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Keeping the Spine Healthy

What do you guys do to minimize the negative effects of heavy spinal loading? Obviously it starts with proper technique, bracing, and volume. After that’s taken care of, what do you do to recover from heavy squats and deads?

Does not compute in powerlifting xD

Not so much for the spine, but I feel walking regularly helps keep my movement patterns pain free for the squat especially, and helps with low back and hip pain in general.

Reverse hyper is a popular exercise among PLers. I would do these, but the machine at my gym sucks and the pad falls off (they are very painful without the pad).

Obviously biased (he invented the machine), but Louis Simmons credits the reverse hyper for getting him back into PLing in his 50s, and for extending the career of Larry Bird.

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Personally, I’m not a huge fan of a lot of regular active recovery outside the gym. If someone has to go to a chiro, get a deep tissue massage, or cover themselves with penis pumps to help put their body back together after regular training (I’ll make exceptions for the month before a meet) then in my opinion, they are lifting on borrowed time. Exceptions being people recovering from injury and those at the very top of the sport just using it to get a little competitive edge.

Basically, active recovery should never be a substitute for proper programming. It’s very hard to force your spine to recover, so the best thing you can do is give it the time it needs. That’s why my out-of-peaking programming (which you now have!) only has one heavy set of squat and one heavy set of deadlift, 85%, in every 3 week block.

Now, since I’m currently at the end of a peak I have been doing a few things to try to safeguard my spine as much as possible, basically just inversion and hot/cold contrast baths. These are both two of the more scientifically established out-of-gym recovery methods.

Other than that, what @mnben87 said… reverse hypers. Lots and lots of reverse hypers.


I believe in monthly massage / chiro. Bi monthly closer to a meet. Sometimes weekly right before.

I also don’t stretch as much as I should so there’s that.


The main thing other than proper technique is just to not overdo it, your back can only take so much.

Reverse hypers work for some people but some people have been injured by using them and there are/have been lawsuits against chiropractors who injured clients by using a reverse hyper.

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I’d be curious if it isn’t so much the reverse hyper as it is using the reverse hyper incorrectly, sort of like is squatting bad for your knees or is bad squatting bad for your knees?

I’m definitely biased towards the rev hyper, I honestly think it’s been a huge contributing factor to being able to get back to and beyond where I was before hurting my back. But you absolutely have a great point; nothing is without potential for risk so first and foremost you should use common sense and listen to your body.

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Yes, thank you! I was very drawn to the success you’ve had with your system while limiting 90+% work. I should probably switch to a gym that has a reverse hyper.

The question is how do you use it properly? There are videos where Louie is telling people to do it with legs swinging and full spinal flexion. The thing is that doing it that way has the positive effect of rehydrating your intervertebral discs, which provides them with nutrients and promotes recovery, but at the same time doing that before lifting is risky (hydrated discs are more prone to injury) and in general loaded flexion is not a good thing. Louie also make the mistake of claiming that there are no compressive forces on the spine with the reverse hyper, but according the Stuart McGill (spine specialist and professor of biomechanics) there actually are compressive force plus shear forces and your spine is not in a good position to withstand them.

McGill says that it does work well for some people (usually those who can tolerate a lot of loaded flexion), but it is going to depend on individual anatomy. So basically the only way to know is to try it and see. And the thing with spinal injuries is that in most cases they are due to cumulative trauma, so while you might hurt yourself deadlifting or picking something up off the ground that’s just the "straw that broke that camel’s back so to speak.

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And yeah, it is possible to use the reverse hyper in a way that minimizes risk, that would involve a slow, controlled movement and not much weight. But it kind of seems like that would defeat the purpose of the reverse hyper, might as well just do regular hypers/back raises instead.

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I inferred from Louie in Westside v. the World, that doing them slowly was to build the muscles in the reverse pattern of a squat or dead. Reducing / eliminating muscle imbalances around the hips should go a ways toward spine health.

Fast I believe is for the purpose of what you mentioned (spinal recovery), and IIRC have seen Louie mention that in other videos I have seen.

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Not really PL specific

Chest supported rows instead of BB rows to give low back less work. Or more rest if you do rows on a different day.

Keep a slight bend in the knees when you work hamstrings. With my knees locked my lower back over extends in bending over moves. Just a slight knee bend fixes this.

SSB or cambered bar or Manta Ray for some squats, to get high bar position and not have to lean forward when squatting.

Set up the program so deadlifts are lighter on heavier squat weeks, or heavier on lighter squat weeks to keep volume steady week to week.

Keep your hips loose and limber so they move freely. When my hips get jammed up and move less my back starts moving weird to pick up the slack.

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Using your core.
Getting a stronger back.
Single Leg movements that are not loaded up top.
Chin-Ups, Dips, Hanging Leg Raises between sets of squats/deadlifts/oh press.
Doing something outside of lifting.

That has helped me the most.

I think one thing that’s underrated is playing some sort of sport that forces you to move in all sorts of positions (even multiple yoga sessions weekly). In lifting we literally only lift one way. Playing a sport forces your body to move all over the place.


I do massage and chiropractor for preventative care

Really been focus on movement drills/bracing and building my back to keep my spine healthy. I feel like adding mass to my upper and lower back is great in keeping my back safe. I’ve also had alot of benefits since I worked on bracing for keeping pressure off my spine and SI Joint.

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I don’t sneeze. Ever. It’s bad for your back. Hundreds of thousands of people have thrown their backs out sneezing.

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They also just look ridiculous spewing their mucus all over. After thoughtful observation, I too decided to not sneeze.

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every time I squat I think my dick will touch the floor.

Does that mean it short?

That is true, but if you feel that you back needs more work then I find that BB rows are actually a good way to get that in. Depends on what else you are doing and how much your back can take. Right now coming back from a back injury, chest supported rows sound good.

McGill Big 3 but I’m with @mnben87 it’s the stuff outside the gym that gets you. Last time I tweaked my back, the amount of suffering that sitting down caused me was unreal. I pay careful attention to sitting, laying and walking as that can put strain on your back for every other minute you are not in the gym.


Take time away. Unload your joints for a period and focus more on building muscle rather than strength. Nothing beats unloading the joints for an extended period of time no matter how much chiro and massage you do (although they are extremely beneficial).

Focus on moderate weight 50-60% in the big 3 and definitely run more variation of those lifts. Use higher rep ranges to stress the muscles instead of the joints. Lots more bodybuilding type work. Up your work capacity when you are more than 8 weeks out from a contest.

Long term this is the best approach. However, no matter what; the body was not meant to handle these loads so it will never be without pain and stiffness as you get older. It’s the nature of the beast.

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