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Core Strengthening, Back Stretching, Posture Enhancing Exercises
“Neutral spine” is a catch phrase in Pilates workouts and indeed it is vital to address the lower back while doing ab work. Several unique structural features of the human body make it important to stretch the lower back and strengthen the upper back in addition to working the stomach muscles. This maintenance is necessary for our bodies because humans were built off-kilter (due in part to having evolved from 4-legged animals) in at least three areas (see below). All of these structural features can cause the lower back to become overly tight and cause back pain when the muscles around it aren’t strengthened, stretched and balanced.
1. OUR THIGHS SWING FORWARD BUT NOT BACK.
The thighs easily swing forward, but they don’t swing back more than an inch or two. This trait plays out in every step we take. When we walk or run, our lower backs will by necessity arch a little or a lot depending on build. The Bar Method we addresses this tendency by 1. tightening the abs, 2. lengthening and stretching the lower back, and 3. strengthening the hamstrings and glutes so that our students will tend to use their back-side muscles more and rely less on the meager mobility of their lower backs. Click here to read more about stretching exercises for the lower back.
2. OUR “ERECTOR SPINAE” MUSCLES (BACK MUSCLES), NOT OUR AB MUSCLES, HOLD US UPRIGHT.
Our structural back muscles (erector spinae) are at work every moment that we’re standing or sitting to keep us vertically aligned and to hold our heads up. Our abs don’t keep us upright. The inevitable result is a human tendency to develop tighter back muscles and looser abdominals. The Bar Method helps correct this by, again, strengthening the abdominals and stretching the back.
3. MOST PEOPLE’S NECKS ARE TILTED SLIGHTLY FORWARD.
This feature of our anatomy causes people to lean back in order to
keep their heads balanced over their bodies. Many women with heavy breasts also have a tendency to lean back with their rib cages. These conditions create excessive arching in the lower back. A highlight of the Bar Method is that is forces students to hold their backs in good alignment for much of the class: specifically during weight work, heel lifts, thigh work and seat work.
Comprehensive core work should strengthen the abs of course. However, just as important it should develop the muscles in the glutes, hamstrings, and around our spines. In addition, exercises that stretch the back is an essential element of a healthy spine. The Bar Method class does all of this and promotes good posture at the same time.
Read more about Bar Method’s CORE STRENGTHENING EXERCISES