T Nation

Weak Lower Back

Hello all. I’ve only been lifting and eating ‘correctly’ for about 6 months and have made some great progress in both my squat and deadlift numbers. Unfortunately, the easy n00b gains appear to have run out and poundage increases are fewer and farther between. The weak link appears to be my lower back, not only in DLs but in squatting as well. I feel as though my legs could handle much more weight than I’m using, but my back gives out before my quads.

I’m unsure how to break this mini-plateau. My gut tells me to just grab my sack, up my intensity, and pound out a few forced reps until my body adjusts and my back strength increases. However, I fear doing this will lead to injury because my form will begin to degrade on the last few reps. It’s not worth the risk, imo, so I’m looking for a different solution. Possibly good mornings?

Any ideas? I’m currently doing an upper/lower split, 4 days a week, and eating about 500 cals above maintanence per day. I’m 5’10", 190 lbs, and 27 years old.

My program looks like this:
Monday: Bench 3x5, Barbell Rows 3x7, Inclined Dumbell Press 3x7, Dumbell rows 3x7, Overhead tricep extensions 2x10

Tuesday: Full Squats 3x7, Lunges 3x5, Front Squat 3x5, calves and abs.

Thursday: Wide grip pullups 3x10, Overhead press 3x5, Neutral grip pullups 3x7, Dips 3x20, Dumbell curls

Friday: Deadlift 3x5, Barbell shrugs 3x7, Leg press 4x7, calves and abs

Add 45 degree hyper extensions. Slowly (over a period of time) add weight (by holding plates or dumbells).

Stretch often, keep that lower back limber and strong. Be sure to strengthen your abs also.

[quote]nramaker wrote:
Unfortunately, the easy n00b gains appear to have run out and poundage increases are fewer and farther between.
[/quote]

welcome to the real world bro. if your in this for the long haul, progress slowly and steadily with squats and dl. thats why they have nickel and dime plates. I wouldnt force the issue especially with these exercises. i understand some may say otherwise, but fuck them. concentrate on maintaining the ‘strong arch’ in your lower back. add to your routine romanian deads, gm’s, and reverse hypers. all of these will give you practice at maintaining the ‘strong arch’ that is the cornerstone of most compound exercises.

I agree RDL’s, Heavy GM’s, Hypers and Pull through have done a ton to get my lower back from a weak spot to now a strength.

Takes some time and hard work Just do it.

Overhead squats, start light, maybe empty bar and get great form. Helps strengh, flexibility, posture etc.

Thanks for all of the advice so far. Any other ideas would be appreciated as well.

I agree with not pushing it. You are young, and don’t need to go that fast. Wait for your lower back strength to come up. Don’t rely on a belt.

Remember, your back is not just the major movers, which you have been given some good excersices for, but also involves intervertebral stabilizers. Do some lateral and forward extension movements for the back- Side bridges, and bent back good mornings (be careful, not too much weight or fatigue on this one.) are a few.

See Mike Robertsons Core Training:

http://www.T-Nation.com/readTopic.do?id=1098876

The other thing is you have heavy squatting on Tues then DLs on Fri. Your lower back may not be getting enough recovery time. Try adding in another day in between. Or, Try less volume on Tues., just one squat variation for example.

Also check for form on the big lifts, is it perfect?

You’ve already got some good feedback. It looks like you are doing no supplemental lifts. These are the lifts that will help increase your numbers on the big three. For the lower back which is part of the posterior chain you can do the 45’s, reverse hypers, the glute ham raise, good mornings, romanian deadlifts.

Check out the westside stuff to. It would be a good time to do it while you’re in the middle of your current program. Read up on it and give it a try. Just a suggestion.

I’ve had good help from 1 heavy set of good mornings after squats, and JS band GMs after workouts.

[quote]Kir Dog wrote:
Add 45 degree hyper extensions. Slowly (over a period of time) add weight (by holding plates or dumbells).

Stretch often, keep that lower back limber and strong. Be sure to strengthen your abs also.[/quote]

I would not by any means stretch the lower back. If anything, you need stability, strength and endurance. Improving the mobility in the hips won’t hurt.

Have you been doing the same set/rep scheme, tempo, split, exercise selection for 6 months??

[quote]Mr. Chen wrote:

Also check for form on the big lifts, is it perfect?[/quote]

I think my squat form is perfect during the non fatigued reps. If anything, my back rounds a bit at the very bottom because I’m trying to get my ass as low as possible. When my form starts to go, my hips shoot up and I emd up in a good morning position.

