Fixing a Broken back is unfortunately something I've often ended up dealing with myself. From years of hurling and probably a lot of constant rotation from right to left (puckouts) aswell as neglecting mobility and strengthening exercises the physio table was something I saw a lot off down the years...
Not so much now thank god, in fact I've only required our physio once this year so far!!
This is something that I’m pretty sure 80% of people can relate to experiencing at some time or other: A BAD BACK!
It’s extremely common and maybe because of that it has become something we rarely question anymore… It’s as if we just accept that we are going to have back trouble and just struggle on regardless.
It seems like most people get to a certain age and become content with living on painkillers and not being able to bend over.
Even if you haven’t had any back trouble (lucky you) you surely know someone who does!
But, let’s talk about context here. Not everyone has the same back issues. I’m referring to people spending a lot of time sitting all day with bad posture.
Not the dude who’s been in a car crash and has a prolapsed disk after it. Two very different cases, two very different fixes!
Before I delve into the details of how to fix your back, let’s have a look at what good posture and what bad posture is.
These are the spinal positions you typically see
Spinal Extension (Lordosis) – This is what people traditionally think is good posture. Chest puffed out, big arch in the lower back. Women who wear high-heels will experience spinal extension by default. The reality is that this mean tight hips and a big risk of injury especially if doing even everyday tasks.
Spinal Flexion (Flat Back/Sway Back) – This is the opposite of Spinal Extension, it’s traditionally a very rounded lower back.
Kyphosis – This is a rounded upper back (Thoracic Spine). Anyone who spends hours typing at a desk may have to contend with this at some point. Being Kyphotic is as a result of abs shortening and shoulders rotating inwards. Not good.
Finally the spinal position that we all want:
Neutral Spine – As the name suggests, a neutral spine is ideal for a healthy, pain-free life. A small curve in the spine is normal, as long as its not excessive.
Now that we know craic with the spine, let’s talk about the how and why people suffer from these annoying positions!
Sitting Is The New Smoking
Modern day society puts our bodies in positions we shouldn’t be in all day long. Examples would be Sitting at a desk for hours on end or being on your feet all day (waiters, barmen, chefs etc).
The majority of people who spend years doing jobs like this end up at some point with at least a stiff back.
The fact is, human beings aren’t designed to sit in chairs for long periods of time. We were designed to squat down instead.
If you look at a baby getting a toy off the floor, you’ll notice perfect squatting technique.
Basically, when we sit down for long periods of time, the muscles in our backs lengthen and our hip capsules and abdominals shorten.
This gives people what is called Anterior Pelvic Tilt – Spinal Extension. It’s basically a tight back as a result of tight hips and weak abs.
The other side of it is Posterior Pelvic Tilt – Spinal Flexion. This is when people appear to have a very rounded lower-back. It happens as a result of people who have weak abs, tight hamstrings and sleepy Glutes.
Both are examples of bad posture and if people go to the gym and start lifting weights while suffering from either of them then injuries are absolutely going to occur at some point unless of course you spend time fixing the issues
If you’re one of these people then keep reading as I’ve made a list of exercises/stretches that will help significantly in relieving back pain.
Fix #1 – Mobilise Your Hips – The Couch Stretch
An awful lot of people we see have tight hips. Tight hips happen as a result of sitting for extended periods of time and not moving around enough in positions that challenge your flexibility.
There is an easy fix for this. it’s called the Couch Stretch and you can do against a wall or off the couch as the name suggests.
I first herd of this stretch while training to be a PT in Dublin and I use it a lot myself. It came from Kelly Starrett (MobilityWOD). Anyone that trained with us for Sports performance or for the running club will have done this one.
For this stretch, I suggest a minimum hold of 45 seconds on each side. The trick is to keep the lower back neutral (not over-arched).
Breathing is very important here, if you struggle to breathe in and out under control then you’re pushing the stretch too hard, ease off.
This movement will free up the hips and quads like nothing else. I’ve had clients try this for the first time and were feeling like different people after because of the freedom they suddenly had in their hips.
Fix #2 – Core Strength Part 1 – Hanging Knee Raises
When I say core, I mean muscles like your abs, spinal erectors, and glutes.
When the core is strong, our posture is less likely to be pulled into a bad positions
There’s a few core exercises that will be a god-send for anyone with a weak back. The Hanging Knee Raise in particular is very effective because it’s known as an anti-extension exercise.
This basically means that if your spine is in extension (over-arched) then this will help bring you into a neutral spine position.
I suggest doing 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps 2-3 times a week.
Fix #3 – Core Strength Part 2 – Hollow Holds
The Hollow Hold is excellent for strengthening the core whilst teaching people to maintain a neutral spine.
You need to lie on your back with hands together and feet together. Your arms should then in line with your ears and your feet should be off the ground. If you’re doing it properly then you should look like a hollow shell hence the name.
Once you’re in this position, it’s time to activate the core. To do so, tense your abs which should feel like you’re pulling them towards your spine.
Your abs and your ribs should feel connected also when you’re bracing.
From this position, with the core braced, you need to take 5-10 breaths nice and slow. Do 4-5 sets of 5-10 breaths 3 times a week.
Fix #4 – Core Strength Part 3 – The Superman Hold
The superman hold is excellent for people who suffer from Cat-Back Syndrome. It strengthens the muscles around the spine and the glutes.
What you need to do is lie face down with hands and feet together. You then contract your back muscles and your ass together.
This will make you look like Superman flying through the air. Once you’re in this braced position, then you need hold it and breathe in and out for 3-5 breaths.
Fix #5 – Learn To Bend Over Properly – The Hip Hinge
What a lot of people don’t know is bending over is a primal movement pattern that we all were born to do. Modern day life has allowed us to neglect our body’s natural inclination to move around.
Everything nowadays is convenient and fast – fast food and easy ways to do things!
In this case it’s not bending over properly thats causing the most issues!
Learning to hinge at the hips (Bending Over) is really easy. The first step is to brace your core by taking a breath in and tensing up that area, you should be able to breathe in and out whilst bracing.
Second step is to push the hips back. The back stays neutral the whole time and the hamstrings should feel tight as you bend down. The knees should be slightly bent and shouldn’t move at all after the initial hinge.
The hinge is essential for exercises like Deadlifts, RDL’s, Bent over Rows. Which are essential for progress in the gym. We use these a lot in our programs
So basically, if you want to progress in the gym quickly and without injury then learning to hinge is f’in essential.
Give this a right go and see how you get on…
I herd someone say recently that if you spend 10 minutes a day working on a weakness and do that for 30 days straight it will no longer be a weakness!!
If you’re looking to lose 5-10lbs and get your health back on track give us a call about a 30 day kickstart.