Archives for posts with tag: low back pain

Cafe au feet?

There are some exercises I could say the same of to the same person for 6 weeks, and they wouldn’t remember what I’m talking about.

The deadbug however, is not one of those exercises. Although, I feel like it’s kind of a misnomer.

A client of mine decidedly re-named it the “dying bird” which I actually think is a much better name. A dead bug wouldn’t be doing much of anything except… be dead. The dying bird, however, is a play off of the bird-dog exercise. It’s essentially the same movement except you’re on your back instead of on all fours.

So now that you know that completely useless piece of information, let’s get to the meat and potatoes.

This topic came to light because one of my clients consistently “throws her back out” every couple months. This translates to a muscle spasm that causes soreness for a few days but no permanent damage or spinal issues. Frustrated, she sought out a PT who diagnosed her with a hyperflexible low back.

“Flexibility is good though!” you might say. Well maybe not…

There’s a fine balance between the perfect amount of mobility and stability, and your low back should be Stable Sally.

Any of your standard strength training regimes that include deadlifting, squatting (specifically front squats), and upper body pushes and pulls, will all stabilize the spine when done correctly. Secondly, direct anterior core work is a must. These two things I know. But, one question came to mind…

Seeking some answers myself, I sought out someone a lot smarter and a lot more experienced than me, Tony Gentilcore, asking… “is it ever appropriate to train the low back exclusively?”

His answer? Well, probably not (yet).

It’s more important to attain and maintain a neutral spine.

Tony also noted that this is important not just in the gym, but all day every day. If you’re hypermobile, you have to be cognizant of keeping things stable at all times. You can’t just jump all nimbly-bimbly from tree to tree.

Name That Movie!

Anyway, getting back to my spiel about the deadbug…

It’s an exercise that’s up there with planks and bird dogs as far as core stabilization goes. Arguably even better for 2 reasons:

1. Since you’re on your back instead of all 4’s, you have no chance to ‘hang’ on your lumbar spine. The floor gives you a built-in external feedback mechanism that forces you to do it correctly. One of the cues is to eliminate the space between the floor and your low back by pushing down and squeezing your abs.

2. It allows you to stabilize your lumbar while mobilizing your hips. It is very important to be able to disassociate the two. (Thank you Tony)

Plus, you can feel it in your abz almost immediately and people seem to enjoy that. No 6-pack guaranteed though.. sorry.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If you don’t have core stability, you need to get it… if you already have it you need to keep it! And if you have a hypermobile low back, it’s absolutely vital to practice this daily. The deadbug exercise is not “too easy” for anybody. So make it part of your warm up, ok bro? There are also many variations but that’s a post for another day.

Now go get some anterior core!

-L

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In the first part of this post, I talk about 7 common reasons why people get back pain.  In this post, I’m going to get a little more in depth for solutions to these problems.  Remember they come in two categories: exercise habits and movement dysfunction. Let’s talk good exercise habits.

How to build a good warm up in 3 easy steps

Step 1: Become best friends with your foam roller. In fact, make it your lover. Figure our where it hurts the most and spend most of your time there.

Step 2: Dynamic Stretch. Although everyone should be assessed to figure out their specific needs, MOST people are tight in the same places. Hamstrings, upper back, shoulders and hips. 4 Stretches Most People Can Benefit From

Step 3: Activate. Do this where you need stability, usually core and glutes. Things like glute bridges, bird dogs, and wall slides will all do the trick. Find examples of good warm ups here, here, and here.

Learn how to hip hinge

Fix your form

There’s no way I can possible cover good form in one paragraph. The good news is there are people who have covered this already. My go-to articles for the big 3 are written by a pretty smart guy named Mike Robertson. He covers in great detail the squat, deadlift,  and bench. I suggest you read up if you’re serious about preventing back pain, or any kind of pain for that matter.

The truth is, your exercise habits wont make much of a difference until you fix your movement dysfunction; the two go hand in hand.

How to belly breath- Enter the diaphragm

Gain mobility where you need it

Most people I train are just your average joe’s. As much as I can dream about it… I’m not training athletes with crazy mobility or congenital laxity. Although it’s very important to get evaluated, I can tell you most people are tight in the same areas: hips, shoulders, and t-spine.

