Today we’re going to look at a simple exercise to develop smarter and stronger back muscles.
What we’re going to take a look at today is what call ACM (Assisted Contractile Mapping) in Z-Health which is just a basic version of how to really learn to contract certain muscles. We spend a lot of time working with people that are in pain and one of the most common things we run into is back pain.
Lots of people with movement problems in the shoulder, back and neck, legs, hips often have some weakness or lack of good function in what are called the paraspinal muscles, or muscles of the back.
Today what I’m going to do is I’m going to show a very specific exercise sequence that you can use to start to wake these muscles up. I want to go over a couple of things to be careful about first.
Number one, the positions that we’re going to be getting into, if you’re doing them correctly, do require your head and neck to go into extension with a little bit of rotation.
That is usually very, very safe but there are a few people that can have issues with that. If you have any dizziness or any discomfort going into that particular neck position I want you to leave that out.
You’ll just basically do the exercise using your shoulder as if your shoulder is your head. Make sure you that protect your neck, that’s number one.
Number two, whenever you start doing these exercises because we’re going to really be working on contracting muscles fairly hard, start slowly.
If you’ve done some of our nerve glide work before, neuro-mechanic drills we call them, we always say go three out of ten intensity in the beginning and that also applies to any of the muscle drills that I’m going to teach you, because I want to make sure that you don’t hurt yourself number one.
Number two, once you’re feeling comfortable adding some tension, slowly ramp up the tension in the muscles as we work on them as if you’re turning on the faucet for water.
We don’t want to create a lot of tension right away until your body is conditioned for that.
The muscles that we’re going to be working basically, like I said, are what are called the paraspinal muscles. These are big groups of muscles. There’s different names to name but they work as a big group and they in essence attach from the base of your skull all the way down to the top of your sacrum which is the top of your tailbone area, and what’s called your ilium or hip.
Whenever we do this exercise correctly what you’re going to feel is a lot of muscle tension build up from your low back all the way up one side of your body up the back of your neck all the way to the back of your head if you were using your head in this particular exercise.
If not, you’re just going to feel it from the base of your neck down. Like I said, number one, protect your neck.
Whenever we look at these muscles they have a bunch of combination movements that they perform. What we want to do first is we want to lengthen the muscles. We’re going to put them under a little stretch and then we’re going to reverse that and we’re going to go back and contract them.
For this exercise, I’m going to work on the right side of my body. I’m going to ask you to do the same thing so that we can all do the same motion.
To start, to get these muscles under some stretch, I’m going to begin in a nice neutral stance. I’m going to bend my knees. Then what I’m going to do is I’m going to tuck my pelvis. I’m going to do what’s called a posterior tilt, I’m going to tuck my pelvis.
Now I’m going to work on my right side. If possible, I want to actually tilt the left side of my pelvis up. I’ve done a posterior tilt and now I’m holding a left lateral tilt.
From here, what we want to do from our low back all the way up to our head and neck is we want to rotate to the left. We want to bend everything to the left and we then want to roll everything down and forward.
We keep adding that rotation to the mix until we feel a nice stretch from again, the base of the skull all the way down the side of the body.
It’s fairly complicated. You have to do a lot of movements at once, but that’s one of the reasons that a lot of people have issues with these muscles because they only work them in one direction at a time, and these muscles are designed to help us do a lot of combination movements.
Now that we’ve kind of opened that area up, what we’re going to do now is we’re going to contract it. For the contraction, again I’m working on the right side of my body, I have to do exactly the opposite. I’m going to get tall, bend my knees.
This time I’m going to do what’s called an anterior tilt. I’m going to anterior tilt the pelvis and since I’m working on the right side I’m going to lift the right side of the pelvis. From here, I’m going to right rotate, I’m going to bend to the right and now I’m going to try to take this base of my skull and actually touch it. I’m going to try to touch it to the top of my hip if you think of it that.
When you hold all of those things together what will happen is you’ll get an increasing sensation of tension in the muscles running all the way down the right side of the back.
Once you’ve got all of that set, you can actually play with adding more lateral bend or more rotation or more extension to it to target different areas.
Like I said, if you have any neck issues, you just basically replace your head with your shoulder. It would look like this. Bend the knees, anterior tilt the pelvis, then lift up on the same side.
Think about your shoulder, we’re going to tilt to the right, rotate and then try to touch the back of your shoulder to your hip and that will give you a really, really nice strong contraction, again starting with a level three and then gradually working your way up.
I recommend that you do that on both sides, but before you do either of these exercises, you should do some kind of assessment checking your range of motion, maybe your forward bend. Then test each side individually to see if you respond better to one than the other.
If you find that, hey, when I do this on the right side my shoulder feels better, I get a little bit more flexible, then throughout the day maybe five or six different times, spend five to six seconds just going through a couple of contractions for that particular area. If you respond to both sides, then do both.
This is a fantastic reminder to your back muscles about how they’re supposed to work as a unit and also all the different motions that are available to you. If you have any questions about this one, give me a shout or drop me an email. Otherwise good luck.
If you have any questions about this, drop me an email or give us a call. Thanks.