BY MEN’S FITNESS EDITORS
One of the most common questions in regards to weightlifting is how to strengthen the lower back. A combination of several preventative measures, such as maintaining good posture and stretching, receiving proper pain relief treatment, and correct strength training exercises can result in a stronger and more stablized back. Here, we’ve provided you with these tips to ensure that you’re taking the right steps to avoid any lower back problems. Follow these essential pointers and you’ll feel the difference in flexibility and strength while preserving your spine so you can train hard for years.
1. DON’T DEADLIFT IN THE MORNING
A busy work schedule may make evening workouts a non-option, so if you choose to train in the early a.m., keep your session light and avoid spine-compressing exercises like the deadlift. A study in the Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation found that subjects who avoided activities during which they had to bend over in the early morning significantly reduced the number of days they complained of back pain (as recorded in their journals). Spend at least three hours awake and moving around before doing exercises that have you picking things up from the floor.
2. WATCH YOUR SUPERSETS
Pairing up exercises and performing them back-to-back (a superset) helps save time in a workout, but not just any two exercises will work together. Lifts that compress the spine shouldn’t be superset because they place too much strain on the spinal disks. For instance, squats and overhead presses both squeeze the vertebrae together. Without time in between them, the back never gets a chance to recover. A better option is to pair a compressive movement with one that unloads the spine. For example, hanging leg raises, lat pulldowns, dips, and chinups all allow gravity to perform traction on the spine.
3. STRETCH YOUR HIPS
We know you hate stretching. Suck it up. There’s no better way to prevent back pain. Here’s why: The hip flexors are muscles on the front of your hips that raise your legs; sitting at a desk for long periods makes them tighten up and lose range of motion. Since the hip flexors run from the top of the thigh bone back to the bottom of your spine, their tightening pulls on the spine, increasing the arch in your lower back and putting pressure on it. To stretch your hips, get into a lunge position on the floor and tuck your tailbone. Squeeze the glute on your rear leg and push your hips forward until you feel a stretch on the front of your hip on the trailing leg. Hold for at least 30 seconds, switch sides, and repeat for three sets each side.
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