80% of people suffer from back pain in their lives. Think about that for a minute. Back pain is second only to the common cold in number of doctor visits per year. More often than not, the causes of back pain are nebulous and hard to diagnose, and unfortunately, many medical personal treat only symptoms rather than underlying problems. So whether you have back pain or not, what’s a fitness-oriented person to do?
First, for anyone with serious or persistent back pain, I recommend finding a great Physical Therapist, particularly one with a corrective exercise background. Nothing beats corrective program written specifically for you by a good PT or other corrective exercise specialist.
For the rest of us, I highly recommend starting with Eric Cressey’s “Lower Back Savers” articles (file Eric Cressey under aforementioned “corrective exercise specialists”). Cressey does a great job discussing a lot of the background on back pain, as well as great options for overcoming some common issues:
While back pain is an extremely complicated topic, I’ve distilled my recommendations down to 8 practical take-home points:
- Stop performing spinal flexion exercises – crunches, situps, and the like. No more. Ever.
- Improve your core stability with effective ab training
- Activate and strengthen your glutes, which you’ve probably never used before (see this post)
- Improve hip mobility
- Improve ankle mobility
- Improve thoracic extension
- Improve hamstring flexibility (some people)
- Implement some integrated mobilizations (that combine many of these concepts)
Put all that together and you’re well on your way to a bulletproof back. Most of it goes nicely into your warm-up, which should mostly consist of this type of mobilization anyway.