There is no denying that across the board the number one complaint by almost all men who enter into a fitness regimen is back pain. Many of our new male clients claim to have lower back issues and truth is almost everyone at some point in their life will experience back pain.
Now, I know I’m not going to make many friends here but for the most part – back pain is preventable and it’s your fault it’s hurting. I know, ouch.
But the good thing is if it’s your own actions that are causing the pain then you have 100% control over alleviating the pain. You won’t need to rely on meds, doctors or weird gadgets.
What most people don’t realize is that back pain is typically caused by sitting for long periods of time, poor posture (standing and sitting) and lack of core strength. So we can pretty much blame our sedentary work stations, lack of movement and fashion for all our problems.
However, there are many ways to reverse the issue in the gym and it can even be a very simple fix to those with even severe back pain. Before we get into exercises for prevention let’s talk about key things that can help you initially avoid and alleviate back pain.
Key #1 – exercise regularly. Believe it or not sometimes the best remedy for back pain is to keep moving. Now I’m not advising gymnastics, but walking and light exercise while maintaining proper posture has been shown to be extremely helpful. This will get you up out of the seated position which can be in fact what is causing the pain in the first place. Try to avoid activities though that involve bending over excessively especially if you are new to the gym – this is where a personal trainer can really help.
Key #2 – limit too much rest. This goes against the ‘let it rest’ mentality and I’ll stand behind it 100%. If you are experiencing a dull lower back pain – get up and get moving.
It has been shown through research that individuals will actually experience more pain when resting often than those individuals who stay active and moving about.
Key #3 – improve flexibility. Any trainer or fitness expert will teach you that low back pain is a result of altered tension relationships in other muscles in the body. Yes, your low back pain is usually a result of areas other than your back. Making sure to foam roll your calves and IT bands will help, as well as making sure to stretch your hip flexors and hamstrings daily.
Key #4 – core strength. Training your core can drastically help with lower back pain. You must remember that the body is always trying to pick up the slack if you are lacking in a muscle group. Therefore, if your core is extremely weak then chances are your low back can be getting overloaded with the work load of your torso. So strengthening your core with different abdominal exercises as well as training your lower back will help give you balance.
For exercises you should focus on movements that strengthen your low back, abdomen, pelvis, and thighs. Here are my top three recommendations:
Exercise #1 – floor prone cobra. Lie on the floor face down in a prone position palm on the ground just slight to the side of your body. Next you are going to raise your head, chest, feet off the ground pointing your thumbs up towards the ceiling. Like doing a superman only arms out to the side with a thumbs up. This activates your glutes and back as you pinch your shoulder blades together.
Hold for three to five seconds and slowly return to starting position. Repeat for 10 repetitions.
Exercise #2 – hip abductor glute activation. Lie on your left side with your left arm extended and palm on the ground. Place your right hand on your hip. Now raise your right foot towards the ceiling while keeping your foot flexed and your leg straight. Similar to how scissors work. This is a great glue activation exercise and hip exercise which really helps with back pain.
Do 10 repetitions and then roll over to your opposite side for 10 reps. Two total sets.
Exercise #3 – hip flexor stretch. Take a knee in a split lunge position. Make sure your front foot is far enough away from your bent knee while resting your hand on your knee. Now straighten and lengthen the hip of your rear leg while pressing forward. You should feel this stretch in the rear quad and hip flexor.
Hold for 30 seconds switch knees and repeat.
There you have it, practice these three top exercises daily and your back should be feeling new in no time. Good luck! And remember, if you need help with the exercise part, there is no harm asking for help from your fitness buddies or a personal trainer. Knowledge is power when it comes to back pain relief.
Jack Wheeler is a personal trainer and the owner of 360 Fitness in Red Deer.