I need some advice on how to stop pulling a muscle in my back when doing heavy barbell shrugs. The muscle I keep pulling is in the center of my back on the left side of my spine.If it means anything, I do shrugs in front of me. Could it possibly be b/c I breathe at the wrong time while doing the exercise? Any suggestions would be appreciated b/c this problem is really pissing me off.
Try doing them behind your back (Haney Shrugs). When I actually train traps directly, that’s the one that I use. Be sure to keep your shoulders back and head up.
I’ve never seen a benefit from doing barbell shrugs. And I’ve had friends doing them longer than I have. Others will tell you that cleans and deadlifts have done the most for their traps, but I’ve recently started an experiment.
I figure that shrugs do so little because traps are so strong. So, I’ve recently started doing negative-shrugs. I set the bar just below waist-height (in the squat rack). Then I crouch down and fully “shrug” my traps. Using my hips, I pick up the bar and slowly lose the “shrug” to excess weight over a count of 4-6 seconds.
The only thing I can suggest is switch to dumbell shrugs for a bit. I think pulling your back at the weight that shrugs use - repeatedly - is downright silly.
You may nedd to take three weeks off to let your back heal
You’re not just pulling a muscle anymore; you’re periodically driving an already injured muscle into spasm is my guess. Changing your breathing won’t help! At the very least, immediately stop doing vertical shrugs and do not return to them for some weeks. Try some other sort of shrug for a while, e.g. an incline shrug done face down with dumbells on an incline bench, to better support your back.
If you get through a training session without pulling or otherwise bothering this back muscle, but you notice that it feels stiff later in the same day, you should definitely plan to stay out of the gym altogether for a while. Very likely you are irritating it short of sending it into all-out spasm at other times during your workouts, but not really noticing at the time for all the endorphins.
These small back muscles like the erectors are postural muscles that get used all the time, often under involuntary control, and you can never really rest them 100% short of being in a full body cast. You may need to make major changes in your lifestyle for 2-4 wks in order to give these guys the rest they need to fully recover.
Icing may help. Gentle stretching may help. Penetrating massage of the area may help. NSAIDs will definitely help, but you should also periodically spend enough time off of analgesics while the thing is bothering you so that you become thoroughly familiar with which positions and/or motions are irritating that particular back muscle, the better to avoid them. Do not ignore symptoms, but instead become sensitive to them. For a period of at least two weeks, avoid everything that causes even the slightest irritation. Then start with some gentle back exercises - carefully monitoring for irritation - and slowly ramp back up.