Greek buildings have been around for thousands of years.
They have stood the test of time and all incorporate one feature: the column.
Just take a look at the Parthenon in Athens.
This thing was built in 438 B.C. That was 2500 years ago.
It is barely standing now but the main structure of the building is still in place. Meanwhile, it is the center of complete ruins.
It is not just the Greeks that are using them either. Look at all important buildings and monuments in Washington D.C.
Columns are important because they compress and absorb force. All of the weight of the roof is supported on these columns to keep the building upright.
The spine is also a column. Its design is to keep us upright and withstand compression forces.
My question now becomes, why are we trying to bend our columns?
In the never ending quest for 6 pack abs, gym goers spend thousands and thousands of reps trying to bend their spine in half.
Really, the only thing we are doing is enhancing the risk for injury.
The amount of shear force that one sit up creates is enough to create a spinal injury. The same goes for crunches, supermen, and hanging knee raises.
That is just how the spine can directly get injured from these exercises of trunk flexion.
Let’s look at how a disk can become herniated.
A vertebral disk is like a jelly donut that fits in the vertebral column. When we flex the spine, pressure is put on the front of the donut. You would imagine that jelly would start to build up towards the back with that pressure.
Eventually, the jelly squeezes through the dough and into the spinal canal. This is a very painful condition and can be even more hazardous if the “jelly” puts pressure on the nerves.
Not only will it hurt like hell, normal activities will now be impaired.
Indirect means of injury
A lot of trunk flexion (as well as sitting hunched over a computer, etc.) creates a kyphotic or rounded shoulder posture.
This posture makes it difficult to reach overhead with a full range of motion. The shoulder can easily be impinged with this kind posture.
This misalignment can also beat the crap out of the labrum and the supraspinatus tendon. Now we have more pain and more loss of normal function.
Notice that I mentioned sitting at a computer as a risk factor for thoracic kyphosis. Computers are a necessary part of our lives these days along with tablets and smartphones.
If our everyday lives are a risk factor for bad posture, it is even more dangerous to reinforce the pattern in the gym.
What to do instead
Reinforcing your column is essential for a healthy body.
Take your normal column and add supporting cables an all sides of it, like on a bridge. Is that thing going to go anywhere? Not likely, unless a cable gets cut.
Training for core stability is the equivalent of adding supporting wires to your spinal column.
It is a means of protection.
Some of the best core stability exercises are side planks, paloff presses, and birddogs. Each exercise has their own variations to make them harder or easier.
Performing them with good technique will also help to combat the bas posture everyday life creates. Again, reducing annoying injuries.
They also make the abdominal muscles work harder than crunches, situps, etc., but that’s for another post tomorrow.
It is up to you to make the choice. Create back problems at a young age to carry with your for next 70 years of your life or train smarter.
A building with poor architecture would not last almost 2500 years. A body that develops poor architecture may have an unfavorable fate sooner than later.