Personal trainers suggest resistance training for low back pain.

Personal trainers suggest resistance training for low back pain.

Posted in exercise

Oct 6th Tom: I have had a year of back issues ranging from being unable to leave the house to a minor niggles. We're not entirely sure what's causing the back problems, but the best guess is that my back is much weaker now compared to when I was in my twenties.

When I was studying and doing taekwondo I once did 1000 sit-ups in a gym session (20 sets of 50) so I had pretty good core strength. I was probably hiding back issues by being so strong during my twenties. 

I still do sport but because the back is relatively much weaker than before it can't hold itself together. So far this year my osteopath has put 12 vertebrae back in place and worked on a mildly herniate disc. These vertebrae seem to displace without any force (e.g. not falling, etc); they displace when sleeping, and walking around the house etc. I have displaced vertebra all over the spine - lower, mid, upper & neck.   

I have a lot of different back exercises that I do over the course of the week so I don't hit the same muscles in the same way. I usually do a 45 min ride to warm up then maybe 5 from the list below;

Rubber band exercises for the back (used as a warm-up)

Slow push-ups (concentrating on abs) (up to 3x30)

Plank (3x30s)

Side plank (can't hold this for more than 10s)

Reverse flye shoulder lifts (light weights, concentrating on good back form)

Pull ups

TRX style push-ups and crunch (3x10)

Australian pull-ups (3X10)

Dip & crunch (3X10)Donkey kicks (3x10)

Back raises (still aspirational - they hurt too much!)

Some crunches 

I still climb but much less than before as I am cautious of climbing with my back problem (hurting my back whilst 50m up a cliff cold lead to a tricky scenario!) I try to stand when using the computer; it is on the kitchen bar.

Do you have any other suggestions?

Oct 10th CPT: Hi Tom! We are most intrigued by the displaced vertebrae along the length of your whole spine and that you are finding extensions (back raises) the hardest. 

We wonder if the 1000 crunches when you were younger wasn’t too much and if you did 1000 back extensions/raises to equalize the strength at the back of the body? We know now, and your list proves that there are many more effective core strengthening exercise then crunches. In fact, as personal trainers, we don’t always recommend to train the abdominals separately as we believe they are involved enough in functional and resistance training. For example from your list, the core is involved in all of them! We would therefore suggest, no need for extra crunches.

There is a big focus from your list on the front of the body. We believe that you may benefit from a big focus on the back of your body i.e. all the back of the body extensors: neck, shoulders, upper/middle/lower back/spine, then into the hip extensors (glutes & hamstrings) and calves. Your donkey crunch is a good one for the hip extensors and we recommend the Pilates bridge too in many variations.

Do you know the Pilates ‘breast stroke prep’, ‘swan dive prep’ and ‘swimming’ exercises? These are good for the back of the body from head to toe! We can give you specific instructions on how to perform these.

For hamstrings and low back strengthening, try one legged dead lifts with body weights or light weights as a form of resistance training initially and focusing on the eccentric phase of the exercise, i.e. the way down. Take 5-10 seconds to go down so the focus is on the lengthening of the hamstrings.

More focus on the obliques is also advisable and the side planks are good. Keep working on increasing the time - as long as the pain is not above 5 on the pain scale of 1 (no pain) to 10 (excruciating pain)!

Oct 12th Tom: I'll look into focusing more on the back of the body.  The doctor has given me prescription for back x-rays and 20 physio sessions. Hopefully the problem should be resolved quite soon.

Oct 14th Tom: Wow - that 1 legged dead lift is a killer for me! I'm lacking loads of strength and flexibility in my hips and hamstrings. Thanks for helping me find this.

Oct 15th CPT: Yes, definitely need to get flexibility and strength into the hips & hamstrings.

Oct 23rd Tom: I have just had my first outdoor climb in four months - no problems (and I loved it!)

The one legged dead lifts are tough and I can't go down very far or use weights but, despite only being able to do a few before my hip muscles give out, I feel they are making a big difference for strength and flexibility. I do them 2x per week to allow good recovery. I feel like I am getting stronger all round and, thanks to your suggestions, I am putting more emphasis on the back and lower body muscles. Thanks for your advice.

Oct 25th CPT: This is great news regarding your first climb outdoors in four months! We are pleased that the focus on the back of your body with body weight resistance exercises such as the one legged dead lift has helped relatively quickly to strengthen and gain flexibility in your hamstrings and low back. Good luck and keep us posted on your progress!