Spinal Longevity

Human beings originally walked on all fours. Although this would seek awkward today, it is more in keeping with Nature’s structural design for our bodies, and provided better support for the backs of our ancestors than our modern-day erect posture does for our backs.

As a result of our shift in posture to the vertical, stand-up position, gravitational forces are no longer distributed evenly among the 24 vertebra of our spinal column, as they are in four-footed animals whose spine assumes a more parallel position with the ground.

Spinal Malalignment

When your spine is upright, the 24 vertebra, which are positioned one on top of each other, are compressed due to the force of gravity. Vertebra are small bones that are unconnected, unlike our long bones which have structural connections. The 24 vertebra are interspaced with pads of cartilage called intervertebral disks.

Intervertebral disks are much softer than their bony neighbors. They are also under constant pressure when our torsos are upright, such as when we sit, stand, walk, or run, and under even more pressure when we engage in sports, recreational activities, work, travel, or exercise. As a result, spinal malalignment of both our vertebra and intervertebral disks has become a common modern-day malady.

Spinal malalignment is especially common in individuals with weak midsection muscles. These muscles, which include the abdominals, obliques, and lumbar erectors, surround and support the entire lumbar vertebra region and the lower portion of the thoracic vertebra region of the spine. When these muscles become weak or out of condition, they fail to provide adequate spinal support, which allows our delicate column of bones and discs to get out of alignment.

Your Most Vulnerable Area

When analyzing your entire spinal column, the most vulnerable area for ailments is the lower, or lumber region of the spine. Anatomically speaking, your body has its least support in this area. Only five little free-moving bones make up the bony connection between the lower body and upper body. Referred to as the “Lumbar Vertebra”, these five bones are the largest vertebra in your spinal column. Their weakness is due to the fact that they act independently of other bones…in short, they are not connected to, or surrounded by, any other bony matter.

By studying a skeletal diagram (Chart A), you can see that your chest, shoulders, mid-to-upper back and arms are strongly supported by your ribs, sternum, clavicle, scapulas, humerus’, radius’, and ulnas. Similarly, on the lower half of your body, your buttocks, hips, and legs also have a great deal of support from the bones of your pelvis, sacrum, femurs, tibias, and fibulas.

When we view the human skeleton from a side angle (Chart B), we see that the frontal and lateral sides of your abdomen are completely absent of bony matter. This area begins at the bottom tip of the sternum and descends to the anterior/superior ridge of the pelvis and is often referred to as the abdominal cavity (with “abdominal” referring to its location and surrounding muscles and “cavity” referring to the fact that it is empty of bone).

The abdominal cavity is Mother Nature’s provision for the expansion of the stomach and intestine after food consumption in both sexes, and for pregnancy in women. If connecting bones surrounded the stomach, we would have difficulty in eating a heavy meal, and women would be unable to give birth to a normal-sized child.

When observing the front and rear sides of the midsection together (Chart A), we find that the lower spine has its own axis on top of the sacrum. The torso and upper body bend, twist and pivot from this median, which make the midsection muscles solely responsible for these actions. This region is often referred to as the “small of the back”. It is a bulls-eye for ailments caused by spinal misalignment.

Chart A

Chart B

A Common Affliction

Back pain caused by excessive stress on the spine is one of the most common afflictions of modern life. Almost everyone has experienced short, acute periods of back pain, which can vary from minor discomfort to excruciating agony. Chronic back pain that lasts for weeks, months, or years can destroy the quality of a person’s life and ruin his or her career.

Back ailments are common among competitive athletes who have strong, well-conditioned bodies, because they put their bodies under enormous stress that often causes breakdowns that do not always heal or that cannot be repaired. Basketball player Larry Bird is one example of an athlete whose career was cut short by chronic pain resulting from the constant pounding of competition at the highest level.

Non-athletes don’t put their bodies under nearly the kind of stress that competitive athletes do, but they aren’t in the kind of physical condition that athletes are in. The result is that even mild-to-moderate physical activity can throw a non-athlete’s back out of alignment. The 50-year-old who only plays tennis on an occassional weekend can easily injure his back simply by trying to hit a difficult backhand. And anyone can easily put their spine out of alignment by trying to lift a heavy object improperly.

Strengthening Your Lower Back Muscles

What then can fitness and longevity enthusiasts and competitive athletes do to prevent lower back ailments? There are two keys to preventing debilitating back pain. The first key is to strengthen the muscles that surround the spine, especially your abdominals, obliques, and lumbar erector muscles in your lower back.

Sometimes even the best conditioned athletes ignore the muscles in their midsection by concentrating strictly on leg and upper-body strength, and building up their heart muscles through aerobic exercise. As for non-athletes, it is rare for them to have the kind of strength they need in the muscles surrounding their spines.

Waist-Strengthening Exercises

Recognizing that lower-back injuries lead to shortened athletic careers and a great deal of suffering for athletes and non-athletes alike, I’ve put together a unique program to provide functional support for the torso and spine in order to prevent injury to these areas.

Prior to commencing my waist strengthening regimen, you need a complete assessment of the muscles you wish to develop. Instead of only training the waist from the front (as so many are preaching today), you should also direct your attention to your sides and lower back.

Exercises that isolate the upper and lower abs, the obliques (sides) and the lower back are all conducive to an impressive looking waist as well protection against back injuries. Since the obliques have two main functions–to bend and twist the torso–it’s important to perform exercises that incorporate these angles of contraction.

