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TBT w/ Muscle Tension in Lower Back

I have a question about the TBT program. I am 22 years old, 5’7 with around 19%bf. 5 months ago I weight 163lbs and today I weigh 153lbs. I tried a few programs, did interval training, and changed my diet. Although I was consistently working out, I never really stuck to one program. I did change my diet though and I think that has a lot to do with my fat loss.

I started TBT this week and am enjoying it so far. My only concern is that I have had muscle tension in my lower back and the same with my neck. I saw the doctors and he did a few sessions of deep tissue massages and gave me daily stretches to do.

According to the doctor, I also have to avoid some exercises - some very integrals ones such as heavy squats (but can do light squats with my heels elevated on a weight plate), deadlifts, pull ups, military press. So I have to chose from the list of exercises you have in your list for compound and iso exercises.

Which exercises would you recommend I keep in my collection given the fact that I have to really build my core muscles to avoid my lower back pain and my main goal being reducing bf% and building strength? Also, Is it ok that I do 20 minutes of ab/core muscle stretches/exercises followed by 20-25 minutes of interval training on a bike?

I really look forward to hearing back. Your advice would be much appreciated!!



Here’s been my experience with this.

After prolonged, heavy bouts of spinal loading (squats, deadlifts, cleans, etc), my lower back will develop a painful tension. It feels like everything is seizing up. Although it does not actually affect the quality of my lifts, it makes them excrutiating to execute.

What worked to solve this is two-fold.

  1. I specifically use a series of dynamic stretches to increase my hip-mobility before my warm up. This helps activate the glutes and eases the tension on my lower back (though I’m not sure how).

  2. MUCH more importantly, I when I feel that uncomfortable tension building, I lay on my back on the floor until it goes away. I’ve found that with my feet right under my waist and my hips forward (think crunch position) places the musculature in a position where it’s best able to most efficiently relax.

This is where ~90% of the relief comes from. Dynamic stretching is wonderful, but doesn’t help nearly enough.

IF you have what I have, then… I’m not sure what kind of doctor you went to, but I would completely ignore their advice. Squats, deadlifts, cleans, pulls and presses are the basics. To not do them would be to piss away your chance at success.

Ab/core work is good, though. 20 minutes is a bit much, unless you have a pre-existing condition (which, if you have what I have, doesn’t count. No amount of core work will solve it). 1-5 sets total should be more than enough. I recommend planks and leg raises. Don’t forget that heavy lifting (squats, deadlifts, cleans, presses and pulls) highly involve the abdominals on their own.

Stick to one program longer. That way, you can see progress. Progress motivates you to train more and harder. It is a sweet circle.

I have no idea what’s going on with your neck.

Who did your BF%? 19% sounds a bit high for a guy who weighs 153 and stands at 5’7". You might want to give some thought to developing a base of muscle before trying to remove whatever fat is on you.

Good luck, keep coming here with your questions and comments.


Thank you for that! I will definitely keep those things in mind and implement the advice you have for keeping the tension away.

As for the 20 minutes, I was referring to the time spent doing interval training. That is pretty standard, I’m assuming.

My neck is just because of the tension placed on it when doing certain exercises, I tend not to look straight and thus tense my neck when I am lifting. It’s a habbit I need to fix.

As far the as the bf% goes… I used the ‘InBody’ Body composition machine. I will measure my bf% with clippers tomorrow though. I’m sure that would give me a lot more accurate of a number.

Also, given your thoughts about the standard exercises. What work out routine would you recommend? Should I stick with TBT? If so, how long should I implement the program for?

Thanks for this! I appreciate it…

Do whatever routine you want to. I recommend Rippetoe’s Starting Strength because it’s simple and has a wealth of success stories behind it (FWIW, TBT does too, I just don’t like having to time my rest periods the way Waterbury recommends).

Stay with a routine until a) you get bored with it (should take 6-8 weeks, depending on how repetitive it is) or b) your progress slows significantly or stops.

About this last point- usually you’ll want to change when you stop making progress (because the goal isn’t to hang out in the gym, it’s to make progress). Usually (for me, at least, but I think it’s more universal than that) I stop making progress when a routine grows really really boring.

Very rarely have I been able to make serious progress when bored to tears or just tired with my lifting routine. So I use boredom/dread as an indicator of when I should change.

Any program you find on this site will work. It’s a great site. The important part is that it appeals to you.

I’ve found that measuring my circumference around my belly-button regularly is a good way to measure progress. Much more so than fat calipers (because I suck at calipers- I think they’re too delicate, and I’m too damn cheap to pay someone else to test my bodyfat).

It isn’t quite so good in general terms (everyones obsessed with 10% BF), but it’s great to measure against last week’s and see how much fat you’ve lost (or gained, depending on which way you’re going).

Last thing. You’re kinda light. YOu might wanna give some thought to developing the muscle underneath before you rip off that layer of fat.

I’ve experienced the lower back tightness too as well, and I found some interesting commentary on it:

"Here’s the deal: when you are experiencing your early growth spurts, it is frequently reported that the lower back becomes “tight” as you describe upon exertion that involves postural muscle isometric contraction, like running. It happened to me as well.

My theory is that it is a form of muscle compartment syndrome, where the muscle belly has grown faster than the fascia around it can accommodate. It will go away eventually, but a myofascial release might help. I didn’t know about MF release when I was in this phase, so I just dealt with it. Find a massage therapist and give it a try."


…and as a side note, if a dr. tells you heavy squats should be replaced w/ light ones w/ heels elevated, you can pretty much guarantee he/she is full of shit.

Thanks guys…!

Otep, I was looking through the FAQ post from http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showthread.php?t=841628 and one of the questions was: I have a bad back, is this a good program for me? The answer was “Definitely not.”.

Is that Ripletoe being sarcastic or is it actually not good? Also, if I start this program, how do I determine the starting weights?

theuofh, my doctor was a chiropractor, and yes, that definitely helped. I’ll be going to him for back ‘maintenance’ every so often…

[quote] Mana_a wrote:
Is that Ripletoe being sarcastic or is it actually not good? Also, if I start this program, how do I determine the starting weights? [/quote]

He seems to telegraph his sarcasm. So I’d say he’s not being sarcastic, and that if you have received a slipped disc, a nerve impingement, or any other back injury related to sports, you should re-hab that shit and follow your doctors orders.

However, the phrase ‘bad back’ in common usage seems to evoke more than just severe spinal injuries. People with scoliosis have bad backs, and as near as I can tell, squats and deadlifts with good form are a healing exercise for this sort of thing (I AM NOT A DOCTOR though, so take that at face value) because it strengthens the muscles in the back to pull the spine back into place (rows too).

I think it’s a good program for you. If the pain increases or spreads, get it checked out, but I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Or, I don’t, at least.

You determine weights by making an educated guess. If you can’t do it, you remove some weight. If it was too easy, add more next time. You’ll get accurate weights within a week.


Great. I’ll get on it right away then. I found a good article that you might find interesting for future reference. I will be doing a few of these exercises everyday: http://www.pain-technology.com/exersises.html