T Nation

Low Back Pain? Read This First

Hopefully someone sticky’s this.

I’ve noticed a lot of low back pain threads, so I thought I’d put this together for people.

The first thing you have to understand, is that your back pain isn’t caused by your bac. Yes it’s hurting, and taking a lacrosse ball to the sensitive area, or stretching it, will give some momentary relief, but ultimately the pain will come back.

Don’t feel bad, i destroyed my lower back and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get out of bed in the morning for 6 months. I one time got stuck in a chain for 4 hours and had to wait for someone to come and help me up. My cell phone was just out of reach, and I couldn’t get it to save my life. That was a frustrating 4 hours. I spen literally $1000 trying to fix this, and all the physios did was relieve the pain in my low back, and I’d be crippled again by the next day. Chiros are good, but once again, unless you take steps, they can only do so much.

What I’m getting at here, is you have to work to understand “WHY?” this is happening.

The mangled low back is the effect, what is the cause?

In just about every lower back injury, the cause is your posture. Sitting down all day, driving, etc etc. What this does is tighten up your hips, and weaken and deactivate the glutes, as well as roll our shoulders forward into kyphotic posture.

What you can take away from this is that almost all low back injruies are caused by tight hips and weak glutes. This is the CAUSE. The effect from this is sooner or later you’ll do something that will strain yoour hips, ie lifting or simply bending over trying to pick something up… what will happen is your lower back will begin to guard to stop you from doing any more damage to your hips.

The role of the glutes in the this sitation, is that someone with strong glutes always will almost always have good posture without much anterior pelvic tilt. However, simply having strong glutes isn’t enough, the hips have to be loose for them to be able to work their magic.

So what’s the plan after you mangle your back? Loosen the hips, strengthen the glutes.

Immediately begin this warm up, at least daily, preferably 2-3x per day depending on your level of injury.

This will get you nice and loose in the right areas, and should give almost immediate relief.

For strengthening, there are a ton of glute exercises you can do, the one I prefer the most is the hyperextension. This is a glute exercise if performed correctly. When I first started these, I used my lower back, what I’ve learned is to only flex my glutes as I do them, and not go up all the way.

If you don’t have access to one, the glute bridge done in the warm up is very good, as is the single leg version. What I do a lot at home is banded good mornings, making sure to fully contract the glutes on each rep.

Further reading

Neanderthal no more - this is an excellent article, and improving posture is essential for strength and injury prevention.

Advanced glute training

Stuart Mcgill - he’s the main authority on the back, and his book really opened my eyes to how important the hips are.

That’s about it, do all of the above first, and if you’re still having problems, then post and we’ll see what we can do.

I’d also like to see some discussion on here, as I’ve been impressed and educated by many of the posts I’ve seen, and I feel as long as no one comes up with “stretch the low back” this could be a very useful and helpful thread.

Great post Larry!

One thing - with the 90 degree back extensions, are you meant to feel them mainly in the glutes or the hamstrings?

Unfortunately, I feel them mainly in the hamstrings (despite squeezing my glutes as hard as I can at the top), so I doubt they are doing that much for my hips. On the plus side, I don’t feel them in the lower back at all.

I feel the burn in my hamstrings, but I contract and squeeze my glutes to do the movement.

Great post, thank you!

One exercise I’ve found great for glute activation (which I’ve had problems with) and glute strengthening are kettlebell swings.

[quote]furo wrote:
Great post, thank you!

One exercise I’ve found great for glute activation (which I’ve had problems with) and glute strengthening are kettlebell swings.[/quote]

I absolutely agree as well, I’ve done many of them myself

Nice thread.

Im about to start the journey of “bullet proofing my back”. I have also been in the position of been unable to move for days.


looking back it’s funny, but sitting in that chair for 4 hours was one of the worst experiences of my life. I’ve never been so helpless before, and it shook me up a bit.

It was sorth it though, as it gave me the motivation to figure all this out for myself

The problem with the Neanderthal No More series is that most of the ‘meat ‘n’ potatoes’ exercises (such as snatch-grip deadlifts and squats) to help correct these postural problems are contraindicated for those with back issues.

Can we get by doing hyperextensions and glute ham raises instead of the deadlifts?

absolutely, I did.

I meant to read it more for the explanation on everything.

So that lower body warm up can cure sciatic pain? If so then should I do that every day even on non-training days?

yes, do it daily, as well as work the glutes a lot, side lying clams have reduced my own sciatic pain a ton

[quote]Larry10 wrote:
yes, do it daily, as well as work the glutes a lot, side lying clams have reduced my own sciatic pain a ton[/quote]

Do you have any tips on lying side clams? When I do them they seem too easy, almost if I am doing something wrong?

Also, I thought this would be a good place to ask… taking into account my history of lower back pain, average ankle flexibility and long legs, would it be advisable to use oly shoes to squat in to reduce the load on the lower back?


absolutely man, they will greatly increase ankle and hip flexibility big time.

I’d also work diligently on looseing the hips.

My only tip for side laying clams is to really contract at the top of every rep, 100 of those and you should feel it

Fuck I’m annoyed at my low back trouble. It would be less irritating if it was actually a pain instead of a tightness feeling.

It disappears as soon as I sit down, and re-appears whenever I lie down or stand up.

I’m doing your drills everyday - is there anything else I can do to speed up the recovery? Or if it disc related, I guess people never recover from that?

hyperextensions every day would help.

But it may be getting to the point where you might want an MRI or something along those lines.

I’ve been doing the lower body warmup for 4 days every night.

My lower back pain is pretty much gone already. Pretty intense, thanks a lot for putting me onto the video man!

I’m really happy to hear that man.

A version of this pretty much saved my lifting career, it’s a big relief.

Larry, does the order of the exercises in the warmup matter?

Psycologically, I find it better to do the groiners and mountain climbers first - does that make it less effective?

Larry I could kiss your face.

I did this before my workout and I feel great. Wasn’t even a leg night, can’t wait to see how it is for the 2nd day before squats tomorrow.

What do you have for upper body?