Your body works as if it were an aluminum can with limbs
Hear me out, the “can” is basically your mid section. A can holds pressure in all areas of the space it takes up. We breath the same way, and it is not just a belly thing. When you consider where your lungs are it would make sense that the best way to breath would be where we feel our chest cavity fill up in equal proportion to the rest of our torso. You are aiming to be able to take in air from your hips to the top of your ribs.
Your goal in nearly all movements is to align your ribs on top of your hips, reduce the “rib flare” and maximize your air capacity. You want your “aluminum can” to hold as much “pressure” as possible. If your hips tilt forwards or backwards, your pelvis will not be lined up with your ribs.
Have you ever stomped on a pristine aluminum can versus a dented aluminum can. The well-aligned can is tougher to squish/destroy with heavy weight. Think about yourself the same way. Get rid of your dents. This is why this analogy works so well. If we think of ourselves as being strong, we are uncrushable. Pelvis and ribs lined up is going to bring us into that strong position.
If you are out of position, you can still do all the things you need to do in a day barring any severe injury. In fact, your body is designed to function to the highest degree in any circumstance.
We are built to survive. However, having your hips out of place will often indicate a lack of abdominal stability. We need the outside of our abdomen to be in a position to be engaged in order to keep our spine in a neutral position.
Staying consistent to the aluminum can analogy, a neutral spine is the result of a dent-free tank. Having these prerequisites should be your end goal. It simplifies training a lot. You want to have your spine in a neutral position in nearly all of your movements.
Here are 10 exercises to help you to attain and keep a neutral spine in your day to day living:
- Wall Sits
- A wall sit isn’t just for your quads. Think of tilting your pelvis so that it is under your ribs. Your body positioning should allow you to breath through your chest and not through your stomach, if your belly protrudes when you breath, reposition. Thinking about flattening out your upper back and bringing your shoulders down to
- Challenge yourself to do 5 intervals of 30 seconds working and 20 seconds resting.
- Palloff Press
- For a palloff press, you’re taking either a handled resistance band or using a cable machine with a single handed cable.
- Stand perpendicular to the origin of the cable, bring the cable to your sternum, and press forward.
- Try this first with your stance about shoulder width, over time progress so that your feet run along a straight line, it will add to the challenge.
- Essentially, your external obliques on one side are firing to keep you balanced and upright. Do 10 reps on each side for 3 sets. Keep it equal.
- For your deadbugs your back will be on the floor and the main focus will be flattening your back. When you flatten your back it should require your core to engage to hold the position.
- With a flat back you are going to keep one leg in while extending the other, this will increase the challenge on your core.
- To make this even more challenging you will extend the opposite arm over your head while your leg extends. Bringing your arms to an overhead range can also cause your back to arch so you will have to keep your core engaged in order to stabilize yourself from flexion.
- Scapular Pushups
- The main purpose of doing scapular pushups instead of regular pushups is for the mobilization of the scapula. Our shoulder blade is intended to have the mobility to allow it to retract and protract around our rib cage. However, due to the “fusing” of our upper spine due to our often lazy postures, the muscles tighten up to reduce compensation in movement. Generally the body is going to set itself up for best case scenario, so with shoulders out of position, the muscles will tighten up to keep the body as safe as possible.
- You have to be really careful about how you set up a plank. It can be a really great exercise but it can also be a really debilitating exercise. One of the prominent characteristics of this movement is that you are generally holding it for a duration of time.
- This is how I like to cue a plank. It is referred to as a long lever plank. Your toes press into the ground, you elbows last not under your shoulders but ahead of them. This will intensify the activation of your obliques both internal and external. To get your back into a flush position, think about spreading your shoulder blades apart – essentially flattening out your upper back width-wise. Your main focus will be to solidify your outer torso, or “engage your core”.
- Glute Bridge
- The glutes aren’t all about getting your butt so you can be the backup dancer in Nicki Minaj’s new single. These powerhouse muscles assist in correcting pelvic tilt, alleviate lower back flexion which often results in pain or discomfort, and help with the alignment of our knees.
- Adductor Holds
- The adductor muscles assist in all of the hip movements which assist in the alignment of the knees. It’s a group of muscles that are commonly strained from quick lateral movements or lunges (groin area). By training this muscle to equate the strength of the abductor muscles, we reduce the risk of injury.
- A really straightforward way to train these muscles is using a Pilates hoop. You hold the hoop handles together between your knees for intervals of time. I typically aim for 30 seconds with most of my clients.
- Banded lateral walks
- The banded lateral walk is something you will feel in your abductor muscles as well as your glutes. Just like adduction, abduction strength is integral to maintaining stability, form, and overall good posture. Banded lateral walks can be intensified by extending duration, or the band tensity, so don’t stereotype it as a “beginners only” movement.
- The deadlift requires the prerequisite core stability that is attained from wall sits and planks. The awareness of your core will assist you in keeping a neutral spine keeping your back safe and your glutes and hamstrings activated.
- There are a lot of ways to vary this movement if needed, you can raise the load to decrease the distance for hip mobility limitations, or you can decrease the load for someone who is having trouble keeping their core stabilized.
- The deadlift when performed properly exerts nearly every muscle with exception to the pecs.
- Pull ups
- Pull ups are a great way to activate and train the back muscles. Not only that but they require core strength and will work both your biceps and triceps.
- Since you are holding your entire body weight for a regular pull up, your grip strength will also see a dramatic improvement.
- There are a lot of ways to regress or progress this movement. My favourite is by using bands to reduce the load so you can focus on form.
If you have any questions about any of these movements or how you can get started with them, drop me a line at email@example.com!