Poor form during a workout can always lead to discomfort and eventual injury–and it’s particularly important to protect your lower back. This area of the body is responsible for stability, flexibility, and mobility in almost any type of workout, and many adults overuse it to overcompensate for weaker body parts in their day to day life, which can cause lower back pain or stiffness. Proactively protecting your lower back is not only crucial for preventing an injury, but will also improve your body’s movement overall. Peloton Tread instructors Andy Speer and Jess Sims share their best tips for protecting this area of your body in every aspect of your active life.
During Everyday Movements
“Low back pain is one of the biggest issues that plague adults because we have weak cores, then we overcompensate by using our back inefficiently which causes pain,” says Jess. Focus on creating ab tension throughout all your different movements as the first line of defense for making sure your lower back stays protected. “One of the most important jobs of your abs and obliques is to stabilize you lumbar spine–or your ‘lower back’,” says Andy. “Creating tension in your abs like you’re bracing to take a punch to the gut will help stabilize and protect your lumbar spine. This feels like a bracing or tensing of your abs as if you’re pulling your ribs down and in.” This tension should be created whenever you’re up and active.
During Strength Training
One of the most common corrections you may need to make during your next workout is how your lower back flexes during weight-bearing exercises. For example, practice doing a deadlift or and hip hinge-type movement with a neutral or slightly arched lower back, which is the safest approach to making this correction. Similarly, when you’re working in a plank position, “don’t let your lower back arch or fall towards the floor—this means your abs are not engaged properly,” says Andy. “Squeeze your glutes, tuck your hips and pull your ribs away from the floor–this will bring you back to a neutral spine and reinforce proper torso position to stabilize the lower back.” When you’re working from a prone position, lying on the floor, focus on actively engaging your abs to protect the low back. “In strength classes, when the lower back comes up off the floor during core exercises, it’s trying to overcompensate for a weak core,” Jess says. “Proactively remind yourself that your lower back should be pressed against the ground so you’re not creating any additional stress in the area that will eventually create lower back pain.” Recognizing that a certain movement isn’t accessible for you at a certain time is also a way to protect you from lower back pain. “Ask yourself if the movement is appropriate for your body,” says Andy. “If a specific movement pattern or exercise hurts, this may mean you need to limit the range of motion, not use weights or avoid the movement all together until you are healed and strengthened enough to perform it.”
During a Run
“When it comes to running, don’t go too fast if you’re working to protect your lower back,” says Jess. “When we run too fast, we are in danger of incorrect form and overcompensation from other muscle groups, which can cause a lot of pain.” Changing your pace may be the right modification for you until you’re feeling strong in those zones that were giving you discomfort. “Go slow and continue to strengthen your core with strength and Bootcamp classes–we always give modifications for low back intensive movements on the floor, so don’t be afraid to use them,” says Jess. “Accept where your body is, and watch yourself get stronger by implementing the right modifications!” Additionally, while running, make sure your hips are in a position that won’t create lower back pain overtime. “Push your pelvis forward instead of letting your hips flare backwards,” says Jess. “This can create a painful arch in the lower back and since running is a repetitive movement, if you’re in dysfunction repetitively, it’s inevitable that you will eventually experience discomfort.” Finally, if you’re experiencing any chronic lower back pain, consulting your health care professional is the right choice before continuing your workouts.
Working hard? Learn why practicing yoga is perfect for athletes.