Straighten Up – GiadaWeekly.com
Good-bye back pain, hello improved posture. Foundation Training founder Eric Goodman’s simple exercise plan gets results fast.
Good posture isn’t just for finishing-school grads and pageant contestants. Strengthening the posterior chain of muscles that allows you to stand straight and tall helps you look more vital and youthful, and is the basis of a strong and pain-free back. Anyone who has suffered through back pain will tell you there is nothing quite as debilitating. Like many chefs (and TV personalities) I spend hours on my feet, which can leave me with a sore back on occasion. So I was intrigued when I heard through the grapevine about an exercise program that not only improves your posture, but can relieve acute back pain and keep it from returning, too.
Foundation Training, a movement-training program based in California, has a bit of a cult following among elite athletes and celebrities (Lance Armstrong, Rob Lowe, and Matthew McConaughey are fans), who attest to its ability to relieve pain and improve physical performance in just a few weeks. There are Foundation trainers around the country, but founder Eric Goodman has also written an acclaimed book, Foundation: Redefine Your Core, Conquer Back Pain and Move with Confidence, which outlines his approach and includes a few basic moves. We’re excerpting it here, along with a pain- alleviating exercise that’ll have you standing tall, and with less pain, in a matter of days or weeks.
If you’ve suffered from back pain for any significant amount of time, you’ve probably absorbed an endless amount of information about the injuries and conditions that cause it, but as you also know well, no one provides a simple plan of action that works for long-lasting pain relief.
People suffering with acute back pain usually just want to lie down and rest. When you are in extreme pain, movement can be scary. You do not want to risk hurting yourself more. An acute injury may require a day or two of rest, and the hardest part of feeling better is taking the first step. Movement is challenging if you really hurt, but there’s little else that will put you on the road to wellness more quickly than moving correctly.
Often, with the intention of preventing further back injury, doctors will prescribe prolonged bed rest and limit all activities. We would not say that this is the wrong approach, but it certainly does not accelerate the healing process. Though it may seem counterintuitive, proper movement—even when you are in pain—is the most effective remedy. Extended bed rest will only make your muscles weaker, and, as you have learned, pain is the price you pay for weak muscles.
Muscle spasms cause pain, but they function as a warning sign: Something else is going wrong with your body mechanics. Back spasms are defense mechanisms; the muscles contract, protecting a deeper problem. The only way to get the muscles to relax is to move, functionally transferring the stress that is causing the injury or inflammation in your back to your posterior chain, which is built to take it, and thereby relieving the pain.
The Foundation program consists of three 2-week workouts that correspond to different levels of back pain and rehabilitation, as well as difficulty: a basic workout for acute pain, a moderate workout for chronic pain, and a more intense workout for prevention and strengthening during pain- free periods.
We created the first workout to fix your pain, with five basic exercises to develop strength and endurance. The most basic move is The Founder. The basic exercises were designed to eliminate pain quickly. Once you cross the pain bridge, you progress to building strength and reinforcing the movements. (If you do not feel a change after 2 weeks of doing the basic five, either you are doing the exercises incorrectly or you should see a doctor.)
There’s a side benefit to our training, too: Nothing makes you look more confident, fit, and energetic than good posture. When your back is straight and you hold your head high, you look as if you are ready for anything. When you slouch, with your chest concave and your shoulders up to your ears, you look stressed and negative. You don’t want to send that message.
The good news is that the most visible benefit of Foundation training is terrific posture—and you won’t even have to think about it. When your spine is properly braced, your shoulders are automatically back, your chest is high as your spine curves naturally, and your movement originates in your hips.
Once you integrate Foundation exercises into your life, you won’t have to think about posture, but here’s a tip to start: If you want to improve your posture, pull your shoulder blades down, rather than back, to accentuate the natural curve of your spine.
(Adapted from Foundation: Redefine Your Core, Conquer Back Pain, and Move with Confidence by Eric Goodman and Peter Park; learn more about Foundation Training’s 30-Day Founder Challenge and watch Eric Goodman’s TEDx talk.)
This exercise works the entire posterior chain. You are activating your glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and upper back. It is the basis for all Foundation movement, designed to teach you correct movement patterns. The Founder strengthens the deepest muscles in your spine, which hold your spine in extension. The exercise actually consists of several movements that flow from one to another.