In the middle of last week I had a email exchange with one of our members, Chip, on how he should go about addressing his chronic back pain. I asked Chip if it’d be cool if I shared the email exchange with you in hopes any of you with back pain could take something from it.
The stretches and strengthening mentioned below are all things I talk about in-depth in my Midline Strength & Stability Clinic, which I’ll hold on Sunday, April 6th at 12:30pm. The clinic will be capped, so make sure you sign-up before you miss out!
Ok, here is Chip’s initial email to me:
I NEED to pay attention to this, but I’ll be out of town (again) for this clinic. I seem prone to injuring my lower back… 4 times in last 10 years, but twice since I joined cross fit. I try really hard to do all movements with the correct form. This Saturday I strained it again, and I’ve been resting at home ever since. I think what happened is my back was a little strained to begin with, and I didn’t warm up enough. I shouldn’t have even tried the WOD.
Also, I sit at a desk or I am driving most of the day – so I’m going to try and do the band pull apart exercise as often as I can, that is very similar to an exercise my physical therapist has recommended to strengthen my back. Can you point me in the right direction on where I can buy a set of those? Until the recent video blog, I didn’t know the objective of that specific exercise was to strengthen the back/mid line.
Lastly, are there a few stretches I can do every day to help me with my midline? It seems like overall tightness in my thighs and back are a constant. Especially my thighs…
I know a lot of questions for an e-mail – appreciate your response. For now, I’m resting my back but when I get back at it, I think I need to really focus on improving my back/midline stability and strength.
And here’s my response:
Alright, let me start with the stretches first, as these should give you immediate relief (hopefully).
The trifecta for stretches for low back pain are: 1) Samson Stretch, 2) Quad Stretch against the wall, 3) Hamstring stretch. If you only have time for one stretch, the Samson Stretch should be your go-to. 2 minutes on each side (minimum). Now, the key for any stretches for your low back is positioning is to make sure your ribcage is neutral and your glutes are squeezed as hard as you can. If you don’t check these two things, the stretching will be a giant waste of time. However, if you do these two things, the stretching should give you immediate relief.
A good rule of thumb for stretching: if there is no change after 2 minutes (in either your discomfort or your ROM), move on to another stretch. If you see a change, stick with that stretch.
One last thing, If your back is still out of commission from deadlifts, light stretching of your hamstrings should help.
Now for the strengthening.
The band pull apart is the best thing you can do. A weak upper back (as well as poor positioning) means your low back will take WAY more of the stress than it should be. The band pull apart addresses both weakness and positioning. Just make sure your pull your shoulders “back and down” when performing the movement. Or another way to think about it is to imagine you are squeezing a piece of paper into your armpit when you perform the movement. Perform 3-5 sets of 15-20 reps 3x a week.
My favorite midline strengthening movements are somewhat equipment intensive, so I’ll just say stick with hollow holds, as these require no equipment and need to be mastered before moving on to harder variations. Hollow holds strengthen your core and improve the control you have over your midline when performing any movement we do in the gym. Same as above, perform 3x/week. In terms of a structure, perform 8 sets of 10-20 second holds. Rest 10-20 seconds between holds.
I don’t want to throw too much at you to work on at once, so that’s where I’ll leave it at for now. Perform that for a 3-4 weeks and let me know how it’s going! We’ll change it up after that if we need to. The biggest thing is going to be consistency. Set aside some time to stretch every day. Doesn’t have to be more than 5 minutes. Just make sure you get it done!
Below is the link where you can buy the bands:
And here’s the link to the Samson Stretch:
Let me know if you have any questions, and feel free to ask me when you’re here for class to demo or explain anything you need.
If you missed it up top, here’s the link to register for my Midline Strength & Stability Clinic!