If you want to get more in depth mobility drills, I highly suggest checking out mobilitywod.com. Kelly Starrett is a very smart guy who has hundreds of videos with in-depth mobility drills. You pretty much can’t put anything in his search bar that will go unanswered.  As much as he tries to dumb it down, I find myself having to watch some of his videos 2 or 3 times to completely understand it. So if you don’t understand some of his lingo, don’t worry about it; just try to emulate as best you can.  However for a quick reference, these are some mobility favorites:

Scapular Wall Slides

Thoracic Spine Extension on Foam Roller

Hip Mobility Combo

Gain some core stability

Core stability is a must… For everybody…. No exceptions! If you don’t have it, you need it; and if you have it, you need to keep it!

The basics never go out of style with core training. In my opinion, the plank and any of it’s variations is king, and form is VITAL.

Here are some other great core stability drills:

Banded Bird dog

Notice how her core does not change at all as she moves, and her low back does not cave as she lifts her limbs.

Half Kneeling Chop

Improve your posture

This starts with how you’re sitting right now. Stop slouching!

Obviously, everyone’s posture is a little bit different, but let’s go over some common deviations:

1. Lordosis

Lot’s of anterior core work is needed to help correct this. This is where your planks, front squats, and reverse crunches come in. Some mild low back stretches will help too; something like child’s pose.

2) Kyphosis

A lot of people I see have some degree of a kyphotic curve. It’s very important to go some soft tissue work before strength training; all those muscles in the upper back become tight and weak. A foam roller is great but a tennis or lacrosse ball is better.

Once you loosen up those muscles, it’s very important to get them slightly tighter and stronger (note: ‘tight muscles’ are not always a bad thing). Rowing and pull ups are the go-to’s here. There are so many variations of rows, all you have to do is pick your favorite!

Conclusion

You don’t have to conquer all these points at one time, but that being said, I think they’re all equally important and should all be addressed.

All I can say is I hope that you learned something! If I learned anything, it’s to not film videos on days I wake up at 4:30. Woof.

-L

Whether it be acute or chronic, chances are that you’ve experienced back pain at some point in your adult life . In my opinion it’s one of the poopiest things of all time ’cause it affects just about everything you do.

Too many people either push through the pain and cause more damage, keep their resistance too light, or avoid important exercises completely because of back pain.

There are literally probably a million different causes of back pain, and to be honest, us practitioners (PT’s and docs included) sometimes will never to be able to point out exactly what it is from one person to the next. But we have some pretty good educated guesses. In my opinion, they can be broken down into two categories: personal exercise habits and movement dysfunction. In part 1 of this post, I’ll give a general overview of what I think is most important; in part 2, I’ll discuss what to do about it. Let’s talk about habits first.

You don’t do a proper warm up

When I was in college, I used to walk on the treadmill for 10 minutes as a ‘warm up’ before I’d go embarrass all the boys in the weight room (joke). Little did I know, that doesn’t really cut it. We recently started to coin a phrase here at Fitcorp: RDA. This stands for Rolling or Release, Dynamic stretch, and Activation. There are a few different methods to warming up, but we’ve found this outline to be the most successful in preventing injuries. You release where you’re tight, reinforce with dynamic stretches, and active the muscles that need help turning on. An example for the hips/glutes would be 1) release hip flexors with lax ball or foam roller, 2) 3D hip flexor stretch or spiderman stretch, 3) Supine hip bridges for glute activation. If you’re not properly warmed up, the muscles that should be working aren’t ready, and your back can take the fall.

You flex at the spine instead of hinging at the hips

This is a tough concept to understand if you lift without a trainer or a buddy. Here’s a pictorial representation

This is a particularly common mistake when deadlifting or rowing. The reality is, any exercise you do to strengthen your legs (ie squats and deadlifts) is also going to strengthen your back. However, your glutes and hamstrings are very strong and when you load them correctly, they should do most of the work. I will go over some drills to learn how to hip hinge in part 2.

