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Throw a Stronger Punch (or Push a Car or Stroller) Using This Back Pain Reduction Technique

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My Tuesday night martial arts students had another good class tonight. At the beginning of class, I showed them how to greatly strengthen their punch using a technique that also stops a common cause of lower back pain.

The reason both benefits occur from one technique is that it changes body positioning to shift the effort and leverage of the punch off your lower spine and onto the muscles of your abdomen and back. You can use this technique any time you punch, or push anything from a baby carriage to a piece of furniture to a car.

One of the commonest misconceptions in fitness is that you are supposed to stick your behind out in back. It is not cute or healthy. It is a major source of pressure on the joints and soft tissue of your lower spine.

There is supposed to be a small inward curve to the lower back for shock absorption and protection of the discs. (But only a small curve.) When people lose the needed small inward curve by rounded forward sitting, standing, and bending over wrong, it pressures the discs and eventually damages them (Disc Pain - Not a Mystery, Easy to Fix). The problem is that people hear they need a small inward curve, so they make a big one by tilting their hip and/or leaning their upper body backward - left photo above. This overarches their lower back, causing a swayback (hyperlordosis). You can see this silly-looking and unhealthy over-arching in many fitness classes, gyms, and fitness publications and videos.

By straightening your hip to vertical and your lower spine to neutral (right photo), you will have the healthy small curve without sticking your behind out in back. When standing, your hip should be vertical, not tilted, from the top of your upper leg bone to the middle-point of the crest of your hip.

To reduce the large lower back arch, tilt your hip under you as if you are starting an abdominal crunch while standing up. Do not push your hip forward, just straighten your back by changing the hip angle. This is called a pelvic tilt. This is what we did in class. Try this:

  • Look at the double photo above left, and stand facing a wall as in the photo, with one arm outstretched. Put the knuckles of your curled fist against the wall as if you had just punched the wall. Elbow slightly bent.
  • Stand badly, as shown in the left-hand photo. Stick your behind out in back. Let your lower back arch inward. Let your upper back lean backward. Press your fist hard into the wall. You will probably feel pressure in your lower back.
  • Now, keep pressing your fist hard but stop the bad positioning by tucking your hip under you, shown in the right-hand photo. The movement is like a hip thrust or a standing crunch. The arch in your lower back reduces.
  • The first thing you will notice if you do this right is your back stops hurting. You should also notice a stronger push against the wall and new strength in your arm and upper body. You will feel the muscles in your trunk and abdomen working.


I developed this technique and called it The Ab Revolution, because it uses your ab muscles all the time for real life. Don't tilt your hip to stick your behind out to lift weights, to exercise, or to stand and walk. Use your muscles to reposition your spine to neutral, so that your upperbody weight does not sag onto your lower back. You will get free built-in exercise and back pain prevention while doing all your normal activities. You will stop one of the commonest silly-looking mistakes in fitness. You will also be able to throw a surprisingly strong punch.

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Photos © copyright Dr. Jolie Bookspan from the book Healthy Martial Arts
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About the Author


M.Ed, PhD, FAWM

Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.

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