Over the past few months I’ve been talking about back injuries in firefighters. First I cleared up a few myths about back injuries (see myths). Now I’m going over exercises that firefighters should AVOID. (See those I’ve discussed so far: sit-ups, back extension machine, prone hyperextension and the calf raise machine.)
Nobody wants to be counterproductive when they exercise. When you put the time and effort into working out, you want it to be effective, and you certainly don’t want it to be actually causing harm as opposed to strength gains.
One exercise I see people doing incorrectly most of the time is working the abs while twisting: typically in a sit-up position, vigorously rotating from side to side, often using weights or a medicine ball.
I suspect that many people are under the impression that you have to rotate your torso in order to work your obliques. First of all, it takes very little rotation to do so. See the picture demonstrating a “bicycle” exercise for the abs/obliques. The very small amount of rotation that she is demonstrating is all that’s needed.
In fact, over-rotation ends up recruiting different muscles and decreases the work that your obliques are doing. Secondly, you don’t even have to twist to work your obliques – you can do a side plank.
More importantly, yarding your torso around doing aggressive twisting exercises wreaks havoc on your back. The joints of the spine, especially in the low back, have very little rotation capability – so forcing a lot of rotation on them can be damaging and over time increase your risk of back injury.
You may even want to avoid twisting while stretching. Some people who suffer from back pain find relief when they stop doing stretches that involve excessive twisting. Like many things, a little rotation can be good…but a lot is bad.
Are you guilty of doing this exercise or any others I’ve discussed in this series? If so, what do you plan to do in place of them? Let me know in the comments below.
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