Thursday, October 16, 2008

Want Back Pain? Try Pilates

Oh boy......This one is gonna stir the pot.

How pilates became so popular, I don't know. Maybe it's the pretty girls in Lycra pants that do it or the fact that you can stay in one spot for an hour and call it exercise? Or, maybe it's the list of lies and false promises??

Build long, lean muscles - LIE
Tone and burn fat - Half truth
Strengthen your back - That should be read "Possibly ruin your back"
Get strong - You cannot progressively lift a heavier weight unless you plan on gaining body weight.
Lose belly fat - Spot reduction training?? Yeah and Peter Pan is real.

The list probably goes on.

These lies are really not the problem. Most everybody uses these lies to sell fitness products and gimmicks. The big problem I have with pilates is the fact that it requires bouts of repetitive flexion. Along with that, they ask you to draw your belly button towards your spine to stabilize your back. So, not only are they asking you to perform the mechanism of disc herniation (repetitive cycles of flexion/extension) but they are asking you to do this with an inefficient way to stabilize the spine (drawing in). Really, it looks a lot like the recipe for back problems.

In fact, the next time you see an avid pilates person, take a look at their posture. Because they have gone through so many repetitions of lumbar flexion, you will notice that their rib cage is actually being drawn towards their pelvis. This is not a good thing.

Now, before all of the hate mail fills up my inbox, let me be clear. Not all things in pilates are bad. I'm not saying that. All I'm saying is that SOME things in pilates are not wise. With the amazing work that geniuses like Stuart McGill have put out, it is infant like to ignore it and say that high amounts of repetitive flexion is "okay"........or even worse, "good for you".

It's funny, when I write about the subjects of crunching, situps and spinal flexion, I get a little bit of hate mail. But even funnier (or sad), is that NOT ONE of these people have read the research. And these are the people working with other human bodies........scary!!

My friend Tom Schram (who by the way, is a very good trainer in the Seattle area) sent me a great article that sparked this post. Click here if you are interested in reading it. So all hate mail can be re-directed from my inbox to Tom's :-)