My form is probably more questionable on deadlifts. I try very hard to keep my lower back arched, and I do zero hitching. When I take a peak in the mirror I can see that my upper back arches a bit and my shoulders come forward when using heavier weights.

[quote]jp_dubya wrote:
Have you been doing the same set/rep scheme, tempo, split, exercise selection for 6 months??

[/quote]

Now that you mention it, yes I have been. I’m open to change, but I’d like to keep the split the same, it seems to perfectly fit my body’s recovery time. It takes about 3 days before I’m ready to push a body part again after a workout.

[quote]nramaker wrote:
jp_dubya wrote:
Have you been doing the same set/rep scheme, tempo, split, exercise selection for 6 months??

Now that you mention it, yes I have been. I’m open to change, but I’d like to keep the split the same, it seems to perfectly fit my body’s recovery time. It takes about 3 days before I’m ready to push a body part again after a workout.
[/quote]

you don’t need to entirely change the program to keep results going. Change some of the exercises, even using variations of the same exercise, change the sets/reps… so on and so fourth.

[quote]jp_dubya wrote:
Kir Dog wrote:
Add 45 degree hyper extensions. Slowly (over a period of time) add weight (by holding plates or dumbells).

Stretch often, keep that lower back limber and strong. Be sure to strengthen your abs also.

I would not by any means stretch the lower back. If anything, you need stability, strength and endurance. Improving the mobility in the hips won’t hurt.[/quote]

By stretching I mean stretch everything. Legs, hips, lower back etc. There is nothing wrong with stretching your lower back. The basis of my post was to add strength (from a supplimentary lift) to his lower back and abs and stay flexible and limber while adding strength.

It’s not like he’ll take my (good) advice anyways.

[quote]Kir Dog wrote:
jp_dubya wrote:
Kir Dog wrote:
Add 45 degree hyper extensions. Slowly (over a period of time) add weight (by holding plates or dumbells).

Stretch often, keep that lower back limber and strong. Be sure to strengthen your abs also.

I would not by any means stretch the lower back. If anything, you need stability, strength and endurance. Improving the mobility in the hips won’t hurt.

By stretching I mean stretch everything. Legs, hips, lower back etc. There is nothing wrong with stretching your lower back. The basis of my post was to add strength (from a supplimentary lift) to his lower back and abs and stay flexible and limber while adding strength.

It’s not like he’ll take my (good) advice anyways.[/quote]

Why wouldn’t I?

I used to get terrible back pain during squat sessions. This was until I rested the bar a lot lower on my back. The pain went away and my poundages went up. This might not solve your problem but it is worth a try.

Good Luck.

Thanks guys for your advice. It’s appreciated. The major take-away for me is that my routine is stagnant and lacks supporting lifts. In response, I’m going to:
a) Give these lifts more priority in my routine by moving my lower body days to Monday and Thursday instead of Tuesday and Friday, as those days seem to be my ‘fresh and rested’ days.

b) Do only one squat variation on my squat day, and replace leg press on my second day with the second variation. To fill the gap on the squat day, I’ll substitute either good mornings or power cleans. I’ll try to work in hyper extensions somewhere in the week.

c) Change my set/rep scheme from 3x5s and 3x7s to 5x5s wherever appropriate.

I’ll see how this goes over the next few months, and maybe post an update.

[quote]nramaker wrote:

I think my squat form is perfect during the non fatigued reps. If anything, my back rounds a bit at the very bottom because I’m trying to get my ass as low as possible. When my form starts to go, my hips shoot up and I emd up in a good morning position.

My form is probably more questionable on deadlifts. I try very hard to keep my lower back arched, and I do zero hitching. When I take a peak in the mirror I can see that my upper back arches a bit and my shoulders come forward when using heavier weights.

[/quote]

Your last sentence tells me most everything I need to know.

Don’t go so heavy. Don’t sacrifice form for poundages bro. I know that you know this, but sometimes a subtle reminder is necessary. Heck I need subtle reminders all the time.

As for the lower back, Phill was dead on with recommending the pull throughs and good mornings. The other thing I can ask/recommend is do you warm up prior to your workouts? 15 minutes on an elyptical to get your blood flowing might help.

Glad you chose T-Nation for this question. It’s a good one and something that happens to lifters all the time.

B.