We live in a world where lower back pain (LBP) is a common source of frustration and pain in many individuals, primarily due to the sedentary lifestyle or work scenario the person engages in. Sitting for long hours as a student or being a 9-5 desk worker, can all lead to weak core stabilizers, poor posture, and LBP. We will keep this short and sweet and discuss two cues. You should keep these techniques in mind when moving throughout the day or performing resistance training exercises. These simple cues will aid in preventing and even reducing LBP and will boost athletic performance.
First, let us explain the musculature involved; we have what is called our local core stabilizers, which are muscles that attach directly to the spine and work to limit excessive compressive, shear, and rotational forces between spinal segments that occur when we run, jump, or move through the various planes of movement. The muscles included in the local core stabilizers are the transversus abdominis, internal oblique, lumbar multifidus, pelvic floor muscles, and the diaphragm.
CUE #1 - engage the local core stabilizer muscles by performing what is called the drawing-in maneuver, which is used to specifically recruit the local core stabilizers by simply drawing in your navel (belly button) in towards your spine. This is why you often hear us say or write in our Instagram posts that you should, “suck your belly button to your spine!” This drawing-in maneuver should be initiated and held through the duration of your training movements.
The second set of muscles that are engaged in stabilizing our bodies through intense forces include what is called the Global Stabilization System, which is responsible for transferring forces between the upper and lower halves of your body and provide stability between the pelvis and spine during intense movements. The muscles included in the global stabilization system are the quadratus lumborum, psoas major, external oblique, portions of the internal oblique, rectus abdominis, gluteus medius, and the adductor complex (adductor magnus/longus/brevis, gracilis, pectineus).
CUE #2 - engage the global stabilization system muscles by performing what is called bracing, which occurs when you contract the abdominal, lower back, and buttock muscles at the same time. You have probably heard the term “BEAR DOWN!” and this is exactly that. This bracing maneuver should be initiated along with the CUE 1 at the beginning and throughout the duration of your training movements. You can even do these while sitting at your desk at work to periodically engage and strengthen your core.
Several studies have found decreased firing of the transverse abdominis, internal oblique, and multifidus in individuals with chronic low back pain; additionally, in individuals with sacroiliac joint pain, there has been a delay in the recruitment of the internal oblique, multifidus, and gluteus muscles. Weak trunk/core musculature is a strong risk factor for developing lower back pain – so get a jump start on preventing it by trying these methods out!
Driving home the point - by performing the cues above while conducting any sort of bodyweight or resistance training (or even sitting at your desk), you will begin to develop the stabilization muscles necessary to prevent and even reduce low back pain. If you are a tactical athlete that works as a firefighter, first responder/EMS, military member, or even just a lifter looking to boost their performance, we highly recommend performing the drawing-in and bracing maneuver to ensure you are properly stabilized and effectively engaging muscles necessary to move safely.
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“To every man there comes in his lifetime that special moment when he is figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered a chance to do a very special thing, unique to him and fitted to his talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds him unprepared or unqualified for that which would be his finest hour.” —Winston S. Churchill
National Academy of Sport Medicine. (2019). NASM Essentials of Sports Performance Training, Second Edition.
Park, S.-D., & Yu, S.-H. (2013). The effects of abdominal draw-in maneuver and core. Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation. Korean Society of Exercise Rehabilitation.
This article was written by Todd Duquette, BSN, RN, NASM CPT, PES on behalf of the www.trainwithpurpose.us team and constituents. Follow his journey on Instagram @toddphysique – for any questions or contributions, please comment below or email our team using our contact section. We typically respond within 48-hours.