Things I’ve Learned While in Rehab

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aka My $1,500.00 Mistake.

Being in rehab has been really strange for me. For the first time in my training career I have an injury that prohibits me from doing most things since it is my low back, and in order to finally get it to heal I needed to take big step back from my normal training regimen, and work back up to things that most people take for granted, like sitting down on the toilet without pain, or being able to sleep on your stomach. Here are some of my big takeaways, and how you can save yourself a couple thousand dollars.

1) Train your core. I hate the word ‘core, and how it has come to inundate every part of training, especially the as seen on tv late night ads:
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMs-4fUZd-k]

Those are stupid. As I have come to understand it, core is the muscles surrounding your midsection right below your chest, to right above your pelvis. You may have heard that it’s different then that, but I don’t care. Close this website. Go to bodybuilding.com’s “killer kore kardio krush” I kouldn’t kare less.

The areas in question are composed primarily of your:

rectus abdominus: your abs, your six-pack etc.

Spinal errectors: just like they sound, they’re the muscles that run next to your spine.

Multifidus: a postural muscle that helps maintain correct Lumbar and Thoracic integrity. (keeps your spine from getting jacked up)

transverse abdominus: (TA) This is your built in girdle/weight belt. This wraps around the front of your midsection all the way to the back. This is important because this is what protects you from injury the majority of the time. To engage this muscle, pull your stomach in as much as possible, and tighten it.  Do that always. Walk around like that, sit like that. play sports like that, lift weights like that.
You’re welcome, that will be one thousand dollars.

I had a strong core. I was a strong guy. But I never worked on my posture or postural muscles, so when I was doing heavy squats one day, my legs were fine, but my TA couldn’t handle the increased weight and duration of the set, and when it shut down, I injured my back. simple as that.

The lesson: incorporate some sort of postural training into your workout. This can be planks, side planks, leg lifts, Russian twists, cable rotations and many others. Take your ego out of the equation, shut up, and focus on sucking your stomach in. If you can talk/breath normally, you’re doing it wrong, at least the first few times. It should burn all through the entire core area, not just the front. That’s how you know you’re doing them correctly.

2) Pick a goal and stick to it. For a while, my goal was rehab my back, and get bigger. Guess what! This backfired in a major way. For about six months. Then my goal changed to rehab my back, and get more flexible. Sounds more plausible right? Wrong! By not relegating my focus to one goal, I failed at both, and have prolonged my injury about 10 months over what it should have been. Stupid me stupid me stupid me.

For those of you who want to get big and ripped, or toned and run a triathlon, or yes, even you who want to lose weight AND eat Cheetos. Stop. Pick a goal, and work towards it. Figure out what it’s going to take to get to that goal and write it down. Make micro goals based on your major goal to help keep you in check.
Just as an aside, if your goal is to gain muscle, but you can’t bench 225 for ten reps, or squat 1.5x your body-weight for the same, stop. Change your focus to increasing your base level of strength, and the hugeness will come.

3) CARDIO MAKES YOU FAT
I’m serious about this. Deadly serious. I haven’t missed a prescribed rehab session since I have started going to physical therapy, which includes mostly postural work and low back exercises, but also includes a bonus of 30 minutes on an exercise bike. This makes my workouts roughly as long as they were before with the cardio, and I’m doing them 6 days per week, instead of the 3 I was training before I hurt myself.
In addition to this, all the core work I have been doing has given me some impressively strong abs. HOWEVER, as the days go on, I become less and less lean, and I have seen my body fat creep up from 8% to 10% over the last few months since I have stopped lifting heavy weights.

I’ll do a pro and con list for you of steady state cardio because you’re welcome.

Pros
Makes it easy to meet women who also happen to be on the treadmill
Burns a lot of calories
gives you a rush of endorphins, which make you feel good
not as much prep work to be good at SS cardio as it would take to be good at weight lifting
weight loss

Cons
Muscle breakdown from oxidative stress –> not just fat burning. Also makes you more liable to have a heart attack. I’m most definitely not kidding either.
Makes you hungry. “I just did 10 miles on the elliptical! I deserve a muffin!”
Burns fewer calories than weight lifting for the same amount of time
Changes movement patterns over time, and can cause overuse injury
Changes fast twitch muscles to slow twitch. You’re actually getting slower and weaker over time!
Increases cortisol production which increases the amount of body-fat stored.

So there it is, my top three lessons from my last few months. I hope you take them seriously, because back pain is easy to stay away from, but even easier to get if you’re not careful.

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