There are a million ways you can go about screwing up your lower back. Deadlift? Yep. Performing the wrong core exercises? Yep. Bending over the wrong way? You bet! Your lower back is one of the most vulnerable areas in your lower body and injuring it will have an effect on everything you do. Want to golf? Well too bad because your back will ruin your stroke. Want to sit around and pout about your back? Good because that’s the only thing you’ll be able to do.
The point is that you need to take care of your lower back. There is not a movement you perform that doesn’t involve your spine in some way, shape, or form. If you have managed to mess up your back recently, fear not because we are going to help get you on the mend. If your back is not currently out of commission then congratulations! Still read on however, and discover how our 5 step process can keep you keep you strong and mobile.
Step 1: Examine Your Training Program
Are you currently deadlifting? If not you better start. The deadlift is a great way to strengthen every muscle in your body, including your lower back. It is the premier hip hinge movement and should be featured in your program. A lifting program without the deadlift is like the Justice League without a Superman. Sure it’s still watchable, but we want someone/something to bring the house down.
That being said, you should constantly vary how you go about performing the deadlift. If you are deadlifting with a straight bar every time you deadlift, there is a good chance you are going to burn out your spinal erectors. Think constant variance when you deadlift. Use a straight bar and a trap bar. The trap bar is a great way to train your hip hinge, and you get the added bonus of placing less stress on your lower back. Think in terms of the hip hinge movement pattern when you are deadlifting. It doesn’t matter which tool you use (straight bar or trap bar) as long as you are getting stronger at the pattern.
In addition to your main movements, play around with accessory movements such as deficit deadlifts, deadlifts from blocks, as well as banded sweep deadlifts. Exposing your body to a variety of different stimuli to keep the move interesting and prevent your body from reaching a plateau.
You also better make sure you are including lots of glute and hamstring exercises in your training program. Training to achieve buns of steel and hamstrings that could crush a watermelon will definitely help you when trying to pull heavy weight from the floor. The more your hamstrings and glutes activate, during the deadlift, the safer your lower back will become. Try adding in barbell hip bridges, GHD’s, and “good mornings” to compliment your heavier lifts.
Now that we have established that you need to deadlift and hit some accessory work for your hamstrings and glutes, let’s take a look at the core movements you are doing. Are you even performing core movements? There is a train of thought out there that thinks all you need to do is squat and deadlift to get a strong core. Although we would never disagree that squatting and deadlifting will give you a strong core, hitting some isolated core movements is a great way to help protect your lower back.
When working the core, it is REALLY important to do it the right way. There is a right and wrong way of going about hitting your core. Doing crunches to infinity will not enhance your core, and if you are spastically yanking on the back of your head you will just add a neck injury to compliment your poor core development. Also, don’t be that person who does explosive sit-ups on the GHD while having your lower back violently arch and do all the work. We promise you that this is not going to make you a better athlete and it definitely does not “wow” the other gym goers as they watch you give yourself scoliosis with each rep.
When we look at the core, it is important to know what movements to perform and why we perform them. The core movements you should look at performing can be classified as flexion, anti-flexion, lateral flexion, lateral anti-flexion, extension, anti-extension, rotational, and anti-rotational exercises. Below are examples of each movement so you get a better understanding of what we are talking about.
- Flexion – V-Up
- Anti-Flexion – Superman Hold
- Lateral Flexion – Side Plank Hip Dips
- Anti-Lateral Flexion – Suitcase Carries
- Extension – Reverse Hyper
- Anti-Extension – Plank
- Rotational – Banded Twists
- Anti-Rotational – Banded Press Outs
Now that you know the core movement classifications, it’s time to pick the ones that will give you the most bang for your buck. We do have a finite amount of time to train after all, so we shouldn’t be wasting it around with movements that are not going to give us much bang for our buck or could potentially tweak the back. We highly recommend hitting the “anti” movements. Being able to resist against flexion, lateral flexion, extension, and rotation will greatly improve your core stability. In addition, to the anti-movements, you should also perform some rotational movements. Adding rotational movements will ensure you are mobile as well as stable.
Step 2: Fix Your Technique
Okay, now that we have an idea on how to program for the lower back and core, let’s take a look at your technique…
About the Author
Chad Coy has been a part of the Parisi Speed School family since signing as the 13th Franchise in 2006. A graduate of Purdue University in 1991, Chad studied Exercise Science and Nutrition. Chad still has a strong commitment to as an athlete, and has competed as a professional strongman since 1998. He has won Masters’ America’s Strongest Man two times and placed second at Masters’ Worlds two times after 10 years as an open Pro.
A Powerlifter from 1994 -1998, he has also won 2 National Powerlifting Championships, 1 World Championship, and holds 4 American Records and 3 World Records. Chad joined the Master Trainer program in the winter of 2014 and takes great pride in helping educate the future coaches of the franchise.