Minor Ache or Major Problem? 6 Symptoms Exercisers Should Pay Attention To
Symptom: An Aching Back
Scenario: The ab workout you started doing is giving you a six-pack -- and also nagging back pain.
Your downplay: It's just new-program pangs; eventually it'll go away.
Doctors' double-take: Your routine could be developing your abdominal muscles unevenly, says Marty Jaramillo, owner of New York City-based I.C.E. Sports Therapy and a FITNESS advisory board member. There's been an explosion of core conditioning classes, but in trying to meet their clients' demands, many instructors overemphasize belly busting. The result: The side and back muscles, which secure and stabilize the spine, become weak. "The imbalance feeds on itself," Jaramillo explains. "You compensate by using the stronger muscles in front more, and the situation spirals until you end up injured."
What to do: A lot of things can cause back pain, so take a close look at your workout: Generally, you should be spending the same amount of time -- that is, doing an equal number of sets and reps -- on the front, back, and sides of your core. If you have been too ab-focused, Jaramillo recommends trying the plank and its variations to work your sides and obliques. Crunches that have an element of rotation will also work your obliques. (You don't have to stop doing crunches unless you have significant pain.) It should take six to eight weeks for your core to even out; when it does, "you'll see your balance, posture, stamina, and endurance improve too," Jaramillo adds.
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