One of the best ways to keep a healthy back is to have a really strong core. The core musculature is used to resist motions, rather than create them. Our backs will stay healthier if we create motion with our hips and our t-spine rather than our lumbar spine.
Knowing this we want to avoid things like crunches, sit-ups or Russian twists to strengthen the core. These exercises repeatedly flex, extend, and rotate the spine which is one of the most common ways to injure your back.
Today’s athletes specialize in one sport at a much younger age and seem to always be playing year-round. Stress fractures is the low back have become all too common among athletes due to year-round games, practices, lessons, showcases, and insufficient core strength.
During the rehab process one of the first exercises these athletes will perform is the plank. Planks can get pretty easy very quickly if they’re done correctly. Problem is, most people aren’t as good at them as they think, and they start doing 1-2 minute planks with sloppy form. This will only aggravate the back even more.
The longest I’ll ever have someone do a plank is 30 seconds and even that is rare. The idea is to be able to keep the spine neutral; if you’re low back is arched you’re not doing it correctly. When someone attempts to do a really long plank one of the first things you’ll notice is their back starting to arch as they fatigue.
What I prefer is a short 10-15 sec plank to allow them to keep their low back in a good position, but also progress it by adding a challenge.
Enter the TRX Body-saw plank. This is one variation we will use to strengthen the core and protect the back without having to do excessively long planks.
Set up in a plank position with your feet In the straps. Then simply, move the body back in forth like a saw. As you move back your abs will contract to prevent from hyperextending the low back.
As an added bonus, if you’re working with an overhead athlete, this allows you to strengthen the serratus anterior while simultaneously training the core. When you move back the scaps have to upwardly rotate activating the serratus.