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Advice on Nagging Lower Back Problem?

I’m aware that asking advice on medical issues online isnt the best way to go, however before I go see a doctor (no medical insurance) i want to make sure this can’t be corrected on my own.

First let me describe the problem, then at the end I’ll show my routine.

My weights are shooting way up. I’m squating 315 easily for 5x5 and this past week i deadlifted 405 3x6. Lately near the end of a heavy squat session for mid to high reps my lower back/glutes get this tight pain. Almost like my muscles aren’t long enough. Its the worst when I stand. When I sit the pain almost goes away. I’ve found that extensive hamstring stretching before the squats prolongs the onset of the pain.

This seems to happen only when I start to hit heavy weights. It’s my worst fear that squating and deadlifting heavy aren’t in my future. I love to lift this way and not being able to would be devestating. I’m only 21.

Here’s my routine: rep ranges for the squat and deadlift are 5x5, 3x6, 4x4. Taking a break from doubles and triples.

Monday: deadlift
pull up/chin up
bent over barbell row
cable row
one armed dumbell row

tuesday: sledgehammer training

Wednsday: Barbell Bench Press
Dumbell Overhead Press
Dumbell Bench Press
Dips

Thursday: Back Squat
Front Squat
Barbell Lunges

Friday: Dumbell Bench Press
Cable Rows
Barbell Bench Press
One armed dumbell row
Dips

FYI: next week I’m going to be switching the squat day to Friday and the chest day to Tuesday, leaving wednsday as the sledgehammer day in hopes of giving my CNS and trunk a little more time off between the deads and squats.

If anyone has any info on how I can correct this without having to see a doctor…I’d really really appreciate the advice.

Thank you

Matt

are you doing any foam rolling? what mobility work are you doing?

maybe you should switch the BB rows to DB rows…less stress on low back

It mostly only happens with squatting motions. No mobility work, no foam rolling. Just lifting and the sledgehammer.

How’s your abs work? You could have an imbalance. Also almost every day off your training you have an exercise which taxes the low back

I’m dealing with a similar pain right now in my glutes. Sometimes I’ll get this tight, pulling pain in my glutes and down the leg. Almost like something is going to snap.

I’ve been seeing a PT for it and he believes the pain is due to adhesion and scar tissue. It just causes everything to get irritated (particularly the sciatic nerve) and the muscles will spasm.

Foam rolling and stretching have really helped out a lot. It’s been slowly getting better, but it’s taking time.

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Had similar issue. Foam rolled and lower ab work will do the trick. When you listen to those who say you dont need direct ab work, that is setting some of us up for failure. You have to train at least the lower abs to keep th pelvic tilt in check. Good Luck!

There’s a reason its called the core

[quote]AlteredState wrote:
I suggest a synergistic dominance of the QL muscles, compensating for underactive ES and GM.

Now that I’ve confused you, lol, I’ll try to make things clearer.

OK the main erector/extensor muscles in the posteroir chain arounf the hips anf low back are the hamstrings, glute max (GM) and erector spinae (ES). The quadratus lumborum (QL) normally laterally flexes the lubmar spine, but when firing bilaterally acta as an extensor, however it’s moment arm is short so it’s not very effective as a lumbar extensor.

Two scenarios may result: The QL my be hypertonic, due to weak/inhibited glute med and min (look for trigger points in glute med and min). In which case it is always firing when it shouldnt be needed. This results in tightness and tenderness of the QL and a nasty habit of overactivity during excercises like squat/DL etc.

Alternatively (or as a mix of the two events), the GM and/or hams and/or ES might well be inhibited (common for glutes to be inhibited in people who sit for prolonged periods). In order to achieve full triple extension, since the main extensor muscle is weak, the QLs fire in to assist. However they may be overcompensating or they may already be tight and tender from chronic tonicity due to the weak glute med/min.

Don’t forget also that for people with a herniated or bulging lumbar disc, overactive QLs may contribute to the problem because their moment arm os so short, that most of their force just ends up compressing the spine and hence the disc.[/quote]

How would I go about correcting either of those if the problem is one of these?

And to be honest, I do not do direct ab work? Is there a good chance that could be atleast part of the problem?

[quote]saps wrote:
How’s your abs work? You could have an imbalance. Also almost every day off your training you have an exercise which taxes the low back[/quote]

My split is set up like this.

Monday is deadlift/pulling day

Wednsday is all pressing/chest

Thursday is leg day.

Friday is a combined upper body back and chest day.

The original goal of the program was to bring up my chest with more volume and frequency while still being able to go heavy on squats and deads. There aren’t any really taxing excersises on the non squat or deadlift days. I don’t understand when you say every training day I’m taxing the lower back.

You need to start direct ab training. It is true that get stimulus from things like deads and squats but they need some direct attention as well.

