By Elias Abichacra (Phd)
In part 1, I made a general presentation of the Human Body. I explained the importance of the Vertebral column which should be given care permanently especially when we want to do exercises. In France where I took training to become a sport coach, the instructors insisted very much on the fragility of the human backbone, especially when we train youngsters who haven’t finished their growth yet and where the Skeleton is composed not only by bone, but by a certain amount of cartilage tissue which by nature is not as strong and resistant as the bone. An ill conceived training can easily tear the part of the bone where the muscle is attached. It is important not to perform heavy strength training with young children because of this problem that can provoke muscle pull out. Normally it is between the 18th and 20th year of age that bone growth is finished and solidified.
Frontal observation of a healthy backbone shows a straight line design but when observed laterally it has an S shape. These curves which are convex at the top of the structure then become concave and finally terminate with a convex profile allow the backbone to support much more pressure/weight than if it was a straight line (600 kg vs. 340 kg respectively!). Keeping this structure perpendicular to the ground needs permanent action of the muscles which are organized on the front and backside of this column reminding us the mast of a boat. The tension must be equal between the front and the back as well as the left and right part of this structure. Imbalance on one of these sides creates weakness and gradually discomfort and pain. Research results has showed us that the strength ratio between the abdominal muscles (ABS) located in the front of our body and the lower back muscles is 1:1 meaning that there is no difference of strength between these antagonist muscles. It is very important to keep the balance throughout your practice. Most of the coaches focus on the ABS and neglect the lower back muscles thus creating a dangerous imbalance which later provokes pain. Strengthening the back muscles is a good guarantee for health. If you are weak to perform pull-ups, which are excellent to strengthen most of the back muscles, then use the Lateral pull down machine. Whenever you train your Abs, you must also train you lower back muscles. I am always impressed with the strength of the back muscles of weight-lifters who are the athletes that have the strongest back in the sport kingdom. Our back is just like the chassis of a car; the more it is strong and rigid the more it can support load. If you carry weight on your shoulders make sure that there is an equal distribution on each side of the bar. If you train with single weights like dumbbells or Russian Kettle bells, work on the left and the right side equally. We shall see later on that a muscle has two contradictory properties which are elasticity and contractility. Strength training shortens the length of the muscles involved during the exercise. So whenever you practice for strength gain, finish with stretching exercises to help the muscles return to their original length. You will feel less awkward.
Man is the only creature of the Animal Kingdom to adopt an orthostatic posture. This physical attitude that defies gravity puts a lot of pressure on the muscles that keep this structure erect. But this victory has been achieved at the expense of health. We have the lonely and sad privilege to inherit back problems like lumbagos, sciatic nerve pinch, stiff neck and low back pain which are classified by researchers as the Lucy Syndrome and civilization diseases. Our modern life style hasn’t helped us solve the problem and on the contrary has aggravated it. Mattress and pillows, that were invented to give us comfort during our sleep, in fact have become the agents of pain! These civilization diseases are the ‘’privilege’’ of advanced societies and paradoxically the only developed nation that doesn’t encounter these problems is the Japanese society where the mattress used is rigid (Futon).
Our bones and especially our backbone are made to support a certain load. Whenever there is excessive load provoked by Obesity, then the structure is weakened and pain is the price we have to pay. It is very important to keep the physical integrity of this part of the body in order to avoid future health problems. When somebody gains weight by developing muscles through training, the bones of this person adapt and increase their mineral deposit that makes them stronger, increasing their capacity to support extra weight. The rise in bone density is the natural and correct answer to a well planned training. But when a person gains excessive weight through an accumulation of fat, which is a token of inactivity and unhealthy diet, muscles get weaker and can’t support the load. Many joint problems occur when fat overcomes and dominates the muscle proportion. Remember the car chassis! My recommendation is to take care of your weight especially as years go by.
Remember Health is Wealth!
You can contact the writer on this e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org