Low back pain is probably one of the most common issues of pain within the gym atmosphere. I’m pretty sure everybody has experienced it and most people don’t know what made it start or how to fix it. Sometimes it can be something very serious, but a lot of the time its something simple as correcting your form or foam rolling the right muscles.
Low back pain usually happens from incorrect form during specific exercises, having a weak core, or when muscles around your low back (like your glutes) do not fire or activate at the right times during exercising. There is obviously other reasons for some people to have low back pain whether it’s from a car accident, a herniated disc, or SI joint problems. But all of these things can be worked around or helped in the long run.
Many people get low back pain and immediately believe they cannot train anymore without making it worse, but if you go about it correctly it is far from that. This is where the importance of a smart coach comes in need, you cannot just go in the gym and do whatever expecting it to be fine. You need to be coached on how to recover properly, warm up properly, how to train properly, and what muscles to fire at the right times.
The Hip Flexors are on of the first things to look at if someone is having low back pain. A very large portion of people experience tight hip flexors and this is partially because of the way everyone lives now. About 80% of your life you’re in a flexed position, meaning people are sitting so often. Whether it’s at home, work, car, or even at the gym when they just ride the stationary bike and do crunches. Here is a great stretch for the hip flexors that will help prevent low back pain during exercising.
The stretch above stretches out the rectus femoris (midline muscle of your quads) and also your hip flexors, which can release tension or tightness in your lower back. This can be added into your workout as a filler and can pretty much instantly relieve the tightness.
Another important step in preventing low back pain is foam rolling, but not foam rolling your low back. Sometimes the tissue quality in your low back can be pretty bad but it doesn’t always take away the pain by rolling out that area. The best way to foam roll to prevent back pain is by rolling above and below. Start by attacking the glutes on the foam roller, especially your glute medius since that is the upper part of your glutes. You will also want to roll out your TFL, your IT band, rectus femoris (center quad muscle), hamstrings, and also go up your back to hit the lats. The point of this is that you need good tissue quality if you plan to function properly and you need to function properly if you plan to be pain-free.
Foam rolling for the Glutes. [ cross the leg of the glute being rolled over your planted leg, this will open up the hip and slightly stretch the glute allowing you to dig into the tissue deeper.]
Foam rolling for the Hamstrings [cross opposite leg over to apply more weight/pressure onto the hamstring you wish to foam roll.]
Foam rolling the I.T. Band [stack the legs sideways to apply more weight/pressure onto the I.T. Band you are wishing to foam roll, this may be slightly painful but this is usually one of the most important areas of the lower body to foam roll.]
Foam rolling the Rectus Femoris/Quadriceps [simply lay on top of the foam roller, you can cross your legs and lean-to one side if this does not apply enough weight/pressure.]
Foam rolling the Lats [sit on the floor and open up the armpit to stretch the lat, lean slightly to the side so you can focus on your lat and not lay onto your spine.]
Next I would like to talk about having good form and how to start applying specific techniques to allow yourself to do so. Most people just rush through the reps and end up breaking form pretty badly which hurts them in the long run. So first and foremost, take you time when your lifting! Lower the weight if you need to and learn to create tension within your core while training. Creating tension while training is huge for low back pain, this is because if you can create tension and stability within your core, your back will be stable also. Creating tension can be done a few ways like “Crushing the bar” or “Hissing out”.
If you are performing a deadlift, back squat, bench press, etc. then you can crush the bar with your hands and this will create a lot of tension throughout your body. A good cue I like to give my clients is by telling them to “Bend the bar” or say “Pinky’s out”. If you imagine bending the bar by pulling your pinkys out it will do a few things. This will fire your lats like crazy which help retract your scapula putting your shoulders in a much safer/stronger place. On top of that, this will also create the tension in your core.
The “Hissing out” method is huge when it comes to push presses, deadlifts, or any exercise that can cause anterior pelvic tilt (lower back hyperextension). When you hiss out your breath if will compress your ribcage and engage your core a ton. So when you want to prevent hyper extension in your lumbar spine, the best thing to do is create stability in your core and if your rib cage is flared up then that also means you’re in that extension position. So when setting up for a push press, think about crushing the bar and then hissing your air out so you feel the tension create within your core.
Non Compressed VS. Compressed Ribcage/Core
Know that this can make you feel like your shoulders are less mobile because you cannot lockout as far back without having a lot of extension in your back. But the truth is you do not have amazing shoulder mobility if you cannot lock out where you should with a compressed ribcage/core. So work on your shoulder mobility and keep practicing the tension techniques.
At the end of the day training is damn near pointless if you cannot do so without being in pain. The goal of training is to lose fat and build muscle, but if you train improperly you will not be able to train enough to accomplish your goals because you will be in pain. So it is crucial for you turn recovery properly and to practice techniques that allow you to train properly. So take my advice in this article and apply ASAP!