While this blurb will only vaguely follow along the theme of relieving your low back pain, I feel this is something that needs to be addressed.
About an hour ago I was at the gym. Tucked away in the back corner is the “leg” workout area. This is where all the power rack, squat cages and other various implements of leg training sit.
As I was working away on my front squats today, there was a young guy, possibly in his early 20s who was in the power rack behind me.
What I saw next actually made me feel ill.
He proceeded to load up a fairly significant amount of weight onto the bar, about 315 lbs give or take.
Here’s where it all went downhill.
With that amount of load, he started to complete his version of squats. Unfortunately, these looked like a standing version of a very loaded sit up and then a back extension from a flexed spine position with a 2 inch knee bend.
He should not be squatting!
Basically, imagine Gumby trying to do heavier squats.
I honestly felt like I would have to dodge his vertebral discs as they shot out of his back. And then dodge some more as they bounced around the walls of the room.
Where am I going with this?
Please, please, please, always use a load you can handle safely and keep your form clean. If you don’t know what you’re doing, invest in the expertise of a coach or trainer.
Now that I’ve lightly touched upon postural issues, it’s time to move on to muscular ones.
In the last post, I alluded to the fact that repeated poor postures cause certain muscles to change from their ideal through adaptive changes. I also talked about the pelvis and its relationship to low back pain.
Today and over the next couple days, I’m going to link the two.
At this point, I think it would be wise to take a moment and welcome the brothers glute: Maximus, Medius and Minimus.
Rock Crushing Glutes: Not Dysfunctional
Collectively and colloquially they are known as the “buttocks”. And we’ve all got ‘em.
So how does this tie into relieving your low back pain?
This powerhouse muscle group is almost always dysfunctional in the posteriors of all the non-traumatic, chronic bad backs that I’ve had the pleasure of working on.
Think about this for a moment. People with low back pain have weak butts.
Let’s dig a little bit deeper, shall we?
For most of you out there, what’s the most challenging movement you’ll do in your day?
I’m sure there are a few of your out there who will do some pretty incredible feats in the gym or whatever your training field may be. You may be crazy acrobats or gymnasts or super-athletes.
However, for most of you, as is the case with the majority of the clients I see at the clinic, it will be…drum roll please…
Sitting and Standing (aka The Sit-to-Stand).
You do this when you wake up in the morning and roll out of bed. You do this when you use the toilet. If you eat breakfast, which you should be doing, there’s a good chance you sit then stand from the kitchen table. If you drive or ride the bus or train to work, you more than likely sit then stand. At your desk, sure enough, you sit and stand. Repeatedly. And so on and so forth.
Now if you are a low back pain sufferer, I can almost guarantee that you do this incorrectly.
Yup. You do.
I know. It hurts. Sitting then standing seems like such a simple skill! I mean, after all these years, you should be a pro right?
Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, you picked up some pretty bad habits and developed a beneficial relationship with gravity. It’s called the “plop”. This means you “plop” into you chair without any control.
When’s the last time you thought about how you sit? Or how you stand from sitting?
If you spend a good part of your day sitting, you will end up inhibiting the glutes. When these muscles are turned off like that, it changes how your pelvis functions. It changes how your hips work. Which then changes how your spine functions.
All these alterations in function then affect all the tissues up and down what we call the kinetic chain.
Now if your glutes don’t work properly, your low back has to pick up the slack. Little muscles start doing the work of big muscles. Big muscles start doing the work of little muscles. And some muscles just stop working.
In the following clip, a couple squat variations for you to try out are shown.
Before I get any of my clients squatting like in the video, I get them to actually turn their butt muscles back on. Since there isn’t a switch to flip, this does require some effort.
First exercise: The Glute Squeeze.
If you’re sitting, sit up tall and sit on your hands. Now squeeze your butt cheeks. You should feel the muscles tighten on your hands and it should feel like you’re lifting your body up. Do this for 10 reps every chance you get and every time you find yourself sitting.
So that’s your homework for today. Nice and simple. Squeeze your butt. Lots.
Tomorrow, we’ll talk more about those glutes of yours.