In my previous post I talked about how I’m relating the information I’m reading in my NASM textbook to my own health and fitness lifestyle. The first and foremost topic of concern is posture. Any deficiencies in posture leads to multiple dilemmas in the human movement system. The text highlights three common distortion patterns; pronation distortion syndrome, lower crossed syndrome and upper crossed syndrome.
I have assessed myself as outlined by NASM and I have found that I am a victim of lower crossed syndrome. It’s postural distortion is the cause of various symptoms I have been experiencing for … Basically all my life!
What is Lower Crossed Syndrome (LCS)? LCS is also known as Anterior Pelvic Tilt(APT) where the pelvis is tilted down, causing an arched lower back and protruding gut. Think of Donald Duck; sure his chest is up and ass is out(gym lingo) but his lower back is arched and his belly is fully round.
It is most commonly caused by prolonged periods of sitting and sedentary lifestyle. In a sitting position, your hip flexors are shortened or not at optimal length. Overtime, your muscles begin to adapt to this position. When you finally do stand, those shortened muscles pull your pelvis downward which then causes a tilt. At the other end of that tilt we have the low back which is then forced to arch excessively. That arch is also an indicator of tight muscles. So while the hip flexors and low back are tight or over active, the glutes and abdominals are lengthened or under active. All of these conditions further enforce the lower crossed syndrome, resulting in one of the many reasons for lower back pain.
Not only does it cause low back pain but this combination of muscle imbalances will lead to multiple problems such as altered movement patterns and eventually injury. With altered movement patterns you cannot possibly perform at optimal levels. Sure, you could lift some heavy weight, but imagine how much more you could lift if you were fully aligned! For example, if you have LCS, when you perform a squat you will most likely lean too far forward and your knees might turn inward. Your body will compensate for this as much as it can until you try to break a new PR in which you put too much weight on a faulty foundation, your knees give out and you can kiss your squatting days goodbye.
So how do we go about fixing this? Simply put, we need to stretch the over active muscles and strengthen the under active muscles. But just think about how long your body has been set in this position. For most of us, that can constitute as several years if not our entire lives! Correcting these issues will not happen over night, or in a week. It’s going to take conscious and consistent effort for several months.
At all times you will want to consciously perform the drawing in maneuver. To perform the drawing in maneuver, pull the region just below the belly button toward the spine. Make sure to maintain this position while performing the following:
1. Foam rolling and Hip flexor stretching-As much as possible! Try holding stretches for 30 seconds for multiple sets every morning when you wake up, some time during midday, and every night before you get in bed. If you don’t own a foam roller your may want to invest in one. This should be done as a warm up and cool down of each workout.
2. Core stabilizing and strengthening exercises: Some examples are glute bridges, planks, prone cobras, and stability ball hamstring curls. NASM highly stresses that one must master stability before moving on to strength exercises. A good way to think of this is that Core stability exercises are those in which there is little to no spinal motion but core strengthening exercises requires a larger range of motion and resistance. Even being a gym rat you may still lack stability of your core musculature. Actually, if you have LCS/APT then you obviously lack core stability!! Stabilize with the above exercises then strengthen with traditional core exercises like reverse crunch, back extensions, cable twists, etc.
3. Strength muscle-mind connection: Always stand tall and straight with your chest up, shoulders back, feet shoulder width apart, and squeeze your ass/glutes/hips forward when walking and standing. Just remember that what you do in the gym for one hour per day doesn’t necessarily counteract what you do during the other 23 hours, so pay attention to daily posture.
I cant even explain the experience I had when reading this information in my textbook. It was like every problem I’ve ever experienced suddenly had a reason. I didnt even know such a syndrome existed. I thought I just had a bad arch due to genetics. I used to blame my low back pain on my large breasts on my small frame but after I lost all that fat tissue I had still had low back pain and nothing to blame! My lower back hurt before, during, and after exercise. I always felt restricted when squatting, dead lifting, and rowing. Not to mention getting comfortable before bed has become almost impossible. I just accepted this reality because I didn’t know any better. But now it’s like the rain is gone and the sun came out! I’m implementing all of these things into my daily routine but like I said; it is going to take consistent time and effort to reverse. Another challenge accepted!
As a fun little piece of information.. I wrote and edited this entire article while standing up with my hips forward, glutes squeezed and shoulders back. No lie.