At some point in time you’re going to experience back pain. It’s quite common, and at times can be tricky to work around because it’s so complex. For reference, I’ve injured my lower back twice and it’s no joke. Quite discouraging actually. And unfortunately, I had to take a few steps back on my training. So, I can relate if you’ve had back problems.
In this post, I want to address some of the issues revolving around back pain and offer general guidelines that will ultimately get you feeling good and back in the iron game.
What NOT To Do
1. Stretching Will Actually Do More Harm Than Good
Whenever people experience pain they have this behavioral habit of stretching the painful area. Let me tell you: the site of the pain, is almost never the source of the pain. Stretching is not inherently bad. You just have to be more selective of your approach when trying to ease the pain — and I’ve found that painful areas rarely like being stretched. It just causes more instability.
You might provide yourself with some pain relief, but the problem is that it’s only temporary. More often than not, the pain comes back worse than before. Thus begins the vicious cycle of repeating the process over and over again. I understand the rationale behind it, but to give some context — it’s the equivalent of repeatedly banging your head against the wall.
To drive the point home, the last thing you should be doing is stretching your lower back. You’re actually doing more harm than good.
2. Do Not Stop Training
While continuing to train at a high-intensity is unwarranted, pressing the pause button and remaining sedentary is not exactly the best route either. Even worse if all you do sit all day long.
Suffice it to say, it’s still possible to strength train. It all boils down on focusing what you can do and listening to your body. The key is doing the right workouts. Placing an emphasis on spine sparing exercises will pay dividends in your longevity. Have some common sense. If the movement hurts, then don’t do it.
You’re not doing yourself any favors by running 3-5 miles on hard pavement, doing a set of box jumps, or attempting to set a PR in your squat.
What You Should Be Doing
1. Strengthen Core Stability
If your lower back keeps acting up, it’s most likely a lack of stability rather than mobility. As such, strengthening your core is priority numero uno when it comes to keeping your lower back healthy. The inability to properly brace or stiffen your spine results in your passive restraints taking up most of the stress.
2. Single-leg Training and Glute Work
As I mentioned earlier, placing an emphasis on spine sparing exercises is of primary importance. Prioritizing single-leg training and glute work have tremendous value, specifically for folks suffering from acute or chronic back pain. Performing any single-leg work (Assisted 1-leg RDL, Bulgarian Split Squats, Lunges, Step-ups) reduces the shear and compressive forces on the spine that you would otherwise experience in traditional bilateral lower body movements.
Yes. The hip thrust mimics an “inappropriate” motion, but make no mistake — if you want to transform your backside and keep your lower back healthy, these are money.
3. Make Simple Modifications
Once your symptoms have begun to wind down and you start to feel good, it’s easy to dive back into your normal training regimen with gusto.
Not so fast.
Tinkering with different variations or altering your set up with an exercise can make a world of difference. For instance, setting up for a conventional deadlift might not bode well for the vast majority. But with a trap bar, kettlebell, or a landmine, you can shift your weight more posteriorly further reducing the likelihood of aggravating your lower back. Similarly, lying flat on your back for a bench press can be a hassle. Opting for an incline press is more user-friendly because it eliminates the need to excessively arch through the lower back. Remember, keeping your spine neutral under load is the way to go. Compromising that can potentiate another injury causing your lower back to flip you the finger.
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