying a few extra kgs, have not been training for a while or even when you know you have a very weak lower back and core, is the high plank.  This is where you hold yourself up on hands and feet, with good body alignment and posture.  Try to hold this position for a longer period daily until you can reach a 30 sec non-stop.  Thereafter progress to the forearm plank which taxes the core a little more.  Find a neutral neck and upper back position, activate the gluts and lower abdominal muscles, keep straight legs together and then hold the position statically at first.  Try to breathe deeply throughout and be aware of the abdominal contraction with the exhalation.  Keep shoulders directly over elbows, which in turn will ensure that the chest is kept in the correct position.  

Purpose of the exercise:

This plank position targets all the major muscles of your abs.  It also works the stabilizing muscles of your spine, shoulders, and hips.  The chest, triceps and quads are challenged in this isometric holding position.  Quite a few muscles involved.
Try to work up to holding this position for 60 sec and then start adding some variations
E.g. Side planks, plank up-downs (from elbows onto hands), walking planks, plank jacks, plank shoulder taps and reverse planks.  For a further advancement you can start adding planks on uneven surfaces to challenge the core more e.g. TRX, stability balls or BOSU boards.  

Movement 3
Dead bugs

This movement is a bit more accessible and easy to execute, especially for beginners and lower back pain sufferers.  It is also called an anti-extension core exercise because they require your abdominals to engage to prevent your lumbar spinal area from extending. Simply lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor.  Extend arms directly over chest with fingers pointing towards sky.  Engage core muscles and lift both feet off the floor until hips and knees are bent at a 90 degree angle.  Thighs are perpendicular to the floor and shins parallel.  Throughout this exercise the back needs to stay neutral and not lift off the floor.  Extend the right leg fully, until heel almost touches the floor and at the same time extend left arm back and over the head, reaching it toward floor behind you.  This will be assisted with correct breathing patterns – deep exhalation.  When both limbs are fully extended, inhale deeply.  Now with the next exhalation bring them back to the starting position to switch sides.  
Try perform 2 – 3 sets of 10 reps.

Next time we will look at some more full body exercises, which are easy to do, but necessary.


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