It is estimated that 80% of people experience low back pain at some point in their life.
That number is borderline grotesque. I have also contributed to it. A few months ago I had an undiagnosed back injury and it was awful.
I could not swing a golf club, hold a bar on my back, or sit for too long without pain. My fix included some specific exercises to reactivate and reinforce proper movements.
The guidelines I am providing are not for someone who is severely injured and not cleared by a doctor. It is for those who do not want to get a back injury or for those that have the occasional trouble.
Without further ado, here are 4 ways to protect the back from injury or recover from one.
1. Stop doing crunches
It is not just crunches that are the culprit. Exercises like toe touches, situps, and side bends all bring the spine out of its neutral position.
Excessive flexion, lateral flexion, and extension put a lot of compression on the vertebrae, affecting the disks as well.
2. Activate your glutes
Getting the glutes to fire properly has a host of benefits up and down the kinetic chain. The hips, knees, and back are all going to benefit from those muscles working correctly.
Unfortunately, most of us have forgotten about the glutes and compensate by using the hamstrings or low back in a number of activities.
During your warm up, include some bridges, clamshells, and hip extensions to turn on the glutes. Your back and performance will thank you for incorporating the largest muscles in the lower body.
3. Reduce the load
A lot of heavy back squats, for example, can aggravate a back because of an increased axial loading.
Take some pressure off of the spinal column and start doing some unilateral leg work. Lunges, split squats, and single leg squats are perfect for this task.
These exercises require less absolute weight while increasing the load per leg.
These single leg exercises are also important for strengthening the glutemedius. The glutemedius stabilizes the hip and is essential for increasing lower body strength.
4. Use your weight belt
I am not talking about the weight belt that you put on because you cannot stop belly dancing while squatting.
Your internal weight belt is a very powerful tool. Develop it, and your core stability will better prepare your for the tasks at hand.
This belt I am talking about is made up of the abdominals, obliques, and low back stabilizers. These muscles, working in conjunction, create abdominal pressure that keeps the spine aligned.
The classic example is a cable supported bridge.
If you take away any of the cables, the bridge is not going to do its job. Neither is your core. The muscle groups must work together.
Train your weight belt by using stabilizing exercises such as planks, birddogs, and Paloff presses.
Bonus: Here is an example lower body workout day
Warm Up: Dynamic movements + single leg bridges 3×8 on each leg
Core: Planks 3x30seconds with birddogs 3×8 on each side
Strength: Goblet squats 3×8, RDLs 3×8, Single leg squats 3x8each, and reverse lunges 3x8each.
This is very simple but it will work on proper strength for those suffering from back ailments. Give it a shot and do not let back pain, injury, or stiffness limit you.