I think we've all experienced low back pain at some point in our lives. I for one (even as a fitness instructor) used to tweak my back allll the time. Until I learned how to breathe properly and how to activate my pelvic floor correctly. Since then, I haven't tweaked my back even once! I'm not saying this to brag. I'm saying this because I want you to understand WHY. Let's dive in...
Let me start by saying that it is not solely the job of the pelvic floor to prevent back pain. There are other muscle groups at play here as well. But strengthening these other muscle groups actually becomes EASIER once the pelvic floor is firing correctly. I've said it before and I'll say it again: "It's all connected!" Strengthening the three muscle groups listed below (as well as the pelvic floor) is the absolute magic sauce for banishing lower back pain for good. (If you've yet to download my free pelvic floor 101 training, you can get that by clicking here).
Ever been told to "strengthen your core" in order to fix your low back issues? This advice is a little bit vague. Think of your core as being like a pressure canister: pelvic floor on bottom, transverse abdominals (TA) and obliques on the sides, rectus abdominals (6 pack abs) on top. Strengthening only your 6 pack abs by doing things like crunches and sit ups and the 100s, series of 5 etc is a bit like trying to build the 2nd floor of the house before you've laid the foundation (pelvic floor) or even the 1st floor (TA and obliques). We would never do that!
So first of all, if you've been told to "strengthen your core to fix your back", stop doing crunches and sit ups and start by strengthening your pelvic floor and TA. The Transverse Abdominals are one of the KEY muscles for STABILIZING the spine. The Rectus Abdominis (6 pack abs), are MOVERS of the spine, not stabilizers.
Key #1 for preventing lower back pain is making sure that your TA is firing correctly (which is much easier if the pelvic floor is firing correctly also). Your TAs wrap around your entire torso like a corset. I like to think about tying your shoelaces tight around your waist. (Click here for an info video. And click here for some TA exercise examples).
Key #2: The glutes are another incredibly important muscle group for preventing lower back pain. Once again we have stabilizers and movers. The glute med (think side lying clams and side leg lifts) are your stabilizers while the glute max (think glute bridges, squats and dead lifts) are the movers. The glute max is also the largest muscle in the body so requires a lot of attention to stay strong. Without proper stabilization the pelvis will have excessive movement. Your sacrum sits in your pelvis, (which is the base of your spine). So, if your base is unstable it will make your spine unstable, causing lower back pain. (Click here for some of my favorite beginner glute exercises)
Key #3: Have you ever been told to "draw your shoulder blades down your back"..? The muscle that does that is your latissimus dorsi (lats). Your lats attach to a big fascial band across your lower back. (Your TAs also attach onto this band.) When the lats contract, they pull on this band, providing tension to help stabilize your spine, thus preventing lower back pain episodes. (Click here for one of my reformer favs, but using the theraband instead)
All of these 3 muscle groups are things we work on in Phase 1 of the Mama Method. If you are also working on things like diastasis and/or prolapse, these symptoms require more time, but leaking and low back pain are typically symptoms that can be resolved quite quickly and Phase 1 aims to do just that.
Once you get these three key muscle groups firing correctly, you'll be amazed at how great your lower back feels!