Upright rows are a dangerous exercise

Lift, sit, bend - keep your composure

Sports scientist Mag. Harry Wurm

Tension, lumbago or slipped discs - around 80 percent of the population suffer from back problems. Especially wrong posture and back-straining movements are the causes. Painful complaints can be effectively prevented with simple measures.

A healthy musculoskeletal system requires a good balance between stress and relief. How we move and work in everyday life rarely corresponds to such a balance. In addition, there can be psychological stress factors and unfavorable hereditary factors. So what to do if you want to carry your back and musculoskeletal system through life without any problems? Just "a lot of exercise" will not be enough in most cases. It is better to ensure a back-friendly posture for all movements - whether standing, sitting or lying down.

The problem with the upright posture

So that we can stand and sit upright, our body almost constantly uses the postural muscles. The locomotor muscles, which are only required for certain tasks and are therefore less stressed, work as opponents. This creates muscular imbalances that can lead to back problems. If a muscle is too weak for a certain task, the body activates auxiliary muscles, which, however, have an unfavorable effect on the joint system. An evenly flexible spine is also crucial. Is z. B. a section blocked, i.e. immobile, neighboring areas have to do more work and are more worn out. Such muscular imbalances and restricted movement express themselves in malfunctions and poor posture.

Everyday life forces you to adopt an unhealthy posture

Everyday life forces us into movement patterns and positions that, without a good muscle corset, put a lot of strain on our bones, joints and ligaments. The more muscle power is available and used, the less the joint system is stressed. This applies e.g. B. for the cervical spine, which is protected by only a few muscles. Yet this area in particular is being moved a lot. When reading, using the computer, cooking and doing many other activities, we usually hold our heads too far forward and bend the thoracic spine too much. As a result, we constantly strain our neck muscles far too much. At the same time, we strain the muscles that raise the shoulders and neglect those that pull the shoulders down. The result is that the muscles become tense.

An upright posture when sitting has to be learned

When sitting there is a resting and an upright posture. In the resting posture, the pelvis is tilted back, the whole spine resembles a large C. This means that the head is too far forward, which increases a neck that is bent forward. In the upright, muscular-active posture, on the other hand, the pelvis is tilted forward. The back muscles stretch the upper body and the chest is straightened.

There are a few tricks to make it easier to maintain an upright posture:

Roll up a large towel and place it on the seat. Sit on it so that the sit gnats are exactly placed on this roll. The sit knots are the bones that you feel when you sit on your hands. This makes it easier to straighten the pelvis. A seat wedge that office furniture and foam shops sell serves the same purpose. To help straighten the pelvis, a small pillow or a rolled up bath towel at the level of the lumbar spine can help. The trade offers such cushions z. B. also for retrofitting car seats.

It all depends on the change in posture

There is no position that can be held for hours without the muscles or the spine rebelling; this also applies to sitting. Sitting in a way that is right for the spine means changing positions and postures frequently. Be careful to avoid additional mistakes. It starts with the seat height; both feet must be able to stand securely on the ground. If the seat is too low, the thighs will be raised too far. This causes the pelvis to tilt back even further and the back becomes rounder. This is how you promote a posture of rest which is stressful for the spine. If the legs cannot be properly placed under the table, this also prevents an ergonomic sitting posture.

The table height must also be right. The finer the work, the higher the table should be. Jobs that require more force require a lower work surface. If it is too high, the body compensates for this by lifting the shoulders. This tenses the neck muscles and headaches can occur. A level table causes us to take our heads too far forward when reading. The spine adapts to this posture. The pelvis tilts back and the spine is more stressed. That is why it makes sense to tilt the work surface when writing, drawing, painting and reading. So we can keep our heads upright. Drawing tables with a tilting device or inclined book supports for reading promote a relaxed posture.

Bend over correctly, your back delighted

The more upright our spine is, the less it is stressed when it is carried. A round or angled back, on the other hand, is more stressed (see illustration). Loads should be distributed as evenly as possible so as not to load the spine asymmetrically. So don't travel with one big suitcase, it's better to take two smaller ones. When lifting, you should pay attention to the following points:
  • The legs are at least hip-width apart in a secure stance, the back is straight. Push the lumbar vertebrae forward slightly and keep your head perpendicular to the spine. Keep your heels on the ground while your knees are bent.
  • Do not move your spine while lifting.
  • Do not hold loads away from your body, but as close as possible to your body.
  • Protect your spine by actively tensing your pelvic floor, abdominal and back muscles.
  • Lift slowly - don't tear.
  • Avoid heavy loads. Better to go twice than to drag it all at once.

Feet influence posture

Our shoes, which are more fashion-conscious than health-conscious, force the foot muscles into a constrained position. The foot muscles atrophy and the musculoskeletal system is put under unfavorable strain from the ankle to the spine. With regular and targeted gymnastics, however, the foot muscles can be trained and the rolling movement of the foot trained. As a result, the joints can better absorb shocks while running and minimize the strain on the spine and hip joints. We can also relieve the spine with the right footwear. Soles that are too hard transmit the shock when stepping over the leg and into the spine. In addition, the shoes should be adapted as precisely as possible to the shape of the foot. Ergonomic shoes are wide at the front so that the toes are not pushed outwards and offer enough space above the instep to actively develop the arch of the foot.

