Exercises You're Not Doing Right, Causing Back Pain
Are there exercises you’re not going right causing back pain?
We all (should) know there’s an inherent risk with any physical movement. However, reward heavily outweighs the risk regarding the many benefits of exercise.
There’s no such thing as a bad exercise or movement. There is such a thing as an exercise that has a better risk-reward ratio, or bang-for-your-buck than another.
With all of the noise and distractions in our current American “busy” culture, most of us don’t have time to spend hours on stretches and exercises.
I know I don’t.
If I can get the same benefit of three separate exercises by doing one exercise, I’m going for the one every time.
Exercise Quality > Quantity
Many of the mainstream exercises are great exercises. Just about everyone who has stepped into a gym has performed all of the mainstream exercises. But how most people are approaching said exercises could use a makeover.
What I find is that many individuals fail to understand functional competency and capacity fully. In non-sciency terms, that means your “form” and how much your body can handle.
As a chiropractor, I’ve experienced that adjustments alone do not solve most problems that walk in the door. Addressing the behaviors that have caused or fed into the problem is imperative to maintaining a long-term correction. So, if you’re exercising poorly consistently, “breaking the scab,” you’ll be stuck in the vicious cycle of always needing to be “fixed.”
Good news for you, the exercises I chose conveniently happen to have videos of how to make the moves better, already on our amazing YouTube channel.
The Five Exercises You're Not Doing Right Causing Back Pain Problems
Yes, numero uno is the good ol’ burpee, up-down, down-up — whatever you want to call it!
Burpees tend to be one of those “painful” exercises people love to hate.
On one side, burpees are an easy way to get your heart rate up there quickly, a full-body movement, and can do it just about anywhere. On the other side, they’re dreadful because they can deplete your tank, fast, where you end up peeling yourself off the ground on the last repetitions.
I’m not the biggest fan of burpees, especially if a coach/trainer is programming them for a client. But I know people do them and there’s no such thing as an inherently “bad” exercise. 100% of the time I would rather have someone exercise versus not exercise, regardless of the exercise choices.
Movement is medicine. Motion is the lotion.
What I dislike most about the traditional burpee is the repetitive forward bending of the low back. Specifically, I’m not a fan of the knees-to-chest position while your hands are on the ground in the pushup position.
It’s not bad to bend your spine, but when you consider most of us in our culture sit all day, our low backs bend forward plenty. Why continue to bend it forward over and over again?
If your finger hurts from pulling it back into an aggressive stretch, would you continue to crank on it?
Far too often, I see patients who have flexion-intolerant spines due to their postural and movement behaviors. Going from sitting all day to a bunch of burpees, crunches, and sit-ups is like cranking that finger back, but it’s our spine.
Regardless if you’ve had or have ever suffered from back pain, I recommend what I call the “Sumo Burps”.
Sumo because of the sumo stance modification, and I think you can figure out the rest! I think I’m in the clear, but please don’t P.C. Principle me — it’s supposed to be a memorable name.
I like Sumo Burps because it takes one of your top exercises causing pain, your standard burpee, and reduces the amount of repetitive spinal bending without making it too easy. If anything, what makes the exercise is when you pop off the ground quickly!
Check out how to flawlessly execute your Sumo Burps below:
If you’ve ever attended circuit training, boot camp, or cardio type fitness class, you’ve come to expect multiple reps of some squat variation. ⠀
Squats are fantastic, and everybody’s doing them — even babies at right around 12 months!
However, squats have many moving parts though they look simplistic. All the moving parts need to work in harmony to perform an ideal squat. If not, it can be one of those common exercises causing pain.
Beginner squatters — those without the stability and mobility requisites to execute a solid squat — commonly round the low back or dive through the knees. Further, the tendency toward poor form becomes magnified as you get tired, performing rep after rep.
Yes, we want to lift with our legs and not with our backs, but not with our knees either!
