Friday, June 3, 2016

Take Care of Your Back

In the heavy events like lifting and throwing a strong, healthy back is essential. The human back is a miraculous creation and very complex. In this short post we can't begin to address all of the issues that are pieces of the total back care regimine. We'll just touch on a few points and probably follow with more later. Books have been written about the structure and functions of the spine. Some of the best are by Dr. Stuart McGill. He is a Canadian scholar who has made a life's work of studying the human spine. His writing is detailed, but comprehensible to the non-scholars like me.

I highly recommend these to any serious trainer or anyone who has had low back pain. It is beyond the scope of this post to go into great detail, but one of the important take home messages I got was that the spine is designed to resist compressive forces, not twisting or shear forces.Therefore do not do exercises that push the spine beyond it's normal end range of motion. Do not exagerate or overstretch the natural range of motion. In an earlier post, we designated the difference between twisting and rotational exercises and drills. Twisting is when the hips and shoulders are turning in opposite directions like a discus wind for some or driving the right foot pivot while keeping the shoulder back for separation in the middle. Even these examples do not really require a violent twist as the hips and shoulders still drive in the same direction. (So why do twisting exercises like a seated twist with the bar on the shoulders?) Rotation is when the hips and shoulders are turning at the same time. (such as hammer turns) Twisting can be very hard on the spine if the supporting musculature is not used to keep the stress off of the discs and connective tissues at the beginning and end of the range of motion. Rotation is most dangerous at the endpoint if follow-through is not controlled.

In the videos below Glen Pendlay and Donnie Shankle of California Strength demonstrate the difference between the misnamed Hyper-extension exercises (you don't really want to hyper-extend beyond straight) and Back Raises. Both are important in developing spinal stability. Note that neither are done to the complete end range of motion and there is certainly no attempt to stretch beyond the end range. This is important in preserving disc integrity. Having suffered a serious back injury over 30 years ago after falling two stories in a construction accident, I have used these exercises extensively myself. The "hypers" work the back isometrically (which how it is used in keeping us erect all day) and hip stabilizers togather while the Back Raises work the spinal muscles that extend the spine concentrically.

This second video is a very interesting segment showing some Chinese lifters doing various spinal stabilizing exercises including 1 arm presses and hypers in the back round along with a suspension devise and some spinal walking with a partner. Take care of your back so you can train hard and train for a long time. While there are few genetic animals out there who can break the "rules" and still thrive, most of us will eventually pay a price if we ignore proper back care.

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