Think of your back even when you are lying down

People spend at least a third of their lives in bed. Both a correct position and the choice of sleeping place are therefore of the utmost importance. The muscles relax during sleep and the natural protection of the spine is removed. It is therefore important that the spine is correctly positioned, i.e. that it maintains its physiological shape.

When lying on your side, your spine should be roughly in a straight line with your head. The pillow must not be too high or too low, so that there is no kink in the cervical spine. The mattress and slatted frame must allow the protruding shoulder and the pelvis to sink in evenly. The spine must not sag. If you have pain next to your sacrum and problems with your lumbar vertebrae, you can put a pillow between your knees in the side position. This relieves the vertebrae, which are otherwise more stressed by crossing the leg above.

In the supine position, it is important that the spine can maintain its natural curvature. Here, too, it depends on the correct height of the pillow. Two pillows tend to bend the cervical spine too much, and without a head cushion it is hyperextended. It is advisable to support the cervical vertebrae with a bolster or a small pillow. If you have problems with your lumbar spine, you can put a large pillow under your knees to relieve the lumbar vertebrae. The prone position usually hyperextends the cervical and lumbar spine. Belly sleepers should therefore not put the pillow under their head but under their stomach so that the back muscles can relax.

You should spare your spine that

In everyday life, make sure not to overextend your head and neck. This always happens when the point of view is above eye level, e.g. B. in the cinema in the front row. You can only counteract this by aligning the whole body with the point of view; to do this, the pelvis must be pushed far forward. In the cinema chair you would have to take a semi-recumbent position and support it with a large cushion. It is better to avoid such situations and rather to spend a little more for a cinema seat in the lower tiers.

Working above eye level is also problematic. During such activities, the body is leaned far back and the lumbar spine is increasingly stressed, e.g. B. when placing an object on a high shelf. Here the working height should be adjusted using a ladder or step. In all activities in which the arms are kept above eye level, care must be taken to keep the elbows close together. A wide elbow position causes the shoulder blades to rotate and the shoulders to rise, so that the neck muscles become tense. Make sure that your thumbs are up when you lift your arms. Do not store heavy objects above eye level or on the floor. It is better to place the basket with wet laundry on a chair while hanging it up to avoid having to bend over too often.

Always work in front of your body

It is best if the work area is always in front of the body and not offset to the side. This prevents the head and upper body from being twisted. This is because the muscles that protect the particularly flexible sections of the spine from overstretching can become tense. In addition, excessive over-rotation impair the stability of the spine and can cause so-called lumbago. Therefore, keep your shoulders and pelvis as parallel as possible during all work. A swivel chair can be helpful here.

All activities in which the upper body is leaning forward, such as ironing, are also unfavorable. Such work significantly increases the pressure on the intervertebral discs. When one foot is placed on a small step, auxiliary muscles relieve the lumbar spine. When ironing, it makes sense to alternately support one foot on a small stool that you place under the ironing board. The sinks, which are usually too deep, also ensure an unhealthy posture. As a rule, they are set into the work surface and are therefore much too low. You should therefore plan a higher sink when installing the kitchen. If you still feel tense at work, it is better to take breaks in between to relax your muscles.

Avoid incorrect movements - also when doing sports

In sport, the most important thing is to avoid incorrect movements. Jerky exercises and extreme postures in particular are harmful to the spine and intervertebral discs. Rotational movements, especially bending the upper body forward, as well as torso, pelvic and head circles, create shear forces that place additional stress on the spine. You should therefore replace all forms of exercise and movements that cause strong curvature or twisting of the spine with exercises that stabilize the core and are gentle on the spine. One of the most well-known incorrect movements is z. B. the "jackknife", in which the stretched legs are quickly moved up and down against gravity and the lumbar area is strongly curved.

Of course, it will not always be possible to take an optimal position in every situation - whether during sport or in everyday life. But if you consciously pay attention to your posture, you can do a lot and effectively prevent damage.

EDER, M .; TILSCHER, H .: You and your spine. Maudrich-Verlag, 5th edition, Vienna 1995FLEIƟ, O .: Our vertebral column. Kneipp, Leoben 1988
KNEBEL, K.P .: Functional gymnastics. Stretching, strengthening, relaxing. Rowohlt, Hamburg 1985
KREUZRIEGLER, F .; GOLLNER, E .: Anti-Osteoporosis Training. Gesundheits-Dialog Verlag, 3rd edition, Oberhaching 1994
MICHLER, P .; GRASS, M .: Gymnastics - but right! Self-published, 4th edition, Hard 1996

Source: Wurm, H .: UGB-Forum 3/98, pp. 159-162

This article is taken from the UGB archive.

We would like to point out that the content may have to be re-evaluated due to new scientific findings.