It is a common misconception that core stability and postural integrity simply involve strength and flexibility of the abdominal wall and low back musculature. However, postural integrity involves the strength and flexibility of much more structurally. Core stability involves the strength and flexibility of the entire low back and hip area (the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex).
A great example of this idea is the common occurrence of lower crossed syndrome. Lower crossed syndrome is a common postural distortion pattern that is a result of muscular imbalances. It is characterized by an excessively arched lumbar spine (lumbar lordosis). In lower crossed syndrome typically the gluteals, quadriceps, tibialis anterior, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and internal & external obliques are weak. In addition, hip flexors, erector spinae, hamstrings, and gastrocnemius are typically overactive (tight) when an individual has an excessive lumbar arch (Iserman, 2018).
A Balance For Life Personal Trainer (CPT) can design an exercise program for those with postural deviations such as lower crossed syndrome with exercises that can address these muscle imbalances. Here are some examples of such exercises:
Side Plank: Lie on your right side, in a straight line from head to feet, resting on your forearm. Your elbow should be directly under your shoulder. With your abdominals gently contracted, lift your hips off the floor, maintaining the line. Keep your hips square and your neck in line with your spine.
Ball Crunch: Lie supine on stability ball (ball under low back), with knees bent at 90 degrees. Place feet on floor with feet hip distance and parallel. Cross arms. Crunch upper body forward, lift scapulae off the ball. Lower upper body over the ball, returning to the start position.
Lower Body Twist: In a supine position with arms at in a “t-square” position, knees bent, with thigh-torso angle at a 90 degree angle, and knees at a 90 degree angle. Lower knees to the right side, lift back above hips, and lower bent knees to the left side.
Cable Rotation: Stand with feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly flexed, and toes pointing straight ahead. Hold a cable with both hands directly in front of the chest, with arms extended and shoulder blades retracted and depressed. Rotate body away from the weight stack using abdominals and gluteal muscles. Allow back foot to pivot to achieve triple extension (plantar flexion, knee extension, hip extension).
Pilates Single Knee Stretch: Lying in a supine position, lift head, tuck chin, draw in at the core. Draw one knee in to the chest and touch it with hands. Opposite leg is extended. Switch legs.
Flexibility: It is just as important to include flexibility exercises that help address the tight areas.
Cat stretch: Start on hands and knees with both shoulder width apart. Engage abdominals and maintain a neutral spine. As you continue to engage the abdominals, round your back towards the ceiling and allow your head and neck to fall naturally between the arms.
Knees to chest: Lying in a supine position, bring one knee up towards your chest so that you can grasp your lower leg with both hands. Gently pull your knee towards your chest while trying to relax your legs, pelvis and low back.
Supine hamstring: Lie on your back on the floor with hips and knees bent. Take a strap or belt and loop it around the ball of one foot and straighten the leg so that it is inline with your bent knee. Gently pull back on the strap so that your leg points towards the ceiling. Keep your thigh engaged, your toes relaxed and your hip on the floor. Your upper body should also be relaxed on the floor.
Kneeling hip flexor: From a kneeling position, place right knee down on the floor, directly under your hip with toes under. Place your left foot on the floor in front of you with the knee directly over the ankle to form a 90º angle at the knee joint. Place both hands on the left leg, engage through the abdominals and gently lean forward into your left hip.
If you would like a personalized program to help your postural integrity, Balance for Life Personal Trainers are here to help you. Contact us to schedule an appointment!
Iserman, M. (2018). Fitness Professional's Manual. National Exercise Trainers Association.