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The Best Exercises for Back Pain


OH, THE PAIN!

As a coaches, we see the effects of chronic back back and it ain’t pretty! And, if you’ve experienced any back issues, you know just how debilitating this can be. You are limited with what you can do and simple, daily tasks become impossible to perform.

There’s no worse feeling than having to tell your kids/grandkids you can’t play catch, you can’t pick them up or you can’t get on the ground to build that Lego set or Barbie dream castle. You are sidelined from living your life and that is NO way to live.

The good news? If you’re dealing with any level of chronic back pain, strength training is exactly what you need to alleviate the pain, gain back mobility and return to living a pain free, limitless life!

Intrigued? Read on my good friend!

Today’s blog is part of a 3-part series exploring the most common issues experienced with age: chronic pain in our knees, shoulders and back. In each blog you are going to learn:

  • Medical and lifestyle causes

  • How to reduce your risks

  • Best exercises to end to the pain!

Today we are diving into back pain so you can get back to living your life pain free!


WHAT CAUSES BACK PAIN?

There are many underlying factors when it comes to understanding back pain. First, let’s talk about medical causes:

  • Arthritis: inflammation or degeneration of one or more joints- scary stuff!

  • Muscle Strain: injury to a muscle or tendon possibly due to (repeatedly) lifting weights that are too heavy for your fitness level or a sudden, awkward movement. Ever coughed or sneezed and boom, there goes your back? Just me?

  • Herniated Discs: cushion-like pads between our vertebrae move out of place, possibly due to trauma or age-related changes in our spine.

  • Osteoporosis: loss of bone mass causing our bones to become weak and brittle

  • Sciatica: pain radiating along the path of the sciatic nerve which extends from the lower back through the hips and down each leg

  • Scoliosis: sideways curvature of the spine

  • Spinal stenosis: narrowing of the spinal canal.

It’s important to note back pain is not limited to medically related causes. There are several lifestyle factors contributing to that horrific pain you are feeling, including:

  • Improperly lifting weights: Lifting weights is NOT bad for you. However, lifting weights that are too heavy for your fitness level and / or lifting any weights incorrectly with poor form and technique is unsafe and can lead to injury.

  • Improper twisting or overstretching: This puts unnecessarily strain on your spine. If you aren’t properly engaging the right muscles to move your body, this can lead to serious pain.

    For example, you go to pick up a heavy piece of furniture or Amazon box without thinking about what you’re doing and immediately feel that surge of pain in your back. This happens when you fail to engage the right muscles (your core) and instead, pull from your back (not something we want to be doing).

  • Poor posture: Spending a large chunk of your day sitting at a desk, hunched over your computer keyboard or attached to your mobile device? Poor posture takes a toll and can creep up on you over the years. I

    f you’re sitting at your desk now reading this or, scrolling this blog on your phone, take note of your posture. Is your head and neck cranked forward? Are your shoulders rolled in? Are you slouching? This creates the perfect storm for bad posture which is linked to a host of problems you may not even think to consider like back pain.

  • Prolonged standing, driving, or sitting: Most of us are not thinking about how we are standing and sitting. But if you’re doing either for a long period of time you will feel it in your back. This is because you are not actively engaging the right muscle groups (your core) and instead, straining your back / relying on those muscles versus the ones you want to be using in your back body (think legs and glutes).


BENEFITS OF STRENGTH TRAINING

Whether your back pain is caused by a medical or non-medical issue, studies prove strength training (using added resistance to your exercises such as weights or resistance bands) may be safe and can relieve pain when done correctly within the right conditions. 

This is why your coaches at Results Fitness have created a safe and effective space for you to properly strength train. You get the hands on coaching you need by working with trained, certified professionals so you know exactly what to do and how to perform each movement correctly.

“But….should I really be strength training if I have back pain?”

It may feel counterintuitive to add weight or even MOVE when your back gets cranky. Your instincts may be telling you to take it easy and lay down, but here’s what you may now know:  

Although rest and recovery are extremely important, staying immobile when experiencing back pain may end up increasing your pain over time and this can result in the deconditioning and instability in your back.  Who wants that?? 

