“How sublime to look down on the workhouse of nature, to see her clouds, hail, snow, rain, thunder, all fabricated at our feet!”
— Thomas Jefferson
Now that winter is here, we are probably all thinking either about how to stay warm or about going to a warm place. We also may be thinking about biking, where to do it, and what to do to keep in shape during the winter months. Winter is not the time to eat a lot of food and gain 10 pounds while waiting for spring. We need to work in winter to keep our bodies strong, and work out hard so that we don’t waste the spring getting ready for summer. But, we may be asking ourselves, what exercises should we do in the winter?
As we have mentioned before, your legs are powered by your spinal nerves. This gives you the ability to work out more intensely and get ready for biking season. If your job requires a lot of sitting and you find your low back, or even your gluteal region, is aching, you need to think about what exercises will keep you in shape.
In this edition, we focus on the multifidus muscles, the deep stabilizers of the lower back. The multifidus are the most medial muscles that support the spine and help side flexion and back extension. This muscle system is critical to the stability of your spine. To work it easily during the winter, you can perform what is called a “sling” pattern. (link for more details coming soon) This will work the muscles in your lower spine, the muscle in your mid-back, and even your shoulder muscles. The “sling” forms a crossing pattern from top to bottom, e.g., from the upper right to the lower left.
Transversus and Pelvic-floor Muscles: The transversus is one of the largest stabilizing muscles in the body; along with the pelvic-floor muscles, it keeps the pelvis and hips in place. The transversus is situated in the anterior of the spine; it wraps around to the back of the trunk and attaches to the deep tissues. This muscle can be envisioned as a ‘corset’ muscle, which draws a person’s belly to his or her back.
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that also help keep the pelvic joints from shifting around. If you have ever needed to go to the bathroom while driving, but “held it in,” you did so by contracting your pelvic-floor muscles. You may find this funny, but if you simultaneously contract your pelvic floor and your transversus slowly and with control, you can give yourself some pelvic stability. This is a very good exercise while driving, working or just standing. Contract the transversus by pulling your belly button in toward your back and “hold it in” with the pelvic-floor technique to give yourself what we call “pelvic floor stability.”
Hip Muscles:Your hips are important to your winter stability activities. You need to focus on the gluteal muscles, as well as the hip rotators. (link coming soon) The gluteal muscles will help you with walking and, believe it or not, with pelvic control when you are on the bike trainer or rocking back and forth outside. Work these muscles after you ride or work out on a machine.
|Transversus & Pelvis Floor
||NA||30 - 60 sec|
|Hip Muscles||30||1-5#||15-30 sec|
The multifidus (sling system) exercises can be measured by time or by number of repetitions. I would suggest you alternate the reps and time methods for the hips and the slings system. You can work the transversus throughout the day, both when you are sitting and standing. The rule for weights is to work toward 5% of your body weight, whatever that may be; but work slowly and do not push too fast or you will find the muscle will not become stronger, but decrease in function, or even ‘shut down.’