At first it might be a twinge, but you know that this is just the start. Back pain is something that can creep up on anyone during their workout and while there might be occasions when it’s just a short-term problem, more often than not it can be the start of something serious.
When we define “serious”, we’re referring to the problems which can keep you out of action for months. So it’s something worth getting to the bottom of.
The interesting thing about back injuries is that many don’t occur as a result of your workout itself. Instead, they are completely unrelated to the gym. Sure, your time working out has accelerated the process, but it’s everything you did beforehand that has really laid the groundwork for a nasty injury.
We’re talking about simple things; such as sitting down for too long. While most of us are forced to do this through our work, the fact remains that sitting down for long periods of time is something that will compress the bones and muscles in your back and just sap your strength in this area.
Fortunately, there is hope. Sure, we’re not going to guarantee that you can say goodbye to back injuries for good, but if you can keep to the following exercises there’s every chance that you can at least reduce the chances emphatically.
To make life even easier, here are four exercises you should be turning to, followed by four that you should avoid at all costs.
The exercises you should be doing
Let’s start with four exercises that you should be turning to in a bid to solve the problem.
Exercise #1 – Pilates
First on our list is Pilates. It might not be a set of exercises that is appreciated by all men, but it should be your first port of call if you are serious about helping out your back.
One of the big causes behind back pain is that while our body might be able to complete an exercise completely fine, it might not support your back and spine whilst carrying it out. The upshot is that you are immediately susceptible to injuries.
This is where Pilates enters the picture. This promotes movements which “train” your body to support your back and spine whenever you exercise.
As well as acting as a tool for prevention, a study in 2006 found that Pilates can alleviate existing lower back pain as well. It’s a win-win.
Exercise #2 – Yoga
Following on from the above, it probably won’t be a surprise to read that yoga is next on the list. Even though Pilates and yoga are different, there are often parallels drawn between them and on the subject of back pain, this is a form of exercise which can aid you immensely.
The basis of yoga is simple; it will improve your core strength whilst also providing you with added flexibility. Both of these are crucial when exercising; having a strong core can take pressure from your back, while it goes without saying that flexibility means that your body will naturally get into position, without being forced to do so in an awkward manner.
If we were to recommend a couple of poses, we’d suggest turning to the camel pose and child’s pose which are both renowned to help your back.
Exercise #3 – Balancing
Strictly speaking, this isn’t a specific exercise. All we’re going to suggest is that you turn to any form of balancing exercise – as all of these will help your back.
This is probably one of the more interesting points we are going to touch on and relates to a term called proprioception. Put simply, this is how aware your body is of your limbs. When you start to balance, your proprioception improves. In the long-run, this means that you are less likely to fall and succumb to the common movements which result in back injury.
To throw out a specific example, try standing on one leg, raising your knee to your waist and holding for ten seconds. Try doing this ten times per day.
Exercise #4 – Planks
For such a simple exercise, the power of the plank is quite amazing. The message so far has been that your core has to be super-strength if you are to limit back injuries, and this is where planks come in. They put constant tension on your ab muscles, which in turn can then support your back much more easily.
The exercises you should avoid at all cost
Ok, we’ve spoken about the “do’s”, but now it’s onto the negative side of our guide.
Some of the following exercises might raise a few eyebrows, but if you are to limit your back injury potential it’s time to cut these out of your workout. Or, as we’ll come on to shortly, change the way you complete them.
Exercise #1 – Incline leg press
It’s probably one of the most popular machines on the gym floor, but that doesn’t mean to say that the incline leg press system is going to do your back any favors. On the contrary, the fact that this contraption puts your back at a significant angle (with your legs notably above your head) means that put simply – it’s just awkward.
When it comes to your back, awkward certainly isn’t good. In fact, it’s asking for trouble. Most people will only start to feel the pain over the long-term as well – it’s not an exercise which is going to prompt an instant “snap”.
Exercise #2 – Sit ups
This is another one of the most popular exercises out there, even more so if you work out at home. However, for the sake of your back, please cut out sit ups. Or, cut them out if you don’t know how to do them properly.
So many athletes do sit ups the completely wrong way and put all sorts of unnecessary pressure on their back. If you’re the type of person who puts your hands behind your head, you probably fall into this category. You will more than likely start to use your hands as leverage and this has the indirect effect of putting pressure on your neck and spine. In terms of specific injury, don’t forget the term “herniated disc”.
If you are insistent on performing sit ups, make sure that you are only using your abs and core. Any loss of form is a disaster waiting to happen.
Exercise #3 – Squats
Again, we’re not banishing squats. They happen to be one of the best exercises out there.
What we are banishing is squats with poor form. This usually starts with those guys who turn to too much weight, which will gradually cause long-term back pain. If possible, start with body-weight squats, and make sure that you have 100% form before adding to them.
Exercise #4 – Overhead lifts
You’ve probably guessed the next message; overhead lifts are fine as long as you are performing them correctly. Unfortunately, far too many guys don’t.
This is probably one of the most obvious exercises out there. We’ve all been there where our back is trying to spring into action as we reach for more weights. Vertebrae fractures start to become common and in short, you need to make sure that if you do perform an overhead lift, you are avoiding an arch in your back at all cost.
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