For whatever reason, your form is just poopy

Alright I need to be a little harsh for a second.

It never ceases to amaze me some of the asinine things I see people doing in the gym. I understand that most people are just under or ill-informed when it comes to this…

But like…. Really!? Do you really think your floor-hump-of-a-pushup is helping you look sexy??? ‘Cause it’s not. In fact, it looks like you’re humping the floor.


My favorite comment: “How would one even get that idea?”

My sentiments exactly.

Okay now that I got that off my chest, I understand that there are many issues why form can slack, some of which I’ll cover in more detail below. You might be using too much weight, you might be missing some mobility or stability, or you simply just might not know what proper form should look like. Whatever it is, I recommend figuring it out to avoid issues down the road.

Let’s look a little deeper into the second category: movement dysfunction.

You have dysfunctional breathing patterns.

I’ve written a little bit about this before, and it’s important to reiterate. As a result of chronic stress and inactivity, breathing patterns shift from belly breathing to chest breathing. This can cause all sorts of issues, one of them including back pain. Quick self assessment: Take a deep breath. Did your chest and shoulders go up immediately? Then chances are you’re breathing incorrectly. Part 2 will entail some breathing drills so you can reconnect with that old flame we like to call our diaphragm.

She’s a beauty eh?

You’re lacking some mobility

The two most common culprits are hips and shoulders. Since these two joints have the most range of motion, by the same token they’re the most complicated and prone to dysfunction. The good news about mobility is that it’s usually just a matter of knowing what you need to work on, and doing it consistently.

You’re lacking some stability

If I were to pick one area of the body that’s most important to be stable, it’s your core. I know… shocker.

A lack of stability can often be the real issue in a lot of movement dysfunction, but it often will disguise itself as a lack of mobility! Tricky, that human body… very tricky. The best example is a squat. In the next post I’ll have a video for you to prove my point… But for now just take my word for it.

Shoulders, hips and extremities also require stability, but I’d argue starting with your core will give you the most bang for your buck.

Your posture is less than ideal

I’d be hard pressed to find someone with perfect posture. That’s because I think we are innately imbalanced. By god giving us a dominant hand/brain/whatever, we are automatically uneven. So for me to say that everyone needs to have perfect posture and no asymmetries to be found is completely ignorant.  However, if your walking around with a pigeon towed-pronated-bow legged-hyperextended-lordotic-kyphotic posture… that could cause some problems.

I’m talking to you smeagol

 Fortunately, there are a lot of posture problems that exercise and good habits can fix. Stay tuned for the best exercises to improve posture.

Conclusion

So there are the 7 most important factors of back pain. Of course, they’re all intertwined issues and if you have one, you probably have a couple. The good news is it’s fixable! Call me old-school, but I like to fix things organically. Proper exercise is solution #1 to back pain, before drugs, injections, ultra sounds, or surgery.

Part 2 coming soon!

-L

For the few months after my spasm, my back pain was minimal. It didn’t interrupt my everyday life; the only way I can describe it was that it just didn’t feel right. It was annoying, and I’ve spent a lot of time (and not to mention mula) rehabbing.

I haven’t been posting my training logs lately because well… they’re nothing to write home about. But I’ve been seeing my PT for 3 weeks now and I think it’s safe to say… I’M BACK! After two heavy training days this week and last I’ve self reported soreness in my glutes and hamstrings (and not my back). BOOYEAH. I’m back baby.

Training Log:

Warm up: foam roll, corrective exercise (hip ab/adduction activation), supine heel taps, supine overhead leg slides, light goblet squats, face-to-wall squats, lunge +reach progressions (prescribed by my PT), and box jumps. Admittedly, this warm up took about a half hour. I stole this workout from Stevie.

Deadlift- (warm up sets prior) 3×4…135lbs

Front loaded reverse barbell lunges 4×6/leg… 75lbs

Farmers carry 3x175ft… 24kg (about 53lbs per hand)

Inverted Row (smith machine) 3×6

I had a killer session yesterday. I left feeling great… and even better today. I’m one of those strange people that like feeling sore. Getting the booty sore is an accomplishment!

-L