We’ve all felt it – whether in the form of a sudden pinch, a gradual stiffening, or simply waking up to it – yep, it’s back pain. Coming in many shapes and forms, and with even more potential causes, discomfort in the spine is a leading cause of missed workouts and failed programs. Here are three key tips for preventing back pain.
Strengthen Your Core
While training might be seen as a risk factor for back pain, the right exercises performed in the right way can actually be what protects you from it! Strong muscles in your abdomen, obliques, and spine provide the solid core that your back needs for support.
Healthy muscle is both strong and flexible, so don’t neglect the power of stretching before and after workouts. Yoga poses such as cobra (bhujangasana) and cat-cow (chakravakasana) are a great place to start! On the other hand, “traditional” stretches and exercises that promote a stiff, curved back – think toe touches or crunches – should be avoided at all costs. Try substitute yoga flows that include the poses above, and for core strength, lean on the many variants of plank exercises rather than curls or crunches.
Perfect Your Form
Sacrificing technique for a PR is a surefire way to pick up an injury. Given the role of the spine in “big” lifts such as deadlifts, it’s often an easy victim. When placing your spine in a compromising or challenging position, keep your back as straight as possible and engage your core muscles to do the work. And whether you’re deadlifting or helping a friend move a couch, always remember to engage your legs and glutes to shift the brunt of the load away from your back.
The key word here is control. When training, stretching, or recovering and relaxing, never subject your spine to motions or actions that can’t be done with precision. For example, leaping into high-intensity programs without properly preparing can be much too harsh and sudden, and can easily lead to injury. And in recovery, the common solution of foam rolling can cause major damage to already inflamed tissue – opt for gentle stretches that slowly “breathe” the spine in and out, back and forth. Your sore back isn’t dislocated, and you’re not going to just pop it back in!
And while we’re discussing the importance of form and control, we believe the notion of “training until failure” should be left in the past. While it can be satisfying in its simplicity, the concept of pushing your body to the point of collapse is inherently flawed. If you truly push your body to the brink, you will absolutely compromise on form and technique somewhere along that journey – and that’s where injury will strike. Muscles coming to the point of collapse means joints that are under an incredible amount of stress and when form inevitably slips… let’s not go there. It’s far more beneficial to work smarter, train with perfect form, and recover with a vengeance.
Frequently, a back injury doesn’t originate in the back at all, but is actually caused by weak or injured muscles elsewhere in the body. Your spine can act as a “compensator” – by virtue of being big, strong, and central in the body, it can pick up the slack of other muscles such as the glutes, upper legs, core, and chest.
For example, strong glute activation is crucial in exercises such as squats. If the glutes are undertrained and can’t handle the work, the spine will compensate and may be strained in the process. You may not even notice while exercising, because, well, you did the reps! But you didn’t do them using the muscles you thought, and your lower back might pay the price later. Recurring back pain can often be attributed to a muscle imbalance and subsequent overcompensation on a regular basis.
As with any injury, the answer is never to work through the pain. Don’t train on an injured spine – take a day out of the gym, do some light stretching, cardio that’s easy on your back like swimming or walking, and recover well. Visit a physiotherapist sooner rather than later with any recurrent or chronic pain, and make sure that you’re following good practices outside of the gym too; the office, couch, and bedroom can be just as dangerous.
Engage in a Well-Rounded Training Routine
Creating a training routine that will suit you best may seem daunting; this is where PKRS.AI immediately has your back (no pun intended). We are here to create a personal adaptive training plan, taking into careful consideration your recovery days as much as your activity, and lets you communicate with your personal coaching dream team consisting of your own head coach, strength trainer, and nutritionist. Incorporating the power of first in class AI technology, and a real human expert coaching team, PRKS.AI is the future of fitness. The ultimate coaching tool, all in the palm of your hand.
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