Get Strong: It's Time for Another Fitness Challenge
Last month I introduced my monthly fitness challenge, explaining my "inspiration" and why I think it's so important to do strength work ESPECIALLY as we age. (You can read all about that here.)
How did you do?
I hope you've made a habit of doing simple body weight squats all day long, and that by now you're sitting and standing - hands free - with ease! (And if your answer is Not Yet . . . well. I encourage you to start today!)
Keep doing it!
And add this . . .
Challenge #2: Stretch your hamstrings, activate those glutes . . . and spare your back just by changing the way you bend over.
Okay. It turns out that most people in the US bend over in a way that is not "friendly" to our backs. (It's apparently a cultural thing.) Try this: Drop something on the floor. Now bend over to pick it up.
Did you look down at the object . . . and then bend over at your waist to pick it up? That's how most people in the US move when they need to bend over and do . . . whatever. Pick something up off the floor. Pull a weed in the garden. Tie their shoe. Etc. But. . . bending over at the waist like that is not good for our lower backs! Bending at the waist puts our bodies into a "C" position (curving like the letter C), which puts stress on our spines.
There's a better - and more back-friendly - way to bend over. It's called a "table bend" - or a hip hinge. When we hinge at the hips (instead of at our waist), our backs can stay straight in a neutral position, which takes the pressue off our spines. The "work" in a table bend comes from our hip joints (which are designed for this kind of motion), and it gives our hamstrings and glutes a nice little workout besides.
Here is an interesting article from NPR explaining the "C" bend vs. the "table" bend -- with a great little video demo-ing the correct way to hinge at the hip when you pick something up off the floor.
As a regular practicer of yoga for many years, I have develped a very flexible spine. I'm able to bend forward at the waist comfortably, and my back is strong and supple. But when I started working with a personal trainer a few years ago, he had me switch to the hip hinge right away - for just everyday bending over and as a strong base for weight training. I've been doing it ever since. There's nothing wrong with the spinal flexion moves in yoga (in fact, they provide excellent benefits), but when it comes to everyday bending over, the hip hinge is the best option.
A strong, healthy back is key to easy (easier?) movement as we age. Besides sparing our backs, hip hinges help strengthen our core -- which helps reduce back pain, improves our balance, and allows us better flexion, extension, and rotation of our bodies. And . . . it just feels better.
So my challenge to you this month is . . . to watch the very quick video demo of the hip hinge (or "table" bend) that I linked above. And then . . . practice it every time you need to bend over. Like last month, you don't need to set aside a special workout time for this. You just need to . . . pick something up off the floor!
It won't take long for you to develop this new, bending over habit.
It feels good -- and it's easy.
Just think how much stronger your core and leg muscles are getting -- now that you're doing body weight squats every day (because you are, aren't you?) AND stretching your hamstrings and working your glutes . . . all while saving your back!
(Future You is feeling better every day.)
OK, I tried it! This is going to take a bit more conscious effort and practice than body weight squats, but it is more comfortable for my back. John may laugh as I "find my fig leaf" but I'll do it.
Posted by: Bonny | 11/18/2021 at 08:10 AM
Sherman wants to know how can he be incorporated in this one! He so loves being part of standing up hands free (around him! LOL)
Seriously though, I am going to actively think about this when I get things out of the dryer... Cashew me Be Gone! :)
Posted by: Kat | 11/18/2021 at 08:15 AM
Oh yeah - this is how I bend already and I never knew it was a good thing or had a name. I have really noticed myself paying attention to how I get up from sitting so these challenges are a great idea. Thanks!
Posted by: Juliann | 11/18/2021 at 09:08 AM
I've noticed while trying this pose that your gluts are forced into action. This is a great, easy to incorporate way to bend! Thanks, Kym.
Posted by: Margene | 11/18/2021 at 09:55 AM
Thanks for another great tip! I have been doing it wrong, but now I will practice the table bend!
Posted by: Debshepknits | 11/18/2021 at 11:01 AM
I do childcare in my home and am continually bending to pick things up off of the floor. Hip hinge will become a part of my daily concious movement! Thanks!
Posted by: Mary | 11/18/2021 at 11:19 AM
This was the way I was taught to bend to pick something up or to pick up a person from a wheelchair when I worked as an aide in a nursing home when I was in high school! They called it "the nurses' lift"! I know it saved me from chronic back problems!
Posted by: Debbie | 11/18/2021 at 11:31 AM
I read this and forgot to leave a comment! But I want you to know that when I dropped the soap in the shower this morning . . . I hinged from the hips to pick it up! LOL
Posted by: Carole | 11/18/2021 at 11:37 AM
This is a great tip! As Kat says, Cashew Me Be Gone!! Thanks for sharing Kym. It really does feel better to bend this way, so hopefully it will be easy to remember.
Posted by: Vera | 11/18/2021 at 12:11 PM
I am! I am! I've been doing my body weight squats since you encouraged them and I can tell the difference already. I was afraid you thought you really were being a "pain in the ass" and so weren't going to write any more tips. Nope nope nope: you're a kick in the ass. Thanks!
Posted by: Karel | 11/18/2021 at 12:45 PM
I am happy to say ................I am a HIP HINGER!
The rest of my body may go to hell in a handbasket, but my hips and back will be okay. Well, as okay as a 66 year old back can be.
Posted by: Dee | 11/18/2021 at 07:47 PM
I'd like to think I am better about bending and flexing and picking things up correctly, but I've never thought about it too much. Now I'm going to have your voice in my head talking to me every time I do it! (I'm starting to think you just want to take over my inner monologue -- I already hear you every time I sit in a chair or get up without using my hands!)
Posted by: Sarah | 11/19/2021 at 08:03 AM
You are doing excellent work here. I've always found the cue "move your butt back towards the wall behind you" helpful too.
Posted by: Claudia | 11/19/2021 at 08:57 AM
Re: the daily squats. My knees prevent me from doing those -- getting to my feet and beginning to sit down are painful in the knees. Yes, those knees that are gonna get replaced. The sitting to standing without using hands is one of the exercises prescribed for my lower back pain, and a couple-few years ago I could do them more or less easily. I.Will.Get.Back.To.Them when I have brand new knees. (Note to self: make the damned call to the ortho!)
Posted by: kmkat | 11/22/2021 at 04:00 PM