T Nation

Keeping a Healthy Back


Lately my lower back has been feeling tight and putting my socks on in the morning has been harder than it should be (I'm 19). I figured that my training needs to be more focused on keeping a healthy spine, before it gets worse and limits my training in such a way that I wouldn't enjoy lifting weights anymore.

here are some guidelines I made.
Things to avoid:
-grinding out heavy squats with compromised form (forward lean)
-doing heavy deadlifts after grinding out squats with less than optimal form
-sitting down for the rest of the day when coming back from the gym

Things to do:
-front squats (to strenghten the core for deadlifts)
-weighted chins (deloading the spine, feels great)
-back extensions?
-planning to do CT's 915 program

I would appreciate if anyone has any further advice on keeping a strong and healthy back. (exercise selection, mindset, stretches etc)


Foamrolling and consistent mobility work are your best friends.


Working on anti-extension core exercises (dead bugs, ab wheel roll out, stir the pot, etc.) has helped me a lot. Also improving hip and T-spine mobility. Bad mobility = bad positions = back pain. I'd look into the work of Dr. Stuart Mcgill and also Kelly Starrett.




How and why?


Thanks for your input, I guess some mobility work would do good.


Both answered by using the search function.

I cured my lack of putting socks on by going to see a professional first. I did ART and specific exercise for my case.

I also stopped squatting and did hip trusts, single leg Romanian deadlifts, reverse hypers, hypers, etc.

Do what doesn't hurt.


You are welcome.


back problems in lifters are nearly always caused by your glutes not being up to snuff, so the lower back takes up the slack, which it doesn't like.

There's about a million articles on this site alone that'll help. I think there was one called "get your butt in gear" a few years back that was really good


Oh cool, thanks


I was in the same boat as you a year ago. My back would be fatigued after grinding out heavy squats and deadlifts. This eventually lead to me wrenching my back with a power clean. Some things that helped me feel better now than I ever have:
Chiropractor - I don't know how much of a difference this has made since my back pain as gone away, but I went to the chiro for a couple months after the initial injury.
Mobility movements - I got a copy of Magnificent Mobility by Cressey and Robertson. Great little workout to do the whole thing. I do 5 to 10 of the movements daily and especially before a workout.

Core work - I used an article here on T Nation called "21st century core training" that I did 3-4 times a week. My core is stronger than ever and I can feel the difference on heavy lifts.
Sleep changes - I got a new mattress (old one was way too soft) and I now sleep with a pillow under my legs when I sleep on my back or between my legs when on my side. Got this from a Kelly Starrett video.

Take care of yourself.


So I need to do supplementary core work, and learn how to brace my abs instead of arching when squatting and overhead pressing etc. I also need to fix my anterior pelvic tilt, and improve thoracic spine mobility to avoid overarching the lower back to compensate.
What did lifters do before T-Nation was around?


If you want a more specific answer, I recommend:


Are lying side clamshells a glute exercise? I found it impossible to bring my knees together when lying down and squeezing my glutes. And single legged glute bridges makes my hamstrings cramp, will try again later. However I dont have any problems activating my glutes when squatting etc. Also I think I migth have to exchange bench presses for dips, since even my moderate lumbar arch seems to stress the spine.


They hit your gluteus medius. Clamshells, that is.

I'm not surprised your hammies cramp up. You've probably got a bit of reciprocal inhibition going on because your hip flexors are so tight. Which, in addition, lends itself toward back pain (as your pelvis tilts forward, compressing your discs).

Those 3 movements helped me tremendously, and I owe my ability to lift to doing them religiously. I went from having loads of back pain and struggling to max out my deadlift at 365, to being able to easily deadlift 5 plate with absolutely no back pain. Give it a shot for two weeks and see how you feel. Worst case scenario, you learn how to turn your glutes on more efficiently. Best case scenario, it helps correct some postural imbalances and fixes your lower back pain.

edit - I used to have the same problem with my lower back when bench pressing. It might be worth it to just drop the weight on most of your exercises for now and build your mind-muscle connection until the pain in your lower back recedes. That's what I did when I slipped one of the discs in my lower back, and I'm much better for it.


I would add these to the three mentioned above, as well as a deep held like 30 second bodyweight or goblet squat.

  • I think mobility work & glute activation stuff is WAY overrated.
  • While imo Ripp is an idiot, he was spot on in saying (on here I think) that PROPER FORM is essentially all you need.
  • Back pain? Shitty form. Lack of "glute activation"? Shitty form.
  • Having said that, (some very basic) pre workout mobility work is in most cases needed to EXECUTE PROPER FORM.
  • However without knowing and applying proper form, mobility work is useless.


I filmed myself doing some light high-bar squats, the only thing I don't like is how my spine is arching when getting out of the hole, instead of being stationary. And for some reason I can't make myself stop doing that. On heavier sets my hips seem to shoot up and my back gets in a more horizontal position.


Do you do any dedicated ab work? May want to try adding a few sets of ab wheel rollouts from the knees, focusing on keeping the hips tucked underneath you, at the end of your deadlift days.


@LoRez: Yes I am now, just as you described, whenever I happen to come across that wheel thing at the gym.