Low back pain has been something I’ve been plagued with for years. I’m assuming this is a direct reflection of my brother and I trying to relive the WWF glory days in our parents backyard, or maybe the legendary beatings we’d unleash upon each other after someone lost in Duck Hunt (Yes that asshole dog that giggled when you lost still gives me nightmares)
But all joking aside, low back tightness, stiffness and achiness will be the first way for you to ride the sidelines and be BUMMED out on not being able to train.
At the Masters’s level, I’m hearing it more and more that many men & woman are struggling with low back pain, and “toughing” through their training sessions.
Now, I’m the first one to tell you to H.T.F.U. but when it comes down to it, you need to always always ALWAYS listen to your body, no matter what the program you’re running tells you.
Some of our online clients are absolutely CRUSHING these programs, and I sit back and check in with them on the daily to hear how pumped they are, and how much the programs are helping them get stronger and move better.
But I’m also hearing that some members due to various reasons are having lumbar tightness on typically their pull days.
Now, it’s not uncommon to feel lumbar tightness on deadlift days, but I started to feel like I needed to address this and bang some thoughts out on this here blog.
What most people don’t typically understand is that the major soreness from any deadlift variation that they typically feel, is not from the actual pull from the floor, it’s actually from the lowering (eccentric) portion and the way in which they are lowering the weight.
I absolutely NEVER tell any of my clients to lower the bar slow, in fact, if you are being told that from a coach or trainer, I would stop training with them immediately, or completely disregard that statement from their mouth because it’s only going to prolong your recovery, and continue to hurt your progress.
There’s a major difference from lowering the bar slow, and controlling the bar to the ground. I’ve developed something over the years that from the the top end of your lock out, on the way back down, I let the bar lead me, but I don’t have a “complete” grip on the bar it’s self.
*Think of gripping something super tight, but when you loosen the grip, you’re hand position doesn’t change, just the amount of tension you have on the actual bar it’s self. So on the descend back down to the ground, the bar pulls me forward, but without the grip. I’m simply guiding the bar down and avoiding any tension in my lower back*
If you lower the bar slow, you’re just asking for a blown disc, and several days of shitty recovery from that training session.
Even if you’re doing a Barbell RDL, the bar speed is still quick and controlled on the descend, fast on the ascend, and never never NEVER let the bar come away from your body. Consider that bar glued to your thighs and shins, push your ass as far back as you can to really nail those glutes and hams *typically, I’ll have so much of my weight distributed posteriorly that my toes come up, giving me one sore ass the next day*
Another thing that I see that becomes SUPER taxing on the lumbar spine are touch and go Deadlifts. Touch and go’s are generally where you are moving through each rep without resetting at the bottom end. This can be a huge lower back torch-er as you’ll never quite be in a solid neutral position to pull, and alas, rounding of your lower back will start to ensue. Even at lower weight, this can still wreak havoc on your back.
*Unless you’re in competition or doing a legitimate wod, I highly advise to focus on resetting every rep and ditch the touch and go’s”
So what else can you add in or take out of your program to alleviate more lumbar tension?
*Goodmornings – Have always been a go to for me and most of the programs myself and coach Peter Sannicandro write. With that being said, they are a fantastic supplement on your squat day. Unfortunately, this is and can become a pretty sensitive movement, and at the Masters level, we’re trying to avoid CNS stress after your main lift is over and done with. This movement can definitely be problematic for some, and if you choose to do it, just do it with caution.
*GHD/GHR – Building up your posterior chain is an absolute must if you’re trying to build your deadlift strength. Because it does not require any additional external loading, you have the opportunity to do these as often as possible through out your given training week, and not tax yourself out in the process.
*Band Face Pulls / 1 Arm DB Rows – To have a serious deadlift, you obviously need to build the ever living sh&^ out of your posterior chain, but don’t neglect your upper back and grip strength. Think about that for a second. How many times have you gone for a huge pull, and one of the first things you notice is that you did not have the strength to hold onto the bar? That absolutely infuriated me when I first started getting into strength training, and as I trained more and researched more, I realized how important and truly detrimental it is to develop some serious upper back / lat and grip strength to have a huge turn over for your deadlift. Facepulls and DB Rows have always been a go to for me and I’ve always seen a massive turn over from implementing those movements in a training paradigm.
*ABS – Outside of everything I just listed, building a rock solid mid section is top of the list. Think about a tree for example. It does not matter how amazing a tree’s limbs look if its core is weak and frail. All that beauty will go to waste. Everything should start and end with your midsection. It’s the number one area that needs focus in all aspects of a proper strength & conditioning program. Start from the middle, and work your way out. That being said, I’m a huge fan of planks in all variations, but an emphasis on the RKC plank. Ab Rollouts and Hanging Leg Raises and KB Get Ups are a few others that would be a great solid addition to develop a nasty Bruce Lee styled mid section.
For those of you looking for some additional elements to help your lower back tension, absolutely do the following.
*Morning – After hot shower, Lacrosse ball on your glute / active your piriformis and just hang out. Find the trigger point in your glute and give it time to break up that tissue.
*Foam roll – Glutes, Hamstrings, TFL
*Lacrosse Ball – Hip Flexors, Hamstrings, Psoas, QL
Just a few things that you can do extra to make sure you’re able to wake up sore free, and ready to crush that day’s training. Remember, at the master’s level, it’s about continuing to be able to train like a maniac for years and years, if you avoid your recovery and joint focused mobility, it’s only going to lead to a shorter life span in the aggressive training world, and memberships at the local gym for your weekly dose of dance dance revolution.
Let’s face it, you may be 45, or 55, but you know you can make that 24 year old “legend” at your box look like a complete amateur.
Tear It Down