Lower Back Injuries Lifting – How To Prevent This
Lower back injuries lifting are one of the most common injuries for bodybuilders and other lifters. In this article I will discuss how best to prevent injuring your lower back. I injured my lower back many years ago from deadlifting so I know firsthand about this topic. I will share from my own experiences the best ways to keep your lower back healthy and avoid serious injuries.
Wearing A Belt On Heavy Sets
Many people advocate beltless training for the fact that it forces your abs to get stronger. I do agree that the majority of your training with lighter weights should be beltless. However when the weight starts getting heavy, say 70% of your 1RM, then you should wear a lifting belt for the safety aspect.
Training completely beltless increases the likelihood of suffering from lower back strains. This is especially true for movements where the lower back gets taxed heavily – deadlifts, rows, squats, etc. Therefore wearing a belt on heavier sets reduces the number of lower back strains that you will encounter over time.
This also means you can make better progress. When you are injured your progress gets affected the most. You will end up going backwards until you have fully recovered.
45 Degree Back Extensions
This is an exercise that is still under-utilised in most gyms today. If you see anyone doing this exercise they will do it with just bodyweight or by holding a small weight plate to their chest. The 45 degree back extension is performed on a 45 degree hyperextension bench. The great thing about this exercise is that it works the lower back really well and strengthens it. It pumps a lot of blood into both the lower back and the hamstrings. This serves to reduce lower back tightness and also keep your lower back healthy long term.
I personally advocate performing this exercise while holding onto a small straight barbell. I do multiple sets of 5, squeezing the glutes at the top for a few seconds and lowering slowly down. I reset every rep from the floor. Pete Rubish is also a big advocate of this exercise and he also uses it regularly in his training to supplement his deadlift as well as keep his lower back healthy.
The reverse hyperextension is exactly as the name suggests. It is the normal hyperextension in reverse. For this you need to use a reverse hyper bench to perform the exercise. For this exercise you will be moving your legs back and up against resistance. This exercise is great for strengthening the glutes and it pays dividend for keeping the lower back healthy. Weak glutes can play a role in lower back pain, therefore it is important to strengthen the glutes.
In general the exercise is a fantastic posterior chain builder. Unfortunately not every gym has a reverse hyper bench, if you are training in a gym that has then you must take advantage of it. To improvise reverse hypers without the special bench you can use a 45 degree back extension bench. Walk up to the machine so that the hip pad is directly in front of you, rest your hips onto the pad and hold on to the foot pads for support. Then perform reverse hypers, this way is sub optimal as the loading potential is not the same as with a proper reverse hyper bench.
Pull Up Bar Hangs
Hanging from a pull up bar is great for de-compressing the spine and stretching everything out in your back. I like to do this at the end of all my weight training workouts. It makes the back feel good and helps to keep it healthy long term. For an even better stretch you can do pull up bar hangs using extra weight via a dip belt. This will have even more benefits for de-compression compared to just hanging from the bar with bodyweight. In addition this is good for improving grip strength at the same time, especially if the pull up bar is fat.
Training the abdominals hard is critical for reducing lower back injuries and keeping your lower back feeling good long term. It is not just for aesthetic purposes, a strong core is incredibly useful for virtually all exercises. I like to do decline sit ups weighted for abs, I find that this exercise challenges the core really well and is very tough when weighted with decent loads. I generally shoot for 12 rep sets.
Another fantastic ab exercise is the ab wheel. This tool is inexpensive and you use it to work your abs by holding onto the wheel in a kneeling position and rolling forward and then back with it. This exercise really burns when done for high reps, even using the ab wheel once a week is sufficient to get the benefits that come with it. For more ab training ideas you can see my post here.
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To conclude, in this article I have examined how best to prevent lower back injuries lifting and keep your lower back healthy for the long term. Any serious lower back injuries can have serious consequences in every day life on mobility and quality of life. The lower back is also very commonly injured in the gym from heavy lifting, heavy squats and deadlifts over time put a toll on it.
By incorporating 45 degree back extensions, reverse hyperextensions, pull up bar hangs and ab training into your routine you can rest assured knowing that you are taking the right decisions in strengthening your lower back and preventing injuries from ocurring.
Wearing a belt for heavy sets will also serve to protect your lower back and dramatically lower incidences of strains in that area.
If you have any personal experiences regarding lower back injuries from lifting and how you overcame them, please share them in the comments. Do you perform the exercises that I have recommended already? As always, enjoy your training and stay safe!