What is the Best Research Based Core Exercise? Ever heard of the “Lewit” (pronounced Levit)?

What do we all have in common? Whether you are a mom lifting your child out of the back seat, a golfer looking to drive the ball farther, or a delivery worker looking to save your spine, consider doing this exercise every day and keep your core strong!

Bag into bin

Have you ever noticed when performing any upper body movement that involves lifting such as putting your carry on into an overhead bin on an airplane—that your torso has to work extra hard and sometimes you hold your breath else your ribcage lifts up? It may not seem injurious at the time, but this movement over time is actually limiting your strength and sending huge stresses through your spine and cumulatively adds up over time. The research calls this repetitive micro trauma.
Lee and Dr McGill
Dr. McGill and I at the University of Waterloo in Canada

 

According to world-renown Professor, Researcher and Spine Biomechanist, Dr. Stuart McGill, this is caused by weak inner oblique muscles, which the exercises in your current core routine may not be engaging.
The solution seems obvious: perform inner oblique muscle exercises. Learn to separate your spine bracing skills from your breathing. But it’s not that simple. These muscles are difficult to work—but we have found some revolutionary ways to engage these muscles with out straining on the toilet or over the toilet (constipated or vomiting) which is obviously not ideal.
Dr. McGill and his team at the University of Waterloo sought to discover the best corrective exercise to address this challenge.

What is “The Lewit”?

Named after Czech neurologist Dr. Karel Lewit, who pioneered the movement, The Lewit “is the best replication of the vomiting mechanism,” explains Dr. McGill. So in theory, it engages your inner oblique muscles, which keep your rib cage from over elevating and your entire spine in neutral and torso muscles engaged.

Do the Lewit

1. Lie on your back with your hands under your lower back (find your belly button and place the hands in the small of your back, not under your hips).
2. Bend your hips and knees to a 90-degree angle.
3. Maintain a naturally arched lower back(lumbar spine).
4. Slightly rock your pelvis forward and backward on your tailbone to fine-tune your back position.
5. Once you’re comfortable, take three normal breaths.
6. Here’s the work: Exhale normally on your third breath, then purse your lips and push any remaining air out of your lungs.
7. Reset by rocking your pelvis and repeat the breathing pattern.

Below are different ways many professionals ill over the world execute the same drills(objectively with feedback and subjectively with hands)

Should you perform “The Lewit”?

Absolutely! For everyone who breathes and has a spine (which is all of us), it’s a good reminder to reinforce good breathing and bracing patterns. “You’re not using this exercise to get strong, but to establish a motor pattern,” says Dr. McGill. So, only perform two to three cycles of the exercise per session.

But does it actually work?

According to Dr. McGill’s research, the Lewit was the most effective technique for engaging the inner obliques without replicating a mechanism of injury. In the clinical study1, this exercise elicited a 54.4 percent activation, compared to a 33.9 percent activation for a hollowing technique (i.e., sucking your belly button toward your back) and 35 percent activation for a bracing technique (i.e., tightening your abs). Plus, it allows you to maintain the natural curve of your spine, eliminating stress on your back.

For more information on spinal health, check out Dr. McGill’s book, Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance (for sale on this site).

 

Reference

Boyd, B., Andersen, J., & McGill, S. (2014). “Exercises to activate the deeper abdominal wall muscles: The Lewit.” Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research28(3), 856-860.

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