Buns of Steel, Six Pack Abs and Reduce Back Pain . . . Say WHAT?
How can we work on developing sexy abs and toning up our buns of steel, and also helps reduce back pain? Read on . . .
To help prevent the potential occurrence of chronic back pain, a significant amount of time spent at the gym should be focused on relaxing/inhibiting the tight hip flexors, while strengthening our buns and abs. Focus on developing stronger core and glutes will ultimately lead to a happier and healthier back.
As a massage therapist and fitness professional in New York City with over fifteen years of experience, I can say I have observed countless people working their abdominals, in hundreds of ways . . . and oftentimes inefficiently. My extensive training in manual therapy has also given me the ability to assess faulty movement patterns by simply assessing a client while lying on the massage table.
Today’s modern lifestyle requires hours of sitting (at a desk, in the car, watching TV . . . at the doctor’s office/DMV). These prolonged positions can cause significant shortening of the hip flexor muscles, which can often lead to significant back pain.
Weekend warriors, who choose activities such as running or cycling as their activity of choice, may also experience back problems because the muscles involved in these sports are not properly prepared to perform these activities safely and effectively.
When abdominal work is performed ineffectively, the body will often display warning signals – both neurologically and physically. These signals can include back pain, hip discomfort, and the result is usually a flattened rear end!
Before we get into the meat and potatoes, let’s discuss a little terminology first to help understand the relationship between the hip flexors, abs, and glutes (aka “buns”). To simplify things, we’ll use the arm as our example.
Agonist muscle: The muscle(s) that is the prime mover of a joint.
Example: When doing a bicep curl, the brachialis is the primary mover of the elbow joint.
Antagonist muscle: The antagonist muscle is the muscle(s) that oppose the agonist. The functions of the antagonist muscles are to either relax, slow down, or stop the movement of the agonist.
Example: When doing a bicep curl, the triceps muscles are the antagonists.
Synergist muscle: The synergist muscle(s) helps to stabilize, as well as help generate the movement around a joint.
Example: When doing a bicep curl, the brachioradialis and biceps act as synergists, which help move and stabilize the elbow joint during movement.
Reciprocal Inhibition: Reciprocal inhibition is a neuromuscular reflex that inhibits opposing muscles during movement. We‘ll revisit this concept later.
Example: When you flex your elbow, the elbow extensors are inhibited.
The prime mover (agonist) of the anterior hip is the large psoas muscle (pictured left above). This muscle attaches at the top of the thigh bone and goes all the way up to the lower back. This muscle is a powerful hip flexor, meaning it brings the leg up to the knee. As you can see from the picture, the psoas can also mimic the abdominals when performing a crunch by moving the torso forward. This muscle is much more powerful than the abdominals and can take over the movement during your core workout, resulting in very little abdominal activation, therefore making your six-pack dreams a mere fantasy.
Now, let’s put all of this together and see exactly how focusing on developing buns of steel during abdominal work can help produce that set of six-pack abs, as well as help to reduce back pain.
The antagonist to the large psoas is the almost equally powerful glutes, or as I like to say “bootie.” These muscles extend the hip and are activated when rising from a seated position, walking up hills and stairs, and they help us maintain proper gait.
Remember that term we mentioned earlier: Reciprocal Inhibition?
Relaxing, or “turning off” our hip flexor muscles during abdominal work will allow us to more effectively target (and feel) our abs during core work. To inhibit those stubborn hip flexors we can simply squeeze our glutes . . . which will ultimately result in a reduction of chronic back pain. Taking the stress off our hip flexors and back, while firing our glutes and core, can produce a trifecta of benefits.
Watch Sal Di Stefano of Mind Pump Media utilize these principles while demonstrating a wonderful warmup everyone can use to help prepare the body for an awesome and effective core workout!
Richard A. Lehman, LMT, CSCS
Compliment Your Body, LLC has been providing In-Home and Corporate / Event chair massage to New York City and the surrounding boroughs since 2004. Commitment, compassion, connection, and charity are the pillars of our company. Experience the CYBNYC difference!
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