One of the most frequent things people complain about as they age is back pain. It’s so common it’s almost hilarious. “Yeah, I’m getting older, so it must be normal” or “It’s only going to get worse. Welcome to senior citizenship!”.
But living with permanent discomfort is something we shouldn’t accept at all, regardless of our age. Preventing and solving back pain issues is something that should be very high in your priority list. The reason is simple – your overall mobility might depend entirely on it.
An ab-solute truth
You might think most of your back’s stability is entirely dependant on your spine erectors. This set of muscles do have the role of straightening and rotating your back indeed. But they can’t do all of this work by themselves. They need major help from their antagonist muscle – the rectus abdominis, better known as your abs.
- Start from a normal, straight standing position.
- Round your lower back forward as much as you can.
- Now round it back until you can see the ceiling (or the sky, if you’re outside).
- Get back to the straight standing position.
- Now here comes the fun part – suck your belly in! Engage your core as hard as possible.
- Try to round your back in any direction – can you?
Of course you can’t. You have just discovered the role of your abs is not to make you look good at the beach when they’re not covered by any fat. Their job is to keep your back stable and safe!
Many other muscles also help the spine erectors to perform their job properly. This including glutes and hip flexors. There’s much more to your lower back than just the spine erectors.
Strength training has your back
After doing the previous experiment it’s pretty clear. We need a stronger core to keep our backs from aching. Now, for most people, this is equal to doing a zillion crunches every day. Which, as you might think, is not the best way to achieve this. Enter strength training.
To get a stronger core and spine erectors, you must do lifts and gymnastic movements and holds. This will stimulate muscle growth in both areas. Here are some examples of what to do to achieve this:
Many of these are classics, but very effective for midsection strength. Some might prove challenging since there’s no way to scale your out bodyweight down. This requires careful scaling to improve technique.
- Dragon flags
Science has proven time after time lifting weights is the best way to build core and back strength. The reason is its scalable nature. Just start with light weights and go from there. In fact weight lifting is an excellent path to later perform some of the bodyweight movements listed above.
- Front squats
- Shoulder presses
- Overhead squats
- Clean and jerks
It is extremely important you learn how to do all these exercises under the supervision of a professional coach or trainer. This is the best way to keep yourself safe and see actual progress and results. Also, don’t forget to consult your doctor in case you’re not sure about what movements are the best to correct your particular case. Just a few weeks of following a proper strength and conditioning program is enough to kiss back pain goodbye!
Julio Gutierrez is the founder and Head Coach of Hurricane Fitness. His love for the deadlift is almost as big as his love of pop culture.