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Workout to Save the Lower Back?

Relevant info up top, other shite at the bottom.

I have a really close friend and her hubby that I’ll be doing a bit of training with from time to time. We’ll get togehter once every couple of weeks to sort of ‘check in’ and she’ll do weight 3-4 times a week. She’s never weight trained (typical pilates/yogo, boxing, running type of stuff) but has great genetics, he’s worked out quite a bit but I think it’s mostly pretty weak stuff, he has a skinny build.

The main issue is she’s fought lower back pain for the majority of the time I’ve known her and has done physio, pilates, yoga, chiro and never had any lasting results. She’s quite top heavy if that actually makes a difference …

I really want to get her doing complex movements and full body stuff, but also want to save her back. Here is my idea for the first program.

10min warm up (lunges, side squats, shoulders, hold bottom squat pos for a while, arse kicks, knee pulls etc, just a warm up concentrating on hip flexibility mostly)

A1 - Bench Press of some sort
A2 - DB Row/Rowing
A3 - BB/DB Lunges and back squat

B1 - Push press
B2 - Lat Pull Down/chin up
B3 - Clean

I think that the only worrying aspects are the rowing, squatting and cleans. My thoughts are if technique is taught properly from teh start and weight is kept in check so that technique is good then the lower back should only prosper from improved strength in muscles around it?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated, maybe other exercises that I can chuck in too.

I’ve been training myself for about 4 years now and have been through the 3x10, 5x5, push/pull, full body, isolation work outs in that time. I’ve been doing the stripped down hypertrophy program for about 4 months now just changing exercises up in that time and have seen great improvements in strength and muscle.

Given BF% over the last two years I’ve added between 10-12kg of muscle. Prior to that I lost 100kg, so given the transformation people are always asking me for tips and stuff. I try to keep it very broad and only help those that I think actually want to change.

[quote]ozzyaaron wrote:
My thoughts are if technique is taught properly from teh start and weight is kept in check so that technique is good then the lower back should only prosper from improved strength in muscles around it?[/quote]

Has certainly been the case for me. I think a lot of people have back pain simply because they are weak as piss, especially in the glutes. Make sure you do glute activation stuff, keep knees pushed out in squat etc

Yeah I’ve been squatting now for a year and have concentrated the entire time on form over weight and have never had a sore back. I’m hoping I can teach her to really concentrate on doing the same and just trusting me.

I’m thinking things will likely be different so I’ll have to see proportions with her as I have short legs, I think she doesn’t but I think it comes down to getting the basics down first.

My squatting really benefited when I started concentrating on cueing upward movement with squeezing my arse, or activating glutes like you say. I’ll be tryign to impart all of my good habits and none of my bad ones :stuck_out_tongue:

Thanks for the help!

Dragncarry nailed it. Glute work takes the strain off the erctor spinae. Additionally, focusing on strengthening the erectors has been beneficial from personal experience(good mornings, deadlifts(good form), etc.)

Before you start anyone on a heavy compound workout, ensure that any and all injuries are either addressed and resolved, or prehabed to the maximal extent… God knows you don’t want to make the pain worse by accenting the weak link in the chain.

Edit- almost forgot… lunges and step-ups are great here! Just focus on the stable and straight posture.

Why back squats if you are trying to save her lower back? Squats put a lot of strain on the lower back and are unnecessary for strong legs.

Lunges and Split Squats on the Smith are probably a safer introduction, but I honestly haven’t found squats to put an undue amount of stress on the lower back unless the lifter has a habit of ‘good mornings out of the hole’ - in which case choosing a more appropriate load and cueing good form (pull bar down into back, head up etc) will solve the problem.

Leg Press, Front Squats and Good Mornings (if hamstring flexibility or form are poor) are much “worse” (but not necessarily to be avoided in the long-term).

Part of the issue for a lot of people is a weak posterior chain and core. Back squats, done correctly, address this very well and encourage good ‘form’ outside the gym in many cases.

This is assuming mobility is being addressed and that weak posterior chain and core are the main problem.

Are back squats definitely lower back aggravaters when done correctly?

I’m thinking for the first few weeks I might not go with squats but concentrate more on lunges to get a bit of stability and concentrate on the process of glute activation.

I think it’s easy to forget how hard it was at first to really initiate movement with the correct muscles rather than just pushing the weight up. I remember it was a really foreign concept and took a few weeks to get. After that it’s probably taken months to really get comfortable with my own posture, feet position, and change in focus of muscle groups on the way up.

I think I need to do some squats myself and just break it down so I can explain what I do.

This process has been good as well as I’ve been doing a lot of reading and watching which can only improve my own game :slight_smile:

[quote]ozzyaaron wrote:
Are back squats definitely lower back aggravaters when done correctly? [/quote]

Not for me. Do it with a broomstick until you’re confident. Split Squats with a Smith are difficult to get wrong in the meantime.

