Have you ever had a sore back and wondered what you did to cause it? Maybe it was the way you slept or something you did at the gym. But no matter what caused it, back pain is never pleasant. However, we can avoid these events in the future by incorporating some simple preventative measures into our training routine.
These preventative measures include performing basic core exercises to set a solid foundation, as well as compound lifts to add resiliency to the low back. This will ensure that if you do happen to move in a way that could tweak your back, your body will be ready to handle it and you won’t be forced to sit out for weeks while recovering from a random strain or spasm.
Before we get to the exercises, the first step in building a resilient back is to mentally prepare for the exercises. When we tweak our backs, there is an immediate fear of performing any exercise that may put some stress on the muscles of the back, so we often avoid them all together. But to make those muscles stronger and more resilient, we need to challenge them. Preparing yourself mentally to perform these exercises is therefore a critical step.
It’s important to note there’s a difference between muscle soreness and pain when you train. The muscles of the back may get sore and you may feel tension, but that’s a completely different feeling than pain. Knowing the distinction between the two is vital to your training success. If you have existing pain or any structural injury, it’s best to see a medical professional before doing anything outlined in this article.
Step 1: Bulletproof Your Core
The first step to building a resilient low back is to train the core to do what it’s supposed to—resist movement.
With these four exercises, you’ll create a strong core that will provide a stable foundation for the bigger movements later on
One of Stuart McGill’s “Big Three” exercises, the Side Plank is great for strengthening the lateral muscles of the spine that help stabilize it. It’s important to keep the elbow under the shoulder, and squeeze the glutes and abs to maintain good alignment.
Beginners can start by performing Side Planks for 10 seconds at a time (on each side) and then gradually build up from there.
Another one of McGill’s Big Three, the Bird Dog hones in on the muscles of the back that run along each side of the spine. The glutes and hip stabilizers will also get involved in the fun.
To set up, start on your hands and knees. Next, simultaneously lift your left arm and right leg, keeping tension in your abs. Hold the extended position for a second or two, then return to start. Aim for 5 reps per side.
This movement will create full-body tension through your core, which will translate to the tension you’re going to have to maintain during any other exercise. The Plank requires you to brace not only the abs, but also the legs, glutes and upper back. It really is a full-body exercise when performed the right way.
Start with 10 seconds at a time and build up from there. Remember we’re aiming for full-body tension, not just getting into the position and hanging out.
Bracing and keeping a neutral spine is a huge part of eliminating back pain. Moving your arms and legs simultaneously while keeping your back from arching is the key to this exercise. While the Dead Bug might not look like much, taking the movement slow and concentrating on keeping the core braced and lower back flat on the ground will go a long way toward building a bulletproof core. Aim for 8-10 reps per set for 3 total sets.
Step 2: Build Strength, Endurance and Resiliency….