For women, the lower abs are the most common complaint. Exercises that lift the knees and legs toward the chest activate the lower abdominal muscles as well as the hips. To work the upper abdominals, crunches have made conventional situps obsolete because of their superb effectiveness, comfort, and safety. And for the lumbar muscles of the lower back, hyper-extensions are my favorite exercise, but they must be applied in a very controlled manner.

My “Waste-To-Waist” Video

It’s difficult to learn how to strengthen your waist muscles in a magazine. The regimen I’ve developed, which is unparalled is complicated and can be only be mastered effectively by watching someone go through the right exercises in the proper fashion. To help you maintain the health of your spine, I’ve developed the best abdominal training regimen in the world, which I demonstrate in my unique 45-minute video “Waste-To-Waist”.

A good example of the benefits of my waist-shaping, back protecting techniques is myself. Before I learned how to condition my waist properly–when I was in high school (see before photo)–my waist was thick and flabby. Today, at age 40, I have a firm, narrow waist, with impressive, well-developed abdominal muscles and a strong, healthy back. (see after photo).

My “Waste-To-Waist” video includes over 20 unique waistline exercises and three separate routines applied in circuits to work all muscle groups in effective sequences in order to provide benefits for the lower back, hips, legs, and buttocks as well as the waist.

The three routines are: beginners, intermediate, and advanced to enable you to work on your waist at all levels of conditioning. You can start out at the beginner level and work your way up to the advanced level, or you can stay at any level you wish.

Another feature of the video is that–prior to demonstrating the routines–I explain each exercise with graphic anatomical descriptions, and then demonstrate exactly how and when you should perform each movement. The video is designed to enable you to develop the waist of your dreams in only 6 minutes every other day!

How to Obtain My “Waste-To-Waist” Video

The retail cost of my “Waste-To-Waist” video is $24.95. Members of The Foundation can purchase it from our Life Extension Buyers Club for only $19.95. You can order this extraordinary health fitness video by calling: 1-800-841-5433, by sending a check or money order for $19.95 (plus $4) for shipping and handling) to: Life Extension Buyers Club, Box 229120, Hollywood, Florida 33022.

Supportive Belts

An effective way of protecting your spine, and your lower back in particular, is through the use of a supportive belt. For decades, weight lifters have used such belts to support themselves while lifting weights. Strength coaches like myself demand that the athletes we advise use this type of lower back support to prevent injuries and enhance performance is such events as weight lifting, shot putting, hammer throwing, and others.

The most commonly used belt among competitive Olympic Weightlifters is 4″ in width at the back and tapers to 2 1/2″ around the sides and front. By wearing such a belt, the lumbar and torso regions of these athletes are supported to hold them more upright by disallowing the rearward lean that they are prone to experience while lifting. Such supportive belts are also used in patients recovering from accidents. They are designed to support the patient’s spinal column and torso, and fill the abdominal cavity with a shield-like plate of support.

For Powerlifters (an entirely different sport), this style of belt became obsolete a long time ago because it encourages a forward torso bend for the power lifts known as the Squat and Deadlift. This is due to a “scribe-like” effect as the narrower (or tapered) section of the belt scribes into the obliques and frontal abdominals, making the lifter fold at exactly that point during a lift.

The latest advance in belt technology is a belt that measures 4 3/4″ at the small of the back to support the lumbars, tapers to 2 1/2″ on the sides to avoid rubbing against the floating ribs, then flares back out to 4 3/4″ on the frontal abdominal region. The only belt of this kind is manufactured by the Schiek Corporation and it has revolutionized the support belt industry.

Support Belts Are For Everyone

I believe the newly designed Schiek belts are highly beneficial for everyone engaged in activities that put strain on their lower back. This includes those of you who may experience back pain when standing and sitting for extended periods such as cashiers, secretaries and those who use computers frequently. The belts also are highly protective when shoveling snow, jogging, carrying your infant, doing household chores, or even walking around in a large shopping mall. All such activities subject us to gravitational stresses that contribute to back ailments.

Benefits Of The Schiek Belt

The benefits of the Schiek belt are numerous. When the belt is worn, the entire 360o circumference of your midsection is wrapped with support. At the rear, the normal lumbar curve is held in place, while the obliques and abdominals squeeze inward and upward to hold up the rib cage. This elongates and decompresses your spine, whether you’re attempting maximum resistance in the weight room or jogging around your favorite course.

Another advantage of wearing such a belt is the containment of body heat. We know that warm muscles can perform at higher and longer intensities than cold muscles, while it’s true that warm muscles are more injury resistant than cold and stiff tissues. Since activity elevates body temperature, it’s important to contain it while you are active, even if you’re standing or sitting all day.

By wearing a supportive belt, you’ll protect yourself against injury, maintain better exercise form, enhance your sports performance skills and, most important, extend the health and longevity of your spinal column.

How To Obtain The Schiek Supportive Belt

Schiek belts feature a patented shape with exclusive hip and rib contour, dual-patented lumbar and abdominal support, and easy “ON” and “OFF” Velcro closure. Schiek belts are washable and come in two colors: black and royal blue, and in five sizes: X-Small (24″ – 28″), Small (27″ – 32″), Medium (31″ – 36″), Large (35″ – 41″), and X-Large (40″ – 45″). (Larger sizes are available for an additional $15, plus extra shipping. State waist size and color preference).

write to: Life Extension Foundation, Box 229120, Hollywood, FL 33022.

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Written by John Abdo

Explore Wellness in 2021