Why good ‘Back Control’ is So Important…spine

I probably don’t talk about this as much as I should.  What I call ‘Back Control’ is one of the most important ingredients in an effective strength and conditioning program, and unfortunately, most people don’t have it.


Well, the usual reasons…

Too much sitting and a not enough exercise, especially strength training.  Your back was not designed to sit in a chair all day long.  Unfortunately, for many people, that’s exactly what they ask their back to do every day.  Over time, muscles get weak, tight, and unable to stablize the spine effectively.

The problems really start when you begin an exercise program.  Most people have no idea how truly out of shape they are when they begin.  And they are especially unaware of how inefficiently their back is moving (or not moving).

The image on the right is a perfect example of the 'sway back' I often see at the studio that is a direct result of weak abdominal muscles...

The key to all of this is your ability to maintain what is called a ‘Neutral Spinal Position.’ Put simply – all of your curves are where they are supposed to be.  Most people don’t have the strength and flexibility needed in their backs.  As a result, they cannot even come close to maintaining good positioning when they perform even basic strength and conditioning moves.

What you really want, is to strike a balance of both flexibility and functional strength levels in All of the muscles of what us fitness pros call ‘Your Trunk.’  The part of you from just below your chest, and down through to the bottom of your pelvis.  If you don’t first address the strength and conditioning of this part of your body, you set yourself up not only for failure, but possible injury.

Your transverse lies deep, underneath all of the other abdominal muscles...

One of the most important muscles in this region is known as your ‘Transverse Abdominus.’  Your God-given weight belt.  You can see it in the picture to the left.  You can see that it sits low, and I can tell you from personal experience that 100% of people don’t initially have good control of this, or any of the other muscles in their trunk when they begin an exercise program, especially if they were not athletes when younger.

Here’s what you need to do…

First, being aware of your need for good back control is essential.  Think and analyze the next time you are exercising (or even sitting) how well you are actually able to maintain that normal positioning of your spine pictured above.

Second, you absolutely MUST be able to maintain good back positioning while performing your exercise, and if you can’t, you need to lighten the load until you can.

Third, your success is all about proper progression.  So, don’t move to more advanced exercise moves (especially strength training moves) until you’re sure you have the back control necessary to support yourself while you’re doing them.  And if you’re unsure, get some help from a fitness professional.

On Friday, during my regular fitness segment with Leigh Mills on NBC in Madison, WI, I’ll be demonstrating a few moves to get you off on a good start toward more effective and efficient back control.  Be sure to tune in at 5 PM on channel 15, or check this post next week for the video archive.

By the way, anytime you hear someone refer to ‘Core Training’ what that really means is ‘Back Control.’  Personally, I think that helps you connect with the importance that this skill demands…


Walking for Exercise with my new dog “Allie…”

fitnessnomad’s Activities | RunKeeper

This is a quick post. It’s late on Christmas night and I’m tired and ready for bed.  The link above will take you to my new RunKeeper Home page (which also links with my Facebook account.  I’ve started tracking all the walking I’m getting for exercise now that we have a new puppy in the house.

Stay tuned for much more on this subject and for pictures of me and my new pup ‘Allie’ 🙂

Happy Christmas!


Personal training and health coaching success stories with John Ashworth


John Ashworth, formerly known as The Fitness Nomad delivered an extremely unique form of health coaching and personal training while running his fitness business in Madison, WI.  Below are some of the highlights from clients that transformed their health and fitness and in many cases their lives in general while working with John…

Just for Women

Jay Hazen, DDS and owner of Dentistry for Madison

Nancy Hansen, Boot Camp Superstar!

1-1 Personal Training Success with Anne

Discover The Real “Secret” To Training Harder…

I’ve found that most people skip a good warm-up prior to their strength workouts.  Yes, they might get on the treadmill and walk for 15 minutes, but very little time is spent actively engaging muscle in a way that will maximize power production during workouts.

Why is This?

Mostly I think the reason is that just like with so many other small strategies in your health and fitness program, most people underestimate the physiological impact of a good solid warm-up.  Much in the same way they underestimate the impact of a nutrition program that contains that 2 to 1 carbohydrate to protein balance I’m always talking about.  Or about how important nutrition is in general.  But I digress…

In the end, most people get on the treadmill, the bike, or the elliptical trainer, move for about 5 to 15 minutes and call it a warm-up.

Today I want to share with you a warm-up I’ve implemented in my own fitness program, and that I plan on sharing tonight on NBC 15 with Leigh Mills.  It incorporates the stability ball, and would be a perfect addition to your 5 to 15 minute warm-up walk.

Warming up on the stability ball ramps up your physiology in three very important ways:

1. Working with the ball improves the mobility of your joints.  Especially as we all get older, constant management of our joint mobilization is essential for good training.  I’ve passed the age of 41 myself and at no other time in my life have I placed so much importance on a good warm-up and cool down.  If I skip either of them my training is affected in a negative way.  Lack of either or both of these important training strategies always leads to more soreness and pain, and less effective recovery.  All of which inevitably affects my next workout and the results I gain from my training.

2. Using the stability ball also activates your stabilizer muscles.  These are all of the small muscles that you can’t see in the mirror and that work all the time to keep your spine and joints aligned as you ‘move heavy stuff’ in the gym.  Your treadmill walk doesn’t activate these muscles the way a small amount of work on the stability ball does.  All of which allows you to lift heavier.  And lifting heavier is the key to building not only strength, but two of life’s most precious assets – your muscle and bone.

3. Working with the stability ball also helps build flexibility in your muscles.  Do you remember the phrase I gave you a year or so ago in a previous segment?

That’s right, Length is strength!

Longer muscles are able to generate more force.  Longer muscles also recover more efficiently, and are less prone to injury.  It is vital to remember that all this strength work is great stuff, but that it is also shortens your muscle tissue.  If you’re not doing anything on a regular basis to lengthen your muscles, soon you may be all rolled up into a little sphere – kind of like one of those rubber band balls…

Tune in tonight on NBC 15 here in Madison, WI.  I’ll be demonstrating a short warm-up routine I created using the stability ball.  It involves about 10 different moves that can be done in one continuous string of strength and stability, and will leave you stronger than you’ve ever been for your next workout and for every workout after that if you keep it up.

If you miss the segment, tune back to this blog over the weekend and look for the archived video at the top of this post.

Have a great weekend!


PS  The Nomad Kick Start program has already sold out in April.  If you would like to lock in a spot in May, I suggest you go right now to http://www.NomadKickStart.com to lock-in your spot.  If you don’t want to wait that long, we are also currently accepting applications for our semi-private training program.  You can find more information about that program here: http://www.madisonpersonaltraining.com/semi-private-training.html

PSS Two weeks from today I will start an 8-week Yoga program that will meet on Fridays from noon to 1:30 PM every Friday.  I have one spot left in this program for the right person.  If you’re interested in this program, don’t call the studio and don’t send email.  Call me directly at my personal office at 608-663-5045.