Or maybe it won’t. I mean, with a title like that, you’re probably not going to find me saying, “Nope, no need to worry, move along now…” Wouldn’t that be nice! But the truth is, we’re only as fit and healthy as our low back, and unless you’re already engaged in dedicated training to address these muscles, your back is probably weaker and less resilient than you even imagine. How can it not be? It’s actually not our fault. Our daily lives dictate that we spend long periods in a chair and/or car. Whenever you put your body in a position that’s not neutral for any length of time, inevitably the muscles change; they become overlengthened and weak in some places, and tight and shortened in others. Thankfully, we now know how easy it is to offset this repetitive stress. All you need — and here’s the hitching point for most of us — is the willingness to actually take the five minutes to follow through with a few choice stretches and exercises, each and every day (or most every day). They’re not the kind of “glamour” exercises that make people feel like accomplished athletes; they are, in fact, on the boring/mundane side. But they are the building blocks that can make all the difference — so that you CAN engage in those more intense, gratifying challenges. And come on — five minutes? Isn’t your low back worth it?
If you’re ready to take measures into your hands to protect your low back for the long haul, here are the elements that make up a good low back training program:
- Core exercises: A healthy low back depends on strong muscles on all sides of the trunk — front, sides, and back. Which means you want to train your abdominal muscles, obliques, and low back muscles through a variety of exercises and drills.
- Stretches for the low back, hips and glutes, chest, hamstrings and hip flexors: Yes, that’s a long list! But the fact is, where there’s tightness and lack of flexibility, you’re going to have added stress on the back. In fact, the body tends to try to “make up” for lack of flexibility in these places by altering the low back and pelvis position in our movements. In other words, we’re very good at inadvertantly cheating or side-stepping proper form. We may think we’re getting away with it — or maybe we’re not even aware that we’re even doing it. But our low back absorbs the wear and tear, either way. On the other hand, if we take the time to stretch and release even a little bit of the tightness in these other muscles, we instantly take pressure off the low back, paving the way for proper, safe technique.
- Stretches and exercises in all three planes: Most of our daily movements are in the forward-backward orientation, also known as the sagittal plane. Examples are walking, bending over, and sitting. We need stretches in these areas for this reason, but we also need flexibility in the other two planes of movement — the frontal plane (side to side stretches/movements) and the transverse plane (twists). By including stretches in these directions as well, we give our backs and the rest of our bodies the benefit of three-dimensional range of motion. This not only reduces our risk of injury, it’s also more comfortable, and improves our sports performance on top of that!
- Proper form and technique: Already mentioned, but worth its own bullet point, because it’s even more crucial for low back training than other forms of sports and fitness conditioning. Some activities allow for a little “wiggle room” when it comes time to seeing good results. Ever watch a running race? You’ll see what I mean: no two runners run exactly alike, yet somehow they all were able to train their bodies to the point of readiness for a race. Low back training is different; its power is in its precision, and thus its liability is in improper execution. Know the difference, and implement it — your success depends on it.
Need more specific guidance on exercises and stretches that meet these criteria? Consider following my online 5-minute yoga videos, or my downloadable audio stretch workouts, both of which are part of the premium section of www.TheFlexibilityCoach.com.