Welcome to PHlex Fridays! Every Friday I will be posting a new article under this column with my partners at PHlex. They may be exercises, research pieces, educational data, or just information that SusanSweats and PHlex think you absolutely must know for maintaining your healthy lifestyle.
We had a rather rainy week in NYC, and I decided to take advantage of the awesome fitness playground I have at PHlex and asked one of the physical therapists to walk me through one of the machines I love. The Roman Chair is one of my favorites for strengthening the posterior chain - but as I was informed this week - it can do so much more! Tyler Kenton, Physical Therapist on staff at PHlex Studio walked me through 4 exercises that can be done on the machine. Read on....
Bench Press Crunch
This is a great way to strengthen the Rectus abdominus or "six pack" muscle but poor form or done without supervision could excessively load the lumbar spine. Here Susan is compounding a sit up with a bench press while stabilizing her pelvis and low back with her hip flexors, obliques and abdominals, being careful not to let her low back excessively arch. If trying this on your own or without a PT or trainer, I would recommend holding the extended/flat back position and bench-pressing. Going backwards too close to the ground will shear the spine and could be a source of pain.
Oblique Crunch/Mermaid Crunch:
This exercise will absolutely shred your obliques. Most people don't realize working your "oblqiques" is actually a combination of 3 muscles - from shallow to deep, external oblique, internal oblique, and transverse abdominus. These 3 muscles form a tight connection at your side between your "six pack" and low back muscles. Plus they give tons of support to your lumbar spine and are some of the major players in core strengthening and stabilization.
Lumbar Extension/Back Extension:
Back Extensions can be friend or foe - if done correctly, again, can be great exercise for core strengthening. The main groups involved here are, you guessed it, the lumbar extensors. This involves the A) erector spinae groups, which travel from the pelvis all the way to the base of the skull, B) the "QL" or quadratus lumborum, which connects your outer pelvis to your rib cage and usually is the first to spasm when you "throw out" your back, and C) the multifidus, which in reality are a group of short muscles that attach from one vertabrae to the next for better local stability of the lumbar spine. These main three muscles form a tight wall to give posterior support to the spine - but be wary of extending too high when doing this exercise.
Russian Twist/Oblique Twist:
This is a classic exercise and another great way to get ripped obliques - the Roman Chair takes it one step farther. While the feet are locked in, Susan is stabilizing her pelvis and trunk through her hip flexors, adductors and rectus abdominus. While those muscles stabilize against gravity, she twists the medball side to side, holding the ball away from her body for a stronger oblique contraction, being careful to keep nose, chest, and belly button as inline as possible. Doing this in the Roman Chair allows for better isolation of the oblique wall and a more intense contraction for your six pack to stabilize. Working smarter works you harder.