Okay…I’m stumped on this one. And I’ll willing to chalk this up to still being fairly new as a trainer. One of my clients has a very weak lower back and lower abdominals. In an effort to build these areas and strengthening them I have her doing the “superman” for lower back and then lower abdominal work that involves supporting her lower back by placing her hands under that area. However, even with her back supported she is still feeling discomfort and can’t complete reps…i’m lost on how to strengthening these specific areas when the exact moves used to strengthen her lower abs and core are causing discomfort due to weakness (i’m in an endless loop). My apologies if I’m missing something obvious, believe me i’m reading and studying and reading up and perusing work out programs…but would very much value some input and suggestions here. Thank you in advance!
Hi Rachel…I think the first step would be to refer her out to her Doctor to see what’s going on. Her Dr. may say she A.O.K or may restrict her from certain movements. Either way, you’ll know what the medical advise is.
Let’s assume she checks out ok. A dynamic movement assessment might reveal overactive/underactive muscles that may need to be corrected and dealing with muscle imbalances MAY help the problem. I use an overhead squat assessment to determine imbalances but you could also just look at her posture. Does she present with an arched back? Rounded shoulders? Forward head leaning? Arched backs and Pronation Distortion Disorder can cause low back pain. So, dealing with those issues would be my first step. There are specific remedies for each of those issues.
I like to start people slowly (as usually I work with people new to exercising) so I tend to start strengthening the core by working on the core stabilizers for a few weeks (up to 4-6 weeks depending on how they progress) These exercises include floor marching, floor bridge, iso abs and side iso abs, quadrupeds, floor cobras…anything that has little movement but lots of stabilization.
Once they have those down and they have built up a good base I then progress to the more traditional exercises that most people associate with “core” routines such as cruches, rotations, hip extentions and continue with the stabilization exercises as well. It could be…in the absense of any medical issues…that your client just isn’t quite ready for the more advanced moves yet.
thank you so much! Extremely helpful. She actually recently went to her doctor and was checked out fully. She is suffering from a knee injury (non training related) so no squatting presently, but everything else checked out okay. I have her doing the floor marches, floor bridges and side iso ab work…so i’m thrilled to know i’m on the right track there. I will back off of the other moves as it does appear they may be too advanced at this point. Something I suppose I wasn’t quite processing (again being new in the industry) and I was thrown off on her level of capability since she seems to be able to do full V-Sit-Ups with no issue (something i personally struggle with still!), but she struggles terribly with smaller lower ab based movement. I will continue to focus on stabilization. You’ve been incredibly helpful. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Darcy is right on the mark. It can be challenging for a new trainer to see those little compensations that clients are really good at (and don’t know themselves).
Being able to do a full sit up can look impressive but is often only the result of a favorable weight distribution in the body. A person with long legs and more weight below the belly button can often execute those with ease by just relying on hip flexors.
Start her off even just with pelvic tilts and pelvic clock exercises and then gradually move to more advanced ones and see whether she can continue to stabilize her pelvis as she starts moving other part of her body. In the superman, the movement often comes from the lower back (by arching it even more). It takes practice to see that.
You are smart by using this forum to ask others. I am sure you will get more answers.
Hey Rachel…if she has a recent knee injury that can have an effect too. Hopefully she is being rehabed properly by her medical team. Since the body is a kinetic chain of connected parts, limited mobility at the knee can also affect the ankle (she may not be getting full flexion or extension at the foot now if she has limited knee mobility) and if those parts aren’t moving properly you sometimes see compensations at the hip…such as excessive forward leaning or arching back. It could just be that once her knee problems are sorted out she could see improvements in her low back.
Great tips here so far here. I’m glad that your client was cleared for exercise, since that’s really the first step. I wanted to mention that sometimes the hand position can affect a client’s ability to do the ‘Superman’ move. As she improves her core strength, you could see if having arms by her sides or even under her armpits helps with the discomfort in her back.
Other exercises you can include are isometrics & anti-rotation movements. Basically, having your client engage her core during movements that aren’t specifically made for the core can help with body awareness & core muscle recruitment. Planks are great and can be pre-gressed as necessary to protect the low back (done on one or both knees, elbows, etc.). Anti-rotation is when the core stays straight & engaged while another limb moves. This type of stabilization is really great for the lower abs, low back & obliques. A move I use a lot is a cable or band rotation. The client stands next to a cable machine or band tethered at about waist height. They turn their arms & ribs away from the tether point but are not allowed to move their lower half. Keeping knees slightly bent, glutes tight, & arms long keeps the work loaded on the core, & it doesn’t take much resistance to get results! You can also have her try basic movements on one leg as this forces the pelvic stabilizers to get stronger (‘airplane’, ‘star’).
Always start with a pain-free range of motion. If the move causes pain, it should be removed from the program. You can always try it later when the client gets a little stronger.