Lower Back Health

Develop lifelong lower back health with consistent exercise, proper lifting technique and correct movement patterns. Lower back strength, stability, flexibility and stamina are essential for posture, fitness and functionality.

Serious lower back injuries may be debilitating. Lose of strength, motion and function in the lower spine is life altering and career threatening.

Anatomy: In medical terminology the lower back is named the lumbar spine. The lower back consists of five large vertebrae. Directly below the fifth lumbar vertebra is the sacrum and tailbone. The sacrum connects with the pelvis to form the sacroiliac joints.

The spinal cord travels vertically through the vertebral column. Spinal nerve roots branch off the spinal cord in between each vertebra.

Thick tendons attach the lower back muscles to the bones. Tough fibrous structures called ligaments connect bone to bone and provide stability to joints.     

The lower back works in unison with the hips, pelvis, gluteals, thighs and abdominals to execute movements. The lower back muscles are very difficult to isolate while exercising. The lower back is involved in every exercise either as a primary mover, assistor or stabilizer