Chasing elk takes a strong will. Packing them out, takes an even stronger back.
As soon as I stepped out of bed, the pain shot down my right butt-cheek and into my leg. I didn’t know it then, but an MRI would show my little skiing adventure in Idaho had herniated one of the discs in my back, L5-S1 to be precise. I wondered how I would pick up my 3-year-old. At only 35, I wondered if I would ever pack out an elk again.
The neurosurgeon explained that a microdisectomy would remove the sliver of disc giving me so much pain. I made the date for the knife, but the day never came. Slowly, more like glacially, I healed without surgery. It still nags, but I don’t walk like Quasimodo anymore. Working with a physical therapist, I strengthened and stretched my core. I even started doing, dare I say, yoga. But I watch SportsCenter while I stretch, so it’s okay.
My office job and two young kids had turned my once-active lifestyle more sedentary. As a result, my core had gotten weak. My injury was never a matter of if, but when. The bottom line is that nearly all of you reading this will have, have had or currently have back pain. It may last two days; it might last a lifetime.
Even if you don’t have back pain, it never hurts to have a strong core. Having strong muscles in the back, stomach and even hips will help prevent injury whether you’re shoveling the sidewalk or packing out an elk. Please note, I am not a physician—just a guy with a bad back. Check with your doctor before trying out any new exercise routine.
The exercises below are a few that have helped me get stronger and keep the surgeon’s knife at bay for now. They seem simple enough, and at first they are. You can always find ways to make the exercises more difficult, as we will show you. So roll off the couch and see if you can hold these poses through an entire commercial.
Plank (with leg raise)
As the photo suggests, keep your feet shoulder-width apart. Tighten your butt and stomach muscles. Lift your body up by toes and elbows. Don’t get your butt too high or too low. That’s cheating. Breathe normally. When you can hold this pose for at least 30 seconds, lift up one leg at a time and hold for two seconds. This gets your entire core, glutes and shoulders.
Side plank (with leg raise)
This exercise works every muscle that faces the floor, including the obliques, and transverse abdominus in your stomach as well as hips, glutes and legs. Lie on your side and push up, keeping all the weight on your elbow. Flex your lats and squeeze your abs and butt. Hold this for 30 seconds, then start raising a leg for more intensity.
Bridge (with leg extension)
Whereas the first two exercises worked the entire torso, this one targets your lower back, glutes and even quads. Lie on your back with knees bent. Tighten abs, flatten back, press your feet to the floor and raise your hips. Too easy? Squeeze your butt and try to straighten one leg and alternate for 12 reps.