Aug 24, 2013

A Bionic Workout

Getting a good workout while having a bionic body can be hard; being unable to bend my spine means that I can't do most exercises. After years of trying, I've finally figured out how to stay fit (or try to) with a spinal fusion. These are some of the exercises that I've found in the last few years that will even work for the non-bionic.

**Obviously, I'm not a fitness expert, but these are what have worked for me.**
**Some I've come across, but most I've learned in physical therapy.**


All you will need are some resistance bands, a few sets of low weight barbels and a yoga mat.

The most important thing that you can do for your body is stretch, it's even more important that strength training. It's easy to forget about keeping our muscles loose, after all, some of them aren't used that often. When the muscles become tight, they tend to pull on the bones, and unfortunately for us with our cement like bodies, most stretches are off limits. In our post-fusion years, it's important to find stretches that are able to be done without relying on the need to bend in every which way.
Since having a growth spurt as a child, my hamstring muscles and hamstring tendons have become very tight and will ache if I don't stretch them many times throughout the day...every day. It's more important now with my fusion to consistently work on my legs muscles to prevent them from pulling down on the pelvis, twisting the one bendable area into awkward positions and creating a pain that reminds me too much of scoliosis.

While stretching, I usually go with the idea of working towards the splits, even if I won't actually be able to achieve them. Having loose tendons and muscles relieves pain and makes the body feel like it isn't stuck in one position like The Tin Man. I stretch focusing on my lower half three or four times a day, doing each of the examples below and holding them for thirty seconds. As I go, there is less pain and I'm able to stretch farther and farther.
To push your muscles and tendons even more, try resistance bands. They are great in pulling different parts of the body in various directions to get a better stretch. I like to use them for my shoulder joints before weight training, as well as loosening the ankles and hips.


After the fusion, the number one rule that is drilled in day after day is "Don't lift more than ten pounds!" Constant reminders and the fear of busting a screw leaves bionics with flabby, gelatinous arms and backs. But there is hope! By using specific moves, toned arms are just a few pounds away. It's important to start light, especially during the first year post-op. I always had a fear of breaking a screw while trying to lift a two pound barbel; any cracking sound was horrifying.
Strong shoulders and upper arms help to promote healing and prevents future issues in the thoracic and lumbar spine. When the back becomes weak and loses muscle tone, it can cause painful spasms which pull the body into unnatural positions (my shoulder wing reappeared), allowing for that dull ache to return. Before I was on a constant workout regimen, I relied completely on muscle relaxers for my severe spasms.

The bum is the one area that even we can do without making too many changes. These moves work similar to yoga; each exercise uses both balance and your own weight to strengthen your booty and leg muscles. Since none of them require the use of heavy weights or bending the spine (maybe excluding the last one), it's perfect for fusions.
Lunges and squats are great for the bum, lower back and legs, especially if you want muscular legs and a bigger booty. The one thing to remember is to keep the arms out in-front of you to create a center of gravity and to stabilize your body. Remember, we tend to act like Weeble Wobbles, but we do fall down. A great way to think about it is a ballerina mid-plie (a move which is also great for stubborn inner thigh fat).
Each of the exercises below work the booty, legs and back. A strong lumbar region helps the body to remain straight without straining, and the following moves also help with the dreaded love handles (or muffin top).
Full Instructions

The trickiest of all areas has got to be the abs. Unable to bend the back, most abdominal workouts are completely impossible. However, the plank is the easiest and most efficient bionic exercise that we have. Everything comes down to pure strength without having to rely on repetitive motion and bending. The best part of all is there are a number of ways to increase difficulty, either by going longer, lifting an arm or a leg and even changing positions entirely.
Depending on the amount of the fusion, half or full spine, other exercises are possible. Thoracic fusions allow for almost every type of crunch or sit up, while lumbar or full fusion mean that you're a tad out of luck. Having a full fusion has had me looking for additional work out ideas, and as it turns out, reverse crunches of any kind are easily done with a fusion since they focus is on the use of the lower part of your abdomen and your legs. They along with scissor crunches are normally done to strengthen the lower abs and reduce a belly pooch, meaning anyone (even normal people) can benefit from them.
Full Instructions

It's important to listen to your body. There's too much a stake to ignore small signs of problems. If during an exercise something feels off, stop doing it! No one wants to go through another surgery. Wait a bit (maybe a day) and try again later. If you your body is feeling tight, spend a bit of time stretching to work out the kinks, and when there is an area that is constantly sore, work on it a few days a week. Never over do it. Better to be safe than sorry

Do you have any exercise ideas or suggestions? 
Leave a comment below and let everyone know!

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