If you’ve never injured your lower back, count yourself lucky. Lower-back problems are as common among long-term trainees as collections of spandex shorts stuffed in a drawer, waiting for hot pink and neon green to come back into style. Lower-back injuries have a disturbing tendency to flare up again at the slightest provocation, making it difficult or impossible to use the exercises and poundages that you wish. If you take good care of your back while it’s healthy, though, you may avoid a lifetime of aches and pains. Here are some recommendations.
Never round or excessively arch the back. The absolute most dangerous thing you can do in a gym, aside from intentionally dropping a weight on your head, is to round your lower back while holding a weight. You see it all the time when people do stiff-legged deadlifts and barbell rows. Many lifters also arch their backs too much when they do overhead presses or squats. The correct position in most cases is a slight arch. Vary too much in either direction, and injury will be hot on your heels.
Train your lower back. Another reason many people incur lower-back injuries is because they never take the time to strengthen it with specific exercises like hyperextensions or good mornings. The lower back often becomes a weak link during squats, deadlifts, overhead presses or heavy rows. Your hips and thighs may be powerful enough to squat 500 pounds, but if your lower back doesn’t have enough strength to stabilize you’snap! Don’t let it happen to you. Take a few extra minutes and train your lower back twice a week.
See a good chiropractor. Most people only think about visiting a chiropractor after they’re already hurt, but the truth is, bodybuilding can cause your spine to slip out of alignment, leading to degenerative disk problems. Getting adjusted regularly is like getting a tune-up on your spine and joints to keep them healthy. You may also find yourself a bit stronger simply because all the bones and joints are lined up optimally, providing you with better leverage. Look for an experienced chiropractor who has worked with bodybuilders and other athletes.
Never ignore lower-back pain. Many times a slight muscle strain becomes a crippling injury because a lifter ignored pain and attempted to lift through it. If you feel pain in your lower back, your body is sending a clear message to take it easy. You should apply an ice pack three times a day and back off on the weights in any exercise that involves the lower back as a prime mover or stabilizer. If the pain persists, see a chiropractor for treatment, which can include ultrasound, electrical muscle stimulators, infrared therapy and massage. IM