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This 8-Minute Workout Eased My Aching Lower Back

A skeptical sports writer tries Elev8d Fitness and redefines his notions of exercise and posture

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My workouts have always been perfunctory: I was committed, but that didn’t mean I loved it. I’d log a few miles on an elliptical machine and lift weights with my legs, arms, and chest. I did situps and side-ups and exercises for my back while on my stomach. I enjoyed none of this. I simply liked the way I felt when I was done.

But recently, I was challenged to try Elev8d Fitness, the new home workout program from the experts at Sonima. It was presented as an alignment-based fitness method, which I found interesting. I sit at a desk all day and don’t have great posture as a result. After years of playing tennis, my back is out of whack and I am constantly battling aches and discomfort. To be honest, I never thought there was much I could do about it.

When I first perused the Elev8d Fitness workout library, I was immediately skeptical. For one, the videos looked so simple and easy. Why would I even bother doing this, I wondered? The low-intensity moves seemed unlikely to do what I wanted most: protect my back from injury, let alone burn calories and build muscle.

Related: This New Fitness Method Promotes Faster Weight Loss

The Elev8d Fitness method is simple and brief, and that looked great, at least in terms of saving time. But mostly this gave me doubts. What could this possibly do for me in 8 minutes or 16 minutes? I figured I wouldn’t even sweat.

Well, I was wrong. So wrong. Alignment, I have learned, is a magic bullet. Because my shoulders were rounded forward and my pelvis was tucked under, my lower back was taking on a lot more work. This C-curve in my spine was, essentially, a disconnect in my musculature, keeping me from working out my whole body at once. My activities at the gym were only working out parts, rather than the whole because I was misaligned, which I, now, understand is an inefficient way to condition the body. When you align the body, all the muscles work together and it exponentially increases caloric burn. With my Elev8d Fitness exercises, I’m engaging 100 percent of my muscles because my body isn’t limited by bad posture.

The exercises are sequenced to activate the body, namely the shoulders, spine, and hips. Once those sections of the body are fired-up and aligned, the functionality cascades into the arms and legs.

Related: Hip Flexor 101: Total Body Alignment

My body, I’ve learned, should be able to move in all the ways it did when I was a kid. This initially seemed like a revolutionary idea, but why? How had I lost range of motion in all my joints? Somewhere in the path to adulthood and older age, I had stopped moving my body in all the different ways it was designed to move. And then my body had settled into this misaligned position.

By activating previously sleeping muscles with Elev8d Fitness, I am teaching my body how to be functional again; how to really move. Each diverse exercise is designed to reposition the musculature and joints. Take the Airbench, for example. This exercise requires me to stand with my back against the wall. Then, I slide my rear down on the wall until I get down to a sitting position, as if I am on a chair. My back has to stay straight on the wall, which fires my hips and pulls my shoulders back and together. Conversely, if I did this exercises incorrectly and hunch my shoulders and tuck my hips, my lower back takes the workload. By straightening my back, my hips have no choice but to spring into action.

Once my hips are activated, I move into Elev8d Stair Crabs. For that, you put your hands on a low bench, then climb up one leg at a time while staying in a squat (you look a bit like a catcher in baseball when you finish). I don’t have a low table or bench, so I do this on my living room couch. It works perfectly and I can feel pressure building in my hips and legs.

For the Deliberate Burpees, I spread my feet wide and place my hands down in front of them, then leap back into a push up with my legs at length. Hold that, then return, and then jump straight up with my arms fully extended overhead. The key here is to keep my shoulder blades pinned together the whole time, which requires a reset at every position. This emphasis on form completely changes the quality of the exercise for me. I don’t feel like I’m beating my body up, like the old days. It actually feels good, like my whole body is connected. And although it’s slow and deliberate, this one makes you sweat the most.

My first workouts were bit humbling because seemingly simple exercises showed me how weak some of my unused muscles were, and how much work I had left to do. Remember, what I said about this being easy? That couldn’t have been further from the truth. I am usually working up a sweat by the end of the first minute. The full 8-minute workouts leave me panting. But by day three, however, I was moving through the exercises with confidence. More importantly, I could feel a new sensation in my back—and it was a good sensation, not pain. It doesn’t seem to matter that I can’t do these exercises perfectly. Am I standing up straighter? I think so (and it’s early in the process, too). The better I get, it seems, the better the results are.

Essay by Tom Perrotta
Originally published on November 13, 2017

Better Back Workout

Try this 8-minute workout for a better back and see for yourself the transformative effect of alignment and low-intensity interval training.

Stork Walks

  1. In a standing position, extend your arms directly in front of you, palms down.
  2. Lift your knees to your arms, alternating legs and keeping your torso straight.

Side Unders

  1. Construct a line to go under at waist-height, such as draping a belt across the backs of two chairs about three feet apart.
  2. Stand sideways at that line, squat with most of your weight loaded on the outside leg, and reach the inside leg under the line to the other side.
  3. Switch your weight to the leg on the other side and transfer your body to the other side, your torso bent, your head down. It is okay to use your hands to keep balance.
  4. Repeat exercise back to original side.

Table Pull-Ups

  1. Lie flat on your back with your head under a sturdy, heavy table, your knees bent and feet on the floor.
  2. Grab the table with both hands and pull yourself up, repeating the process for the allotted amount of time.
  3. For a more strenuous exercise, keep your legs straight.

Inch Worm

  1. In a standing position, bend at the hips, keeping the legs straight, and walk your hands forward into the plank position.
  2. Lower your legs and hips without touching the floor, lift your head and chest and pull your shoulders back, pinching your shoulder blades together.
  3. Release your shoulder blades, pike your hips into a downward dog position, pull your hips back and walk your feet in, keeping your hands on the ground as much as possible.
  4. Repeat process for allotted amount of time.

Repeat the Table Pull-Ups exercise (see above).

Superman to Starfish

  1. Lie on your stomach, your legs extended directly behind you, your arms extended directly in front, hands open, palms down.
  2. Lift your hands and feet as high as you can off the ground, hold for a second, and ease them back down.
  3. Spread your arms and legs wide and lift your hands and feet off the ground as high as you can, hold for a second, and ease them back down.
  4. Slide your arms and legs in, back to the original position, and repeat the exercise for the allotted amount of time.

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