5 Exercises To Avoid If You Have Low Back Pain (Extension Intolerant Part 1.)
5 Exercises To Avoid If You Have Low Back Pain (Part 1. Extension)
Sufferers of low back pain know that certain positions and exercises can trigger their pain. There’s also an endless amount of information on the internet (good and bad) regarding which exercises are the best for a given goal. Surely you’ve seen “Top 5 Exercises for building your chest” or the “10 best exercises for fat loss!”.
Despite the fact that these exercises are probably great, they don’t take into consideration any injuries or issues one may have.
You're best choice is to stay away from the following exercise if you currently suffer a nagging back injury.
First you want to test to see what type of pain you have. This article is for people who have "Extension Based Back Pain". Check the vid below to find out if this is you:
1. Barbell Bent Over Rows
Despite these being one of the best back building exercises, it puts tremendous amounts of stress on the lower back. Focusing on stabilizing the spine and keeping your core active is absolutely crucial when performing this movement but let’s get real here… Body English is pretty common in the exercise and hinging at the low back is a recipe for disaster if you suffer from low back pain.
Although the BB Bent Over Row is a great exercise for strength, size and fat loss due to its unsupported, multi-joint nature, there are alternatives that are better suited for low back sufferers. Not to mention, you can focus more on the mid-upper back mind-muscle connection with the following exercises:
Alternatives: Landmine Rows, Chest Supported Rows
2. ATG Squats
I can already hear the keyboard warriors warming up here but hold on for one second… I’m not against ATG squats if they’re necessary for your sport, or if you’ve got the mobility to perform them. But in this case, people who suffer from low back pain already, are putting unnecessary load on a flexed spine. This dramatically increases your risk of further injury. Do yourself a favour and perform the following instead.
Alternatives: Squat to just before the “butt wink”. This will be different for everyone. Some people may get to 90 degree knee flexion before the butt wink begins and others may have better mobility and get down to thighs parallel before the butt wink.
3. Back Extensions
When it comes to the low back pain population, I often notice poor movement quality in some of the basic exercises. One of the most commonly butchered movements is the hip hinge (crucial in performing deadlifts and many other movements).
What tends to happen is that the person will hinge more at one of the lumbar vertebrae, as opposed to at the hips. This spine hinge can be severely reinforced when doing back extensions because the spinal erectors (low back muscles) are the targeted muscle group. On top of that, the individual usually ends up hyperextending the spine at the top. As you can imagine, this will likely cause severe pain for people who suffer from extension based back pain.
Alternatives: If you insist on continuing to do back extensions, I encourage you to do it the Bret Contreras way. https://bretcontreras.com/back-extensions/ In it, he explains how to make it more hip dominant and how to use your glutes as opposed to just your low back.
4. Good Mornings
These are a staple for low back and upper glute size/strength. Once again, this puts way too much load on the lumbar spine. Even when you’re performing it with proper technique, there is a huge amount of shear force on the spine as well as a large moment arm.
Alternatives: DB Romanian Deadlifts. This exercises still fires up the hamstrings, glutes and lower back however the weight is much more centered around your body compared to the bar path in a good morning. The closer the weight is to the center of the body, the less stress there is on the spine. DB RDLs are also great because they force your entire core to work hard, from the lats down to the glutes and core. You’ve gotta maintain tightness from upper back, while pinning your ribcage down to your hips, all while performing a killer exercise.
5. Standing Overhead Press
Any OHP variation is great for building strength. Unfortunately, anything overhead means your core has to work way harder to support your spine. People who suffer from LBP tend to have weak abdominals already, the last thing you want to do is load up your spine with a weak link in the chain.
That’s not the only concern. Overhead presses for low reps (1-5) allow you to control the movement better and ensure your spine is properly aligned. When you start going above 5 reps or so, you’ve probably noticed that most people tend to lean back further, flexing their spine in an attempt to get better leverage to finish the set. If you really focus you can prevent it but it only takes one set gone wrong to really f!@# you up.
Alternatives: Seated Overhead Press, Incline Bench Press
Both of these alternative exercises allow you to load up the shoulders and triceps while putting your back in a safer position.
Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you can’t train these exercises ever again. This is just if you currently suffer from LBP. Some of these exercises will be totally fine once your pain is gone and stability is increased.
Remember, don’t train in pain! If your program consists of any of these exercises, don’t back down! Try these alternatives instead.