This morning one of our training clients, who is a nurse at a local hospital, was telling me how two of her co-workers are having trouble doing their jobs because they had low back problems. She said she was trying to explain to them how to prevent low back pain by strengthening the muscles in and around the low back area, but they weren’t really getting it. So I thought I’d take a stab at it with this blog post.
How to Prevent Low Back Pain Through Strength Training
80% of us – 4 out of 5 – will experience low back pain at some point in our lives. Low back pain is the #1 cause of disability in the workplace worldwide.
More U.S. health care dollars are spent treating low back pain than almost any other medical condition, but much of that money is be wasted. Estimates on the health care costs of low back pain range from $50 billion to $200 billion per year – a lot of money, whatever the exact number is.
Yet at the same time, outcomes don’t seem to be improving. The amount of people who report suffering from back pain is steadily on the rise. The cause of most back pain is mechanical-meaning it is due to some type of injury, most often a soft tissue injury to the surrounding muscles, tendons and/or ligaments.
Many exercises that supposedly strengthen the lower back muscles are actually dangerous to the spine, and work the hip and leg muscles way more than the low back muscles. These include any exercise where you explosively pull a weight upward, something you see a lot in many gyms today. There is nothing worse than going to the gym to prevent injuries, and then getting injured in the process!
But there is good news-proper exercise can help get rid of lower back pain, and strengthen the lower back to reduce the risk of such injuries, and in a safe manner. The best exercises for this purpose are those that isolate the lumbar spine muscles and don’t utilize the hip and leg muscles.
Most common “back” exercises, such as deadlifts or back extensions (shown below), do not achieve this goal.
Isolating the lumbar spine muscles is accomplished by restraining the pelvis, which eliminates the involvement of the hip and leg muscles. There are very few exercise machines on the market that effectively accomplish this goal. One is the Nautilus Lower Back extension machine (pictured below), which can be found at Rock Solid Fitness.
As you can see in the picture above, the Nautilus low back machine has 2 seat belts, one which goes across the hips, and one that goes just above the trainees’ knees. Also, notice how there is a pad that goes behind the hips. This pad and the 2 seat belts serve to restrain the pelvis, rendering the hip and leg muscles unable to assist with the exercise. This design isolates the action to only the lumbar spinal muscles.
The trainee starts the exercise in a position of lumbar flexion (bent forward), and leans back into the upper back pad until the lumbar spine is in a position of full extension, working the lumbar spinal muscles through a full range of motion, as shown below.
Of course, the muscles of the hips and thighs are very important to those who want to know how to prevent low back pain, but they should be trained using exercises that specifically target those muscles safely, such as leg press, leg extension, leg curl, etc. At Rock Solid Fitness, we always perform full body workouts, so that none of these areas are neglected.
So if you would like to know how to prevent low back pain, using exercises that properly isolate the lumbar spine muscles combined with a full body strengthening program, just schedule a workout at Rock Solid Fitness and we will hook you up!