Here’s how strength training benefits your spine health:

  1.  Improves overall muscle strength, specifically by improving the function of your back and core muscles.

  2.  Increases lean muscle mass allowing for a stronger more stable spine.

  3. Increases range of motion of your spine allowing for increased ease during all movements and reduced risk of injury.

  4. Decreases body fat and takes added weight off your spinal column, decreasing risk for the above stated medical issues


TOP 5 EXERCISES FOR BACK PAIN

Ready to start feeling better, living pain free and getting back to what you enjoy doing?

Now that we’ve covered all the bases as to why you may be experiencing back pain and how strength training decreases and prevents pain, let’s get down to the specific exercises we use at Results Fitness to prevent, manage and ease back pain.

It starts with good pelvic alignment – huh?

All’s this means is focusing on exercises that engage the muscle groups surrounding your pelvis that stabilize the spine: hamstrings (back of legs), glutes (butt), hips, and abs. By keeping these muscles strong and stable, you reduce the chance of injury and pain in your back.  Here are the 5 best exercises for these muscles and what we continually do in our warm-up’s and workouts here at RF:

  1. Hamstring Curls: Hamstrings are the muscles in the back of your legs so it’s easy to understand why they become super tight and weak: prolonged sitting!  Because the hamstrings are attached to your pelvis, tightening of these muscles can cause extra pull and strain on our low back. Hamstring curls allow us the opportunity to lengthen AND strengthen these pesky muscles decreasing the risk of pull/tilt of our pelvis; which can lead to low back pain/strain.

  2. Glute Bridges: Glutes are the muscles in your butt and VERY important when it comes to supporting your low back, stabilizing your spine and strengthening your posture. If your glutes become weak, other areas of your body will attempt to compensate for this weakness and this leads to low back pain. 

    By Incorporating glute bridges regularly into your strength training routine, you are targeting your glutes AND low back muscles; both of which are needed to maintain an upright posture. 

  3. Bird Dog: This exercise is great for relieving high pressure stress on your spine and discs by specifically targeting your lower back muscles, hips, glutes, and hamstrings!  This seemingly “simple” core exercise improves stability of your spine, strengthens your abs, encourages a neutral spine, promotes proper posture, increases range of motion, and decreases low back pain.    

  4. Superman: This exercise is a great beginner move for learning how to safely extend your spine. The superman is critical for strengthening your erector spinae muscles (the muscles that run the length of our spine).  These muscles play an important role in spinal stability and prevent unwanted movement in our lower backs.   

    For this reason, we incorporate the superman in the warmup portion of class as well as an active rest break between exercises to help engage your back muscles and prevent injury.  This simple exercise prepares your back muscles for more challenging, heavier exercises like the squat, deadlift and bench press. 

  5. Planks (side + front): In all its forms, planks help improve core strength and stability. Your core consists of the muscles surrounding your whole spine, not just your abs. Sure, abs are definitely part of your core, but we often forget the surrounding side and back body muscles when we think about core strengthening.

    Plank incorporates not just our ab muscles but also our arm and leg muscles forcing our bodies muscles to work together and in turn, increasing overall spinal strength and stability. Classic sit ups are usually a go to for core strengthening but they can do more harm then good by putting excess pressure on your spine and discs. Instead, try holding a plank


HOW TO GET STARTED

Now that you’re considering strength training to help reduce and prevent back pain, here are a few do’s and don’ts for getting started today:

  • DO consult a qualified healthcare professional to provide an accurate diagnosis and determine if weight training is safe to perform with your back pain.

  • DO seek guidance from a coach, trainer, or therapist to ensure you are performing all exercises with the correct technique to avoid further injury/pain. That’s exactly what we do as your coaches here at Results Fitness!

  • DO use smaller weights to build your strength progressively.

  • DO add in some active recovery such as walking around your weight training sessions to decrease stiffness.

  • DO aim for 2-5 strength training sessions a week for 30 minutes or more.

  • DON’T incorporate exercises that involve extreme or abrupt movements increasing your chance for injury. Instead, focus on slow, controlled movements that build strength and stability.

  • DON’T push through sharp pain! Some soreness is okay but sharp pain is NOT normal and you must stop the exercise immediately.

If you have questions or, need help getting started so you feel safe exercising, schedule your FREE strategy session with one of our expert coaching by clicking the button below:

 

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