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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Crunches, curls and sit-ups may be standard workout fare in gyms, basements and living rooms across the land.
But the authors of a new book suggest people get plenty of that movement in their daily lives. They say to get a really strong midsection the back of the body needs to be worked.
"Sitting at desks, working on computers, waiting in traffic, we are continually contracting our abs, throwing our shoulders forward and, ultimately, shutting down the back of the body, said Dr. Eric Goodman, co-author with Peter Park of "Foundation: Redefine Your Core, Conquer Back Pain, and Move with Confidence."
"If we're going to keep our posture and our spines strong, it has to be done by exercising the back of the body as the core of the body," explained Goodman, a chiropractor based in Santa Barbara, California.
The exercises illustrated in the book require no machines or equipment and take the spine as the body's center of stability. In the signature, or founder exercise, knees are bent over ankles, the body hinges from the hip joint, and movement originates in the pelvis, hips and hip joints.
"You're sticking your butt out on everything," explained Park, a trainer and owner of Platinum Fitness gyms, said. "We're aiming for the posterior chain."
Park is cycling great Lance Armstrong's strength and conditioning coach. The seven-time Tour de France winner wrote the forward for the book.
"Lance needed it more than anybody," Park said of the workout. "It opened him up. (With his) rounded back, rounded shoulders he almost looked funny off the bike."
The exercises are designed to augment, rather than replace, a regular fitness regime, Goodman said.
"We don't want people to stop doing yoga or Pilates. If you're currently doing cardio or other training just add foundation to it," Goodman said. "If you're doing it properly, 20 minutes is plenty. It's hard."
Neal Pire, spokesperson for the American College of Sports Medicine, said the concept of "hinging" or loading the posterior chain while maintaining neutral spine is mainstream, but he's never seen a book entirely devoted to it.
"Extension is key, because we do indeed live in a flexed state," he said, adding that if the public perception is that abs are the core, the public is mistaken.
"The core involves two sets of muscles: deep muscles whose roles are primarily stabilizing the spine, or more generally the trunk, and shallower muscles whose primary role is movement," Pire explained.
Goodman advocates a four-to-one ratio of back-to-front training.
"For every four exercises you do for the back of the body, you get to do one for the front. I think that's the opposite of what most people are doing."
Park said too many workouts reinforce sedentary postures.
"You see a guy who is sedentary all day go to the gym, do bench presses and ride on a bike. He's reinforcing what he did all day," said Park.
"We're trying to bring everyone back to the center, where they should be. I think this is the missing link."