What I meant your lower back is taxed on Monday by Deads, bent rows and cable rows. Tuesday by hammer training. Wednesday if you arch at all and or stand while doing overhead lifting the low back again is receiving some strain. Thursday you squat which requires a lot of low back and Friday you again do cable rows. Sure some days are more taxing than others. Just be aware you have a lot of exercises and days where you work the low back and that you must proportionalize the work for the front side

[quote]saps wrote:
You need to start direct ab training. It is true that get stimulus from things like deads and squats but they need some direct attention as well.

What I meant your lower back is taxed on Monday by Deads, bent rows and cable rows. Tuesday by hammer training. Wednesday if you arch at all and or stand while doing overhead lifting the low back again is receiving some strain. Thursday you squat which requires a lot of low back and Friday you again do cable rows. Sure some days are more taxing than others. Just be aware you have a lot of exercises and days where you work the low back and that you must proportionalize the work for the front side [/quote]

Do you think a combination of hamstring stretching and direct ab work can possibly correct this?

What you just described is honestly what I’ve been worrying about happening. When I trained full body (which worked for a long time) I had no problem designing my work outs around big lifts. However, I want to keep growing and I just feel its time for a training split, and this was the only way that seemed to allow me to get in the deadlifts and squats.

I guess I’m a hybrid lifter. I lift to look good, but at the same time I enjoy routines that center around lifting heavy on the big 3. I’m just having trouble finding a balance lifting the way I enjoy while getting in the volume.

x2 on lower ab work.

First of all make sure you warm down and stretch very thoroughly after heavy days.

A lot of people have raved about Eric Cressey’s mobility drills in mag. mobility and his book maximum strength

If AlteredState is right about dominant QL as the root of the problem, foam rolling and soft tissue work with a tennis ball will help. Then, glute activation and hip mobility stuff is a must before squatting.

Since squatting triggers the pain, you absolutely positively should have a qualified strength coach, highly educated about injury prevention, evaluate your squat form. (You might have the tail-under problem, for example.) If you care about the longevity of your lifting career, you must do this.

Adding to the chorus. Mobility work for a few minutes before lifting, foam roller daily, and static stretching when you can. I know it sounds like a lot, and you may figure “I’m 21, do I need that stuff?”, but it makes a big difference.

I used to have the same problem as you, always nicking my back up, especially on deadlifts, and having to miss a week or four of lower body work. Five to ten minutes of Cressey’s drills off his DVD before lifting and five to ten minutes of foam rolling every day worked well. Now if only I could stop tearin calluses off my hands…

I should also note that the pain I feel is NEVER in the middle of the lower back, it is always off to the side, from lower back to upper glutes.

Ok guys, I apalogize but I do not know what dominant QL means? Quad dominance? I have pretty friggen big quads.

Anderson, can you clarify what the “tail under” problem is? I’m guessing its when, at the bottom of the squat, your lumbar region of the spin starts to naturaly round?

I squat very low. To the point that when I squat people actually stop and watch and ask me how I get as low as I do. Its going to be a huuuuge hit to my ego if I have to switch squat styles, but I’ll do what i have to to keep lifting. I guess as a plus my squat weights will go up if this is the case.

Also, are their articles describing Cresseys mobility drills? I don’t have the funds for a dvd right now.

About foam rolling: are these decent foam rollers?

http://www.performbetter.com/SearchResult.aspx_Q_CategoryID_E_235

If they are not can anyone reccomend me one that is around the same price range.

College drains my bank account lol.

One more thing, regarding soft tissue work with the tennis ball? Is that reffering to putting pressure on the arch of yoru foot with the ball to stretch fascia? I remember reading an article here about that a while back.

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UPDATE:

I talked to a strength coach today. I asked him to critique my squat. He told me my form was perfect, actually complimented it.

I brought up the need for direct ab work with him, and he explained that its highly unlikely that not doing direct ab work is causing an imbalance between the front and back of my torso. He said loading a bar with hundreds of pounds of weight and forcing your abs to brace your spine while you squat down is going to work your abs alot more than crunches and leg raises. He’s said he himself hardly ever does it and usually doesn’t have any of his trainees do it either.

He said tightness in my lower back, glutes, and hams are likely the cause of the pain.

Well now I don’t know what to think about training abs directly. I’m getting conflicting advice everywhere. In my own personal opinion the logic of a heavy back squat and deadlift working your abs more than forcing your spine into flexion to do a crunch seems right.

Today was deadlift day. My sets were 4x4. 425 across all sets. After the second set the pain started. I did the stretches he described to me and within 5 minutes the pain was gone and I was able to finish the work out.

Can anyone give me research papers or articles explaining the need or not for direct ab work? I’m the type of person that needs to understand for himself and I don’t want to just blindly follow advice, especially since I don’t have a personal coach to just tell me what to do.

Also, I’ve decided to switch up my routine to give my back a break between deads and squats.

From now till the end of this training cycle it will be:

Monday: Deadlift/pulling
Tuesday: Chest/pressing
Wed: off from weights/Hammer training
Thursday: Pulling/Pushing upper body
Friday: Squat.

I used to take tuesday off and do squats on Thursday.