Conquering Back Pain With Foundation Training
Eight out of every ten people suffer from some form of back pain. Much of that back pain is attributed to poor posture and weak muscles due to the sedentary nature of our modern lifestyle. As a full-time desk jockey, I’ve had my share of back pain over the years and a search for remedies led me to Foundation Training. Does it live up to the hype? Let’s find out!
Rather than focusing on the beach bod muscles everyone knows and loves, Dr. Goodman’s work is focused instead on strengthening the large muscles of the posterior chain – the back, glutes, and hamstrings. The emphasis in Foundation Training is on hinging at the hips rather than the spine. According to his bio, his work stems from his own battles with chronic back pain and a strong desire to avoid the surgery that had been recommended to temporarily alleviate it. This book lays out his theories on proper movement as well as the exercises he developed to lengthen and strengthen the muscles of the posterior chain.
The book is roughly 280 pages, laid out as follows:
There is no index, but the table of context does explicitly list the exact page for each exercise for easy reference. Some the exercises are repeated for the basic, intermediate, and advanced workouts but are only described fully when they are first introduced in a particular workout, so keep that in mind if you are looking up a particular posture.
The first few chapters are introductory, oriented toward educating someone who is new to movement practice about why his or her back hurts and what can be done about it. Overall, the content is very accessible and does not delve too much into scientific or anatomical jargon, although the sections describing each of the major muscle groups in the back may be more interesting to the student of anatomy and movement rather than the lay person just looking for pain relief. You can skip ahead to the exercises if your interest in this book is strictly for pain relief, although I do recommend reading up on the theory behind the exercises so you have an understanding of why the work you will be doing will help alleviate your pain.
The postures themselves are described very well, with plenty of pictures and guidelines for proper execution of the exercises as well as troubleshooting tips for common mistakes. The exercises are relatively easy to learn, but difficult to master. Anyone with at least a passing familiarity with yoga or pilates will easily be able to learn the techniques. Dr. Goodman is definitely on to something here, because consistent practice of the Foundation Training postures did in fact eliminate my back pain!
For a book and system titled “Foundation Training”, I find it odd that very little attention is paid to proper positioning of the feet. Given that the stability of all the standing postures will be directly influenced by the stability of your feet, the placement, flexibility, and strength of your feet is your true foundation. Modern footwear is designed mainly for fashion or for cushioning, not for maximal stability. Our feet adapt to our footwear whether we like it or not, and our movement adapts to our feet positions. Be mindful of your feet when you do these exercises, I fount it helpful to apply a subtle torque to my feet by rotating outward from the heel, pressing the outside of each foot into the ground while keeping the ball of my big toes firmly on the ground. This pulled my arch up and felt similar to the three-point foot position in a yogic mountain pose. When I did this properly I felt more engagement in my glutes and lower back.
The bottom line is that this stuff works! I’ve owned this book and a set of related DVDs for a couple of years now, but only just recently got serious about doing the work after tweaking my back yet again during an intense workout. After putting in a solid week of doing the basic Foundation series, my back pain subsided dramatically. After three weeks the pain was gone and my back felt stronger than ever. Three months in and my posture has improved, my strength has increased and I have more range of movement in my my shoulders and hips. If you have chronic back pain this program is definitely worth your time.
Dr. Goodman gave an excellent TED talk where he lays out his rationale for Foundation Training, it’s well worth fourteen minutes of your time.
I'm a software engineer with a full-time job, family, and a desire to stay strong, mobile, and fit. I separate fact from fiction to find the most effective and affordable options for home fitness. If you'd like to build your own home gym, start here.
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