That’s what I thought. The only time I’ve had a bad back from squats is when I was being a lazy fuck trying to add weight not caring about proper form. That won’t be happening here.

I’ve gotten a few people into a few sports and I’m always eager to force them to wean themselves into it. I hate it when people smash it, get hurt or too sore and give up. Running is a great example, people go try and run as far as they can the first time out then wonder why they feel fucked aftwards. I used to run half marathons and feel pretty fresh a few hours later. It’s just conditioning.

So for this I’ll be wanting to start SUPER light nad just build up. Hopefully get a bit of a thrill from getting stronger, losing fat and eventually having a pain free back (or less pain!).

thanks again guys.

Glute work and ab work helps the stress on the low back.

YES, man, I hate to say it, but I agree with DanErickson–don’t use back squats if you’re trying to save her low back. And for God’s sake don’t use good mornings or deadlifts!!

I love back squats. But for someone who ALREADY suffers from chronic low back pain, putting yet MORE stress on it is a terrible idea. This should be reinforced by the fact that you’re not training her to be a bb’er or pl’er or even an athlete. There are PLENTY of options left. db lunges are a fantastic alternative. So are dumbbell step ups, and db bulgarian squats. I would even avoid barbell lunges.

The proper approach is to try and find out what is causing her low back pain and then find a way to alleviate it. Then and only then should you work spinal loading in.

Remember, this isn’t a trainee who’s just developed back pain, this is someone who’s already lived with it for a long time. Get her healthy first.

Ab work, glute work, hamstring work, these all take strain off the low back. Maybe get her to do some bodyweight stuff for the low back, and then work her into light weighted exercises. Then gradually build up.

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Thanks Aragorn and BBB, those are really well thought out responses; that’s why I asked here :slight_smile:

I’d never considered the chest supported row, so thanks for that BBB.

I would love to leave her to a physio or some sort of rehab specialist but unfortunately she’s been in and out of them for at least four years without any relief of more than a few weeks. I tend to believe it’s typically a placebo type effect. She has some belief that pilates helps, but it obviously doesn’t and I’ve done pilates a bit, it’s nice as a relax (in my experience)…

In reflection, and given the last couple of posts I’m pushing the exercises I enjoy rather than stuff that will help. It’s hard to take a step back and program something as if you were an absolute beginner.

I wish I had more idea on how to spot the problem, all I can do is try to be very careful. While choice of decent people may be fairly abundant in the US, it seems that in little old Perth there isn’t much for good rehab people.

So basically, no I’m in no way qualified to assess the parameters your suggesting BBB, but then people that should have been obviously haven’t. I’m hoping that taking feedback from her on pain and uncomfortableness, really taking notice and watching her form, reading a lot and asking questions here that I can help. Training is a real passion of mine, but not training people. I’m just wanting to help.

This is my revised workout :

A1) Bench press
A2) Chest supported row
A3) DB Lunges

B1) Seated Press
B2) Lat PD
B3) I’d like to slot something in here, I’m wondering about DB swings?

Thanks so much for the help guys, I feel like I’m getting there and definitely learning along the way.

It’s starting to become clear why taking someone from an injured state to get healthier is so hard. I expected as much, but right now I’m feeling like I have a stack more to read and watch.

More suggestions are definitely welcome!

I’m going to read some more about glute activation, abs and stability/core work and hammys :slight_smile:

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great posts BBB.

Maybe I’ll stick with what I’ve got, minus the last exercise. As you said, rehab is where it’s at so getting a good workout with exercises that aren’t going to aggravate the lower back (everything minus the DB Swings) and then the rest of the time spent on rehab type stuff.

I’ve been scouring Mike Robertson, Eric Cressey and Mike Boyle stuff about glute activation and real core exercises and have bookmarked the videos you sent BBB so I can watch them tonight. If I have any more questions (and you guys don’t mind answering them) then I’ll post here.

Thanks again heaps for your help guys, I will let you know how I go!

[quote]bushidobadboy wrote:
Ignore Dragncarry; he is unfortunately assessing the rest of the world form his own, limited experience.[/quote]

I wasn’t assessing the rest of the world at all, thank you. I was talking about my own experiences.

I guess I did cross the line at times, so sorry. Obviously I have spent a lot of wasted time on exercises and treatments that were never going to do anything more than part me with my cash, or at best make me feel better for a short time.

That is certainly not to suggest that all experts are a waste of time and money, or that the path I took is the best path for everyone. I assume too much about the common-sense of others.

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[quote]bushidobadboy wrote:

No? So why did you write this:

“I think a lot of people have back pain simply because they are weak as piss”


That I make no apology for. The only apology I make is for encouraging the OP to proceed without proper guidance.

If you have a different opinion, fine. We all have different backgrounds, yours I believe is in chiropractic? So if you were an exercise physiologist, would it be different?

“Assessing the rest of the world” would be saying "everyone has back pain because of … "

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