The Posterior Chain: More Core

Good day to you, and I’m happy to see you made it here safely from that far off land known to those of us that spend too much time online – the place known as reality. Of course the escape that you are currently making is actually going to be part of your education about your own body and its amazing abilities, so in truth this is about as real as it gets. Today we will be going on a little journey that is going to tie together the last two muscle groups we have discussed in the weekly Tuesday and Thursday posts devoted to muscles. Tuesdays are all about their function, and Thursdays are for discussing the best methods of training them.

If you can recall the two muscle groups that were recently covered here in the article series #abs: The Money Muscles, and Hamstrings: Explosive Power Muscles, were the abdominal muscles that make up a good part of our core, and the hamstrings that are part of our posterior chain. Today I’m going to introduce you further to a muscle group that I touched on in the #abs series. This muscle is part of our core and part of our posterior chain. There is always a method to the madness here at MattToronto.com, it just sometimes takes a while for it to all come together.

The muscle group I am referring to is of course the Erector Spinae Muscles. This muscle group is one of the muscles that is a part of our back musculature. Our back is an amazingly intricate combination of muscle groups that all have different functions. There is no way that they all could be crammed into an article that I would be happy publishing for you to read. The readership that visits here are for the most part beyond the basics and well versed in training. As such, I feel it is my duty to help deepen your knowledge. This is all a long way of saying that it will be a few weeks before I can declare the back to be completely covered in good conscience. Saying that, the time spent will be well worth it as the result will be an incredible amount of valuable information that will likely benefit all of us in our training. I believe that the thorough examination of all that the back musculature has to offer is in our best interests, and well worth the patience required to get the whole story.

Whether kineseology is your thing or not, this next bit needs to be said for this to be a complete look at this muscle group. If a lot of scientific sounding names is not your idea of a good time, then I suggest you approach the next four paragraphs in the following manner; pretend this is like the medicine you were forced to take when you were a kid. It tasted terrible, but it made you better because you got it down. Do you see the comparison I’m trying to make? Alright, take a deep breath in and…here we go!

Let’s begin getting into those muscles of the erector spinae, which is really a bundle of muscles and tendons. It runs pretty much vertically and is paired, each side lying in the valley like groove to the side of our vertibral column. It extends throughout the lumbarthoracic, and cervical regions. This muscle begins at our sacrum and it continues up our back and inserts in the external occipital protuberance at the base of our skull, so this muscle travels the the full length of our spine.

The large and tendinous mass that is the thoracolumbar fascia, and the nuchal ligament in the cervical region, covers the erector spinae. These muscles vary greatly in size. At its point of origin in the sacral region it is thin and pointed, and is mostly tendinous in its structure. From there it becomes much thicker in the lumbar region. As it travels upwards it is divided into three separate columns. These columns begin to get smaller as they continue upward and insert in the vertibrae and ribs. This muscle is not the erector spinae, but more like the superficial version of it that splits apart and inserts into various different locations on its way up our back.

Getting back to the erector spinae, it originates from the anterior surface of a wide and thick tendon that is attached to the medial crest of the sacrum, to the spinous processes of the lumbar and the eleventh and twelfth thoracic vertebrae, and the supraspinous ligament, to the back of the inner lip of the iliac crests and to the lateral crests of the sacrum, where it blends with the sacrotuberous and posterior sacroiliac ligaments. These is the proper names, the place where they originate from and the places where they attach at the place of their origin. Look at this sort of as the roots of the tree, and the trunk. From there these muscle fibers then form a fleshy mass that splits in the upper lumbar region into three columns, which constitute a lateral, an intermediate, and a medial. So essentially the first part is dealing with the place of origin which constitutes the base of the erector spinae – like the tree roots and trunk. It then splits into the three separate muscle columns that travel the length of our spine.

Each of the lateral, intermediate and medial are made up of three parts. In the interests of remaining complete, those three parts of the lateral are the ilicostalis lumarum, ilicostalis thracis, and ilicostalis cervicis. The three parts of the intermediate are the longissimus thoracis, longissimus cervis, and longissimus capitis. Lastly, the medial three are the spinalis thoracis, spinalis cervecis, and spinalis capitis. I applaud you if you made it to the layman’s version of what was just written, because simply put the spinalis muscles are closest to the spine, the longissimus are the next group that are beside the spinalis muscles, and the ilicostalis is on the outside of this group of three. These three groupings of three muscles for our intents and purposes, are the muscles of our spinae erectors beyond the point of their origin.

For such a complicated and intricate muscle group of muscles, their function is rather simple. They function to straighten the spine and provide side to side bending action. The abdominal muscles are the other side of the coin, in that they bend and rotate the spine. These four functions, as well as stability, make up the core’s list of duties with both the agonistic and antagonistic actions. These four functions may be simple, but to those of that live to train these functions are used in every single exercise we do in the gym in some capacity.

The main reason why you suffered through all of the above jargon is the same reason you would go through anything painful – to get to the benefits. It’s just like when we train. To some degree, the more pain you can endure, the greater the results will be. So now that we are through that pain, the reward is what is next. What is the reward, you ask? To get to the Thursday part of this article mini series where we get to discuss how we can best can train this muscle group. Of course we’ll also take the time to look at some of the necessary precautions we should be taking. We are dealing with the muscles that are on either side of our spine, and therefore they should be handled with the greatest of care.

Up next is Super Food Wednesday, so for the conclusion of this discussion on the fascinatingly complicated erector spinae, tune back into this station on Thursday. I look forward to seeing you here tomorrow first, because it’s the quality of the fuel that allows us to train, and recover to grow stronger that is always the focus of Wednesdays. Until tomorrow my friends,

Happy Lifting!

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