I probably don't talk about this as much as I should. What I call 'Back Control' is one of the most important ingredients in an effective strength and conditioning program, and unfortunately, most people don't have it.
Well, the usual reasons...
Too much sitting and a not enough exercise, especially strength training. Your back was not designed to sit in a chair all day long. Unfortunately, for many people, that's exactly what they ask their back to do every day. Over time, muscles get weak, tight, and unable to stablize the spine effectively.
The problems really start when you begin an exercise program. Most people have no idea how truly out of shape they are when they begin. And they are especially unaware of how inefficiently their back is moving (or not moving).
The key to all of this is your ability to maintain what is called a 'Neutral Spinal Position.' Put simply - all of your curves are where they are supposed to be. Most people don't have the strength and flexibility needed in their backs. As a result, they cannot even come close to maintaining good positioning when they perform even basic strength and conditioning moves.
What you really want, is to strike a balance of both flexibility and functional strength levels in All of the muscles of what us fitness pros call 'Your Trunk.' The part of you from just below your chest, and down through to the bottom of your pelvis. If you don't first address the strength and conditioning of this part of your body, you set yourself up not only for failure, but possible injury.
One of the most important muscles in this region is known as your 'Transverse Abdominus.' Your God-given weight belt. You can see it in the picture to the left. You can see that it sits low, and I can tell you from personal experience that 100% of people don't initially have good control of this, or any of the other muscles in their trunk when they begin an exercise program, especially if they were not athletes when younger.
Here's what you need to do...
First, being aware of your need for good back control is essential. Think and analyze the next time you are exercising (or even sitting) how well you are actually able to maintain that normal positioning of your spine pictured above.
Second, you absolutely MUST be able to maintain good back positioning while performing your exercise, and if you can't, you need to lighten the load until you can.
Third, your success is all about proper progression. So, don't move to more advanced exercise moves (especially strength training moves) until you're sure you have the back control necessary to support yourself while you're doing them. And if you're unsure, get some help from a fitness professional.
On Friday, during my regular fitness segment with Leigh Mills on NBC in Madison, WI, I'll be demonstrating a few moves to get you off on a good start toward more effective and efficient back control. Be sure to tune in at 5 PM on channel 15, or check this post next week for the video archive.
By the way, anytime you hear someone refer to 'Core Training' what that really means is 'Back Control.' Personally, I think that helps you connect with the importance that this skill demands...