FRI: How to Not Fuck Up Your Back
Apologies for the abrasiveness of the title. Actually, I’m not. The title needs a little abrasion and blunt force trauma because the reality is kind of stuff needs to get your attention.
I am very passionate about this topic because I come from a place of past personal frustration with my low back, and I believe it to be so easily avoided. I have dealt with low back issues that have taken three years to unwind and had I only known more about the body back when I started lifting, there is no doubt I would have avoided those setbacks.
Lucky for you, I am giving you the opportunity to do that here today.
Wait 1 Year to Lift Heavy
I wish I could go back in time and strip the badge of the trainer who wrote the program I followed that had me start at three rep deadlifts as a novice.
Heavy is defined as anything where you have to grind, or any movement where your last rep looks and feels significantly more strenuous than your first.
Yes, I want you too wait one year before moving on from this. If you want me to cut right to the core of it, most people jump into heavy lifting entirely too early. We are all told the benefits of lifting heavy and they are very real, but we must understand that heavy doesn’t mean max, and frankly, heavy sucks for beginners.
I don’t care if you played lacrosse in college or go to Gold’s everyday, if you are new to structured barbell lifting then you’re a beginner. Performing a proper back squat, deadlift, clean, and snatch take a lot of time to hard wire proper movement and create inner strength and stability that allows your body to handle those movements at heavy load.
Some weight on a barbell that gets progressively more challenging will get you stronger. You must, must, must, must understand that in your first year, the stimulus is brand new so you don’t need a lot of it. Jumping directly into near max strength training for a beginner is equivalent for a fifteen year old slamming a fifth of Fireball at his first party.
Graduating from Phase 1 is a great start, but from there, you don’t go right to strenuous lifts. Give yourself one year to develop slowly and properly. Stick to 5R sets. Stick to load at 75% and under. Build pattern and position.
This is absolutely and without question the most important advice that I can possibly give you.If you don’t listen to this, the remaining advice can only do so much.
5R is Likely All You Need
Unless you have a very real need to be constantly training at 90% and above (ie, you compete in powerlifting, strength sport, or weightlifting), then lifting in that range on a consistent basis is entirely unnecessary, and borderline stupid. Experienced lifters who work at 90% in a lift for four to eight weeks is personally reasonable. Nothing else really is.
Why is it provided as an advanced option? Because if you train strength long enough, you must dose yourself stimulus in that range if you want to continue to improve lift-specific strength, but it doesn’t mean that you live there every time you lift, and it 100% does not mean anyone less than two years needs to be in that range. It’s simple, the heavier the load, the more your position is compromised and the injury risk goes up.
Check out why the 5R set works, indefinitely. It’s a very important article that everyone who wants strength and performance should take the time to understand. If your goals are primarily based on losing weight, gaining strength, getting faster, looking better naked, feeling healthier, moving better, and improving athleticism, then the 5R set is all you need.
Twice Per Week
You don’t need to barbell strength train more than twice per week. You just don’t. I’ve coached, programmed, and worked with every kind of person imaginable in here over the past seven years and I have never seen a third heavy barbell day (performed routinely) net a return that outweighs the drawbacks associated with it. When you go to three days, you might become incrementally stronger but the debt collector also begins calling. Little tweaks, nicks, dings, tired CNS, for what? A couple more pounds on your back squat? Neat.
You will see amazing benefits in your strength at two days. Our male powerlifting records at this gym were all achieved using our minimum dose model.
Sitting Restricts You
If you sit all day like most of us, you do not earn the right to come straight into the gym and load up a barbell at 80% and rep it twenty times. Not if you hope to avoid problems in your low back. When you sit all day, you turn your glutes off, and when you’re glutes are switched off under a heavy back squat or deadlift, good things rarely happen.
I recommend a buffer between work sitting and the gym. If you get home from work, go on a twenty minute walk, do some lunges in your living room, glute bridges, some sort of activity that brings some function to the glutes prior to asking them to perform at their highest level of human performance.
Strengthen the Deep Abs
Crunches and sit-ups are not bad movements, but they do very little to strengthen the deeper anterior musculature of our core. They are superficial movements. The best money we have ever spent in the gym, pound for pound, just might the $20 ab wheels.
The ability for it to strengthen the deep muscles when performed properly is not matched by any bodyweight ab movement in terms of activation. Sandbag work, particularly squats, are also excellent.
Access Internal Torque Frequently
If you missed our chat on torque then you should give it a listen. This, in my personal opinion, has been the single biggest factor in turning around my personal back issues. Rope pulls and sandbag squats. That’s it. If you don’t feel like listening, the takeaway for you is to never ever miss days where we have those movements. They access a different line of torque than barbell movements, and the result is balance on the body.
If You’re Stretching Mid Workout, Wake Up
Guys, it is not normal to need to foam roll mid workout. It is not normal to need to twist, arch, and try to move out of pain in the middle of a set of squats. If you find yourself doing this, you have an issue lurking and continue to train on top of it is a guaranteed bet you’ll exacerbate it.
Sometimes, you need to stop, go home, and get something assessed. It sucks, it costs a little bit of time and money, but it’s far cheaper in both than the alternative.
Keeping your low back healthy is not difficult. Unfortunately, listening and following good protocol to achieve it can be a challenge. I hope today helped, and I implore you to take action if you’re a hard charger.
Next time, we’ll talk about what to do if it’s too late and you’re already dealing with signs of pre-injury.
Friday, 3. 16.18
First, For Structure.
8 Pull Ups
5 Jump Overs
Max Invasive Hollow Hold
Complete 1 set very 4′ For 16′
Then, For Conditioning.
w/a partner for 5′
A: 100m Run
B: 10 RKB Swings + Plank (with hollow body)
Then, w/a partner for 6′
A: 200m Run
B: 20 RKB Swings + Hollow Hold
Then, w/a partner for 7′
A: 300m Run
B: 30 RKB Swings + Hollow Rocks