Over the past few weeks we’ve been discussing exercises that place a lot of stress on the joints and can even cause damage. Obviously that’s counterproductive – if we’re spending time and energy to exercise we want it to be beneficial, not detrimental! Especially for firefighters who already have an injury risk that is FOUR times that of other physically demanding professions, this stuff is important to know.
Exercises that involve extreme twisting of the spine fall under this category.
This is mostly seen in abdominal exercises. I often observe people at the gym in a sit-up position aggressively thrusting a medicine ball or weight from side to side (see the picture above). Sure, you may be working your obliques a little, but you’re straining your spine a lot.
See, twisting places a kind of force on your spine that you may have heard of: Torque.
That’s right, excessive torque may be great for your Ford truck, but it’s not great for your vertebrae. It can be very damaging to the cartilage that wraps around each intervetrabal disc which exists to keep the disc in place. Each time you twist excessively, you lower the failure threshold of that cartilage. Even excessive twisting while stretching should be avoided.
Now this doesn’t mean you have to avoid twisting all-together. After all, you do have to move in a somewhat diagonal/sideways direction to work your obliques. But that can be accomplished with even a light twisting. In fact, when you over-do the twist by throwing your torso from side to side, that’s just your body making the exercise easier for you – and less effective.
Medicine ball and free weight twists can be done safely by twisting only a little and focusing on really contracting the obliques in a slow, controlled manner.
You can also sit upright, hold a resistance tube or pulley, and contract the abdominals while twisting about 45 degrees to each side.
See the picture below. Be sure you feel the exercise in your obliques to ensure you are doing it correctly.
Read the complete series here:
5 Exercises FFs Should NOT Do & What To Do Instead