You can critique squat form to ad nauseam. Still, the squat’s quality is only as good as the squatter’s understanding of squat mechanics and body awareness. Not to mention, everybody’s squat is different.
Coaches and clinicians, including us, are guilty of paralysis by analysis. ⠀
Let’s keep it simple!⠀
Utilizing the simple strategy of the 1-minute video below, you’ll understand how to perform a better squat. By making sure to hinge first, you’ll reduce the likelihood of overstressing your back and knees!
3. Abs Rollout
The abs do more than provide a washboard for your laundry!
Far too often, I see sloppy form with abs exercises, which is why it’s #3 of our exercises you’re not doing right causing back pain. If done properly, this exercise can create great rewards.
The purpose of the abs (rectus abdominis muscle), contrary to popular belief, is not to flex/bend forward like with crunches and sit-ups. The abs prevent excessive extension (bending backward), so you’re not compressing your spine in an aggressive low back arch.
The abs’ connection to the rib cage and pelvis directly influences their relative position to one another. ⠀ ⠀
As you’ll see in the video example below, with poor form (red arrow), the abs cannot maintain a quality connection, resulting in excessive arching of the low back. In the example of good form (white arrow), the abs maintain connection, allowing the other core musculature to do their jobs well.
Like burpees, I believe it’s safe to say the plank is a household name bodyweight exercise everyone loves to hate.
No further explanation is needed here as the plank is basically the ab rollout above but without the movement. However, when performed poorly, it can easily become one of the top exercises causing pain.
5. Glute Bridge
Glutes are more than just “junk in the trunk!”⠀
The glutes are one of, if not the largest, most powerful muscles in the body. They are a primary mover in bipedal propulsion; otherwise, known as walking and running.
The position of our low back and pelvis directly influences the glute’s ability to function. ⠀
The common mistake with the glute bridge exercise is bridging too high, which turns it into a back bridge. When you back bridge, you’re firing up the low back muscles instead of the glutes, which defeats the purpose of the exercise.
If you’re stuck in an arched spine (JLo booty posture), the glutes have weak leverage, which puts more load on the quads and hammies to complete the desired task.⠀ ⠀
If we’re stuck in a rounded spine (plumber butt posture), our glutes are mostly working as a core muscle to stabilize the pelvis. If the glutes are too busy stabilizing, they cannot perform their primary function of hip extension, which is kicking the leg back to create propulsion.⠀ ⠀
Note the glute bridge is not the best way to “strengthen” the glutes — do that using squat, lunge, and hinge variations.
It’s best to utilize the glute bridge to learn how to align, breathe, and control while driving hip extension to open up your hips. So, you can use it in your activities of daily living!
Bonus: Suspension Straps “TRX” Rows Exercise
We’ve went over the five exercises causing pain (when they shouldn’t). Though this is more of an exercise causing neck pain when performed poorly, enough people do it where it would be a nice bonus to the bunch.
Many people struggle with shrugging their shoulders up into their ears when doing upper body exercises. And squeezing or pinching the shoulder blades together may not be the best strategy to combat shoulder shrugging.
This video is longer (5 minutes) with a full explanation, so I’ll save you the time reading it here!
But Wait There’s More!
The common denominator behind exercises you’re not doing right causing back pain, is the core. We can all agree a strong core is important for pain/injury prevention and performance. But the problem is most of us don’t really know what the core is and how it works.
As a result, we’re doing the wrong stuff, not realizing we’re overstressing body regions – like the low back – that can all too often lead down a path of unnecessary pain, poor performance, and missing out on activities you used to love doing.
By understanding what the core is, how it works, how to turn it on, and how to train it the right way, you can be free of back pain and maximize your performance no matter the activity.
Core Strength + Stability = less pain + better performance. It’s life-changing.
Do you value all of the benefits of exercise but you’re struggling to keep the pain and injury bug at bay? Work with clinicians whose knowledge is deep-rooted in movement and body mechanics. Get the treatment you need and learn valuable strategies to perform at your best.