One of the most common issues I hear when first meeting with a client is that he or she may experience some low back pain. And most of the time, when individuals have this problem, they convince themselves that they can't squat, can't deadlift, can't do certain core movements. Well, depending on the seriousness of the pain, it may be best to give those exercises a break. The easiest rule to follow to fix that: if it hurts, STOP! But that doesn't necessarily mean you can't ever do them again. Today, I would like to address this issue by discussing why you have back pain, how to fix it, and also share a success story.
Before beginning a strength training program, please contact your primary health provider to get cleared for exercise, especially if you're feeling intense pains.
WHY and How
Oh, why? Back pain is so frustrating! Here are a couple reasons why you experience low back pain.
Problem: Poor Form
This is usually the culprit. Pay close attention to the way you're doing exercises (mirrors work wonders). So, for example, barbell squats are hurting, but what about body weight squats? Let's give that a try. No pain? Then the chances are you are doing the barbell squats wrong. Most people assume it may be the amount of weight. Well, yes, that is partly true. If you have too much weight, then you can't keep good form.
When it comes to olympic lifts, please consult a professional and spend tons of time practicing your form before you start adding weight! Try practicing with a broom, or PVC pipes. Yeah, you may look funny, but you won't look as funny as the person walking like a chicken because of their incredible back pain.
Problem: Desk Job
So, for 8 hours a day you are seated, slouched over a desk making phone calls? Your workstation is most likely what to thank for your back pain.
First, let's look at how you're sitting. Adjust the height to where your hips are in line with your knees. Next, does your chair support your lower back? You may want to consider purchasing a lumbar pillow to give you added support. Following that, try to keep your shoulders back as much as possible. Practicing poor posture over long periods of time will inevitably give you back issues. And the last, easy fix is to make sure your computer is just at eye level. Looking up or looking down at a screen for too long will eventually get the best of you.
Problem: Weak Core
So, you're active in the gym and lift a little bit of weights, you do some cardio, but you still experience some stiffness. So, basically, your 90% of guys in the gym?
Well... TRAIN YOUR CORE! First, start with some basic movements, such as: crunches, planks, bicycles, russian twists, and knee tucks. These exercises will work your core from top to bottom and left to right. Once you are more comfortable, you can start trying some harder exercises.
Problem: Sleeping Patterns
Do you fall asleep feeling OK, but wake up in pain? Then either you're living a second life no one, including yourself, knows about, or we need to work on those sleeping patterns.
Let me ask you this - when did you purchase your mattress? Alright, it may be time for a new, more firm mattress. Also, what position do you fall asleep in? The best position, for your back, is to sleep on your side, with your knees tucked close to your chest (yes.. the fetal position). Give this a try and see if you start feeling better in the mornings.
My final tip is to try some yoga - oh, how convenient, I am hosting a free yoga class this Saturday (at the time of posting).
But seriously, according to a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine, there is strong evidence that yoga can have a short-term effect on treating lower back pain! Yoga is a combination of slow paced stretches that can have a serious effect on your back issues.
A client of mine, who prefers I not use his name, so we will call him Alan, used to struggle with constant back pain. Anytime he would twist his body to grab something, he was in pain. Try to deadlift? Not a chance. So, we spent a solid month doing only core, legs, and upper back.
We strengthened his upper back to help Alan hold better posture. This was the most evident issue, at first glance. We did a lot of exercises with bands, such as reverse flys and face pulls. Strengthening your rhomboids and middle traps can help you maintain posture easier.
For core, we focused on a lot of simple, high rep movements, such as the ones I mentioned earlier. Anything using lots of weights was bound to have him aching for a few days. Typically, we would do sets of 25-50 reps.
Lastly, Alan didn't skip leg day. Squats and deadlifts were out of the question, of course. But we could still strengthen his legs. We did many Bulgarian split squats, seated hamstring curls, Romanian deadlifts (with very light weight).
After a month of this training, Alan didn't experience any regular low back pains. Now, this doesn't mean we can start going crazy! But it did allow us to start incorporating some important movements, such as deadlifts, into his training program. After about 2 years of training, Alan is now working out with 135 pounds on deadlifts. It didn't happen overnight. But it did happen. And it can happen for you too! Please feel free to email me with any questions you may have.
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