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7 ways to bulletproof your back while exercising

Belfast PT Alan Waterman demonstrates how to bulletproof your back while training

By Alan Waterman

Have you ever had it happen? Your training is going great, you feel your strength and fitness increasing steadily each week, and you've managed to develop a good, structured routine...

Then, BAM! There goes your lower back. Suddenly you're left barely able to get up out of a chair, let alone continue on as you were with training.

Maybe you've experienced that unforgiving twinge while deadlifting, shifting furniture, or even just bending down to feed the cat - back injuries can come from seemingly anywhere.

The good news is that we can use our training to actually prevent low-back issues, allowing us to continue to train without injury, and pain-free.

Here's some of the best exercises to help you bulletproof that back:

1. Glute-bridge

The glute gridge is one of the best exercises to help develop muscle and strength through the back-side of our body, while minimizing strain on the low back.

Strengthening the glute (your bum!) muscles is incredibly important when it comes to preventing low back pain, while the exercise will also bring a large degree of core activation and strengthening into play too- another important factor in preventing low-back injury.

2. Inverted rows

While we slave away over computers in work, it's not uncommon for our upper back posture to suffer, as we become very tight through our arms, chest, and shoulders, leaving us weak across the upper back musculature.

The inverted row allows us to begin to work at strengthening those muscles, while reducing the low-back strain we can sometimes encounter with barbell and dumbbell rowing exercises.

3. Offset walking lunge

Often, we find hip instability and imbalances can lead to low back issues, as these muscles play a huge role in stabilizing the pelvis. If our pelvis is out of whack, our lower back will be too.

The offset walking lunge helps not only build strength through single-leg movements, but offsetting the weight (i.e. to the opposite side of the working leg,) increases the demand for training stability, while forcing us to increase our core and glute engagement to prevent flexing/bending to the side.

4. Half-kneeling face-pulls

As with the inverted row, the face-pulls are a great movement to develop those often-underworked muscles through the rear shoulder and upper back (helping to straighten out that desk posture).

Performing this in the half-kneeling position gives us more bang for our buck, as not only are we working the typically weaker muscles in our upper body, but we simultaneously stretch the typically tighter hip and thigh muscles in the lower body, which (when tight) can play a huge role in causing low-back pain.

5. Suitcase carries

We all can probably guess that training the core is a must-do for preventing low-back injury, but ditch the crunches and focus on training the core for stability instead.

As injury typically occurs from undesired movements through the low-back, training the core to resist movement can help reduce the possibility of injury.

The suitcase carry is a great movement for resisting "lateral flexion" (excessive bending to the side) as it forces us to engage our core and glutes to keep our hips, torso, and shoulders level.

6. Half-kneeling pallof press

As with the suitcase carries, the half-kneeling pallof press teaches the core to resist movement, but this time with unwanted rotation and twisting.

Again, the half-kneeling set-up allows us to keep those hips stretched out and open (which most of us need to be doing!).

7. Superdogs

Who'd have thought that one of the best-named exercises is also one of the best core exercises too?

The superdog is highly effective, as it teaches us to remain stable through our core and trunk, while our extremities (arms and legs) perform their functions.

We also benefit from addressing another element of core stability is resisting "extension" (i.e. overarching) of the low-back, which is where a large degree of back injuries arise from.

Bulletproof back training routine:

  • glute-bridge - 3 x 6-8
  • TRX rows - 3 x 8-10
  • offset walking lunge - 3 x 10 each
  • half-kneeling face-pulls - 3 x 10-12
  • suitcase carries - 2/3 x 20m each
  • half-kneeling pallof press - 3 x 8-10 each
  • bird-dogs - 3 x 10-12 each

Want more advice and tips? Make sure to check out the Facebook page for new daily content and guidance, as well as downloading your FREE chapter of our upcoming book Fitness BS.

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