Research Suggests You Should Get Off the Elliptical Trainer
I came across an interesting article over the weekend (actually, our soft-tissue guy, Nate Tiplady sent it to me) demonstrating how for those suffering from chronic low back pain, using the elliptical trainer might be more detrimental than good.
Click HERE to read the article.
As noted in the article, the research was part of a larger study looking at the effect of hip mobility on the low back, which is something many of us in the industry (Mike Boyle and Gray Cook most notably) have been drilling into people’s heads with regards to the joint-by-joint approach to training.
Simply put, some joints need to be trained with mobility in mind, while others, need to be trained with stability in mind. Starting at the ankles and working our way up, we see an alternating pattern of mobility/stability needs:
Ankles = mobility
Knees = stability
Hips = mobility
Lumbar Spine = stability
Thoracic Spine = mobility
Scapulae = stabillty
As such, whenever someone complains of joint pain (in this case, the lumbar spine), more often than not, we can look at the joint either above or below (or both) as being the culprit. And, as the study linked above showed, many of the subjects tested had less than stellar hip mobility. Ding, ding, ding. Take a joint that normally has a lot of amplitude and lock it up tighter than a camel’s ass in a sandstorm, and you’re bound to see some issues elsewhere in the kinetic chain.
As far as the elliptical is concerned, while I like the fact that it does provide a low-impact modality of exercise, again, it’s a form of exercise that doesn’t necessarily provide a lot of range of motion – and for someone with limited hip mobility as it is, this can be a recipe for disaster.
What’s more, as noted in the article, people tend to flex forward more while using the elliptical machine (hello tight hip flexors!!). And, even worse still, the elliptical forces people to twist in their lumbar spine, which if we’re speaking from a biomechanical standpoint, isn’t ideal given there’s only 13 degrees (roughly) of “acceptable” rotation in that area in the first place.
All in all, the point of the article wasn’t to bastardize the elliptical. Rather, it was just to shed some light on the fact that it may not be the most ideal form exercise for those suffering from certain types of low back pain. Lets not throw the baby out with the bathwater!
I will say, however, as I wrote HERE, I’d much rather have people spend their time doing low-grade activation/dynamic flexibility, mobility circuits than get on an elliptical trainer anyways. Some food for thought.