Core Muscles, The Big Mans Natural Back Brace

As a professional basketball player overseas I enjoyed a 12 year career playing in beautiful locations around the world including Spain, Portugal, Japan, and Italy. I consider myself one of the lucky few who got the chance to have such an awesome experience. So many ballers finish their career after high school or college and never get the opportunity to get paid to play a game!

However, it almost never happened. Half way through my rookie season fresh out of Indiana University I injured my low back. I was turning to sprint down the court after a rebound and ‘Zing!’ I felt a shooting pain go down the back of my left leg. I crumpled to the floor as I felt my low back give out on me. Subsequent exams showed I had developed several bulged discs in my lumbar spine and at the ripe old age of 22 I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease (DDD).

DDD is a degenerative condition of the intra vertebral discs that causes varying levels of pain and discomfort. This disc degeneration is a natural part of the aging process and over time all people will exhibit some form of change in the disc.

But because of the high level of forces and compression that playing the game of basketball can put on our bodies and especially our vertebral discs, many young players suffer varying forms and degrees of back pain. For me, it was a continuous fight to maintain my level of back health to complete 12 years of pro ball!

Because DDD is basically a chronic condition that never truly goes away, I had to religiously train and strengthen my body to effectively support and stabilize my weakened lumbar spine. In the early years, unknowingly, I even began using a back brace. In the beginning it was helpful in giving me the support and confidence to get back on the floor and play. The problem came later when my body became dependent on it because it had lost its own proprioceptive ability.

Proprioception is our bodies unconscious sense about information regarding the location, movement and posture of our bodies in physical space. Sensory receptors in our joints, muscles, and tendons send signals to our brains that let us know where we are in terms of everything around us and under our feet. Essentially we lose all movement, balance and stability when we lose our proprioception.

This is exactly what happens when we rely too much on braces for our backs or ankles. These devices ‘soften’ our proprioceptive sense and turn off many of the signals that support and balance our joints.

This is the problem that many athletes and trainers have to be aware of and the entire idea behind PREVENTITIVE TRAINING AND REHAB. If my training through high school and college had focused more on the core stabilizing techniques that I had learned over the years, my body would have been more prepared to endure the rigors of the game and avoid ever developing DDD in the first place.

So for every young ‘big man’ out there working to improve it is crucial that you include in your program the proper core training exercises that will be your ‘natural back brace’ and keep you healthy and strong for a long and successful career!

Here are 4 ‘cant do without’ core building exercises that you can start using in your workouts today.

  1. Single Leg Posterior/Anterior Reaches
  2. Push Up Crawl
  3. Quadruped
  4. Side Raises

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