Today’s post is from guest writer Thomas Calkins of http://www.builtfit.com.
Back pain is one of the most common causes of missed time at work or from training. Due to the unique nature of the spine and its load bearing capacity, injury to the spine or muscles connected to it can be debilitating. The complex nature of the spine and its muscles also makes it an easy area to injure.
It does not take a large weight load on the muscles of the back to cause an injury. Bending incorrectly against stiff muscles to lift even a pencil off the floor can cause injury to the muscles of the back. Correct lifting form, strong support muscles, good flexibility, and focus on the movement will all help you avoid those nagging back injuries.
Before touching on the various strategies for avoiding back pain it is important to note that there are two types of pain after a workout. The most common pain, and the kind that tells you that the workout is working, is the pain from the good damage to the muscles. This pain is caused by the minor tearing that goes on in the muscle that leads to muscle building and super compensation. The second kind of pain is related to muscle, bone, or joint injury. This type of pain, obviously, is not good. It requires rest, and often, rehabilitation, to get better.
To avoid the injury pain you need to make sure you maintain proper lifting form throughout the exercise, and workout. Keeping your back flat, head in a neutral position, the weight close to your body, a good balanced base (even when lying down or sitting), and an even hand position will help you to reduce the chance of injury on each repetition. Using weight that you can handle in good form is essential. Only increase weight on a lift when you can complete the desired number of repetitions in good form. When you begin to get so tired that you can no longer maintain good form you need to stop, also.
Strengthening the muscles that support the spine and the other muscles of the spinal column will also help prevent injury by keeping the back in alignment while lifting. These muscles include the abdominals, obliques, spinal erectors, the hamstrings and the various muscles of the hips. These same muscles need to be flexible, as well. Tight muscles are not only in danger of being injured themselves, they also can cause a strength imbalance and a misalignment during a lift and injure other muscles.
The final piece of the back injury prevention puzzle is focus. If you focus on the exercise and your form at all times you will avoid those momentary lapses that are often the cause of injury. Loss of focus, even for a moment, can throw you out of alignment, allow the weight to move too far out from the body, and relax the supporting muscles, which can all lead to injury.
So, to recap, keep good lifting form with the right amount of weight, strengthen the supporting muscles of the spinal column, improve flexibility in those same muscles, and keep focused on the exercises as you do them to avoid the back pain associated with injury. Remember, not all pain is bad, and you should expect some pain in the muscles after a workout. However, injury back pain can be debilitating and will sidetrack your progress for a long time.