If you remember the December issue of this newsletter, I planted a couple of seeds indicating sit-ups were bad, and I suggested why. I will now begin to discuss a progression of exercises that have actually been scientifically proven to increasing spinal stability. Note that I have paraphrased this information from Dr. Stuart McGill, who is considered one of the world’s foremost authorities in spinal stabilization techniques. He is Canadian in Waterloo to boot!
Cats and camels refer to flexibility exercises. They are relatively simple back flexion and extension movements that increase the fluidity of the entire spine. The primary intention is motion, not stretching, so when you are doing these motions, do not over-stress the back at the ends of the motion. You only need to do five or six of these in order to see the benefits. Doing more repetitions will not hurt, but you will probably not see much more improvement after the first half-dozen. If you do feel pain during these motions, I would suggest to continue to to them, but limit the range of motion to the pain free ranges.
We all know how a cat stretches when it wakes up from one of its 30 hour naps. It is on all fours, and it arches its back up, convexly. Guess what! It is the same for us humanoids! Camels have the opposite appearance. (Okay, for you picky readers, I am talking about the double humped Bactrian camels instead of the single humped Arabians) Their backs appear to be curved downwards, in a concavity.
So, the cat/camel exercises involve getting onto all fours, then slowly and with full control moving between a relatively high arched position like a stretching cat and a relatively low arched position, pulling your belly button towards the floor. Repeat this exercise five or more times in the morning and before you do any further stabilization exercises, and you will notice significantly more fluid motion of the back through the day.
Next time I will look into some actual stabilization exercises to do after you limber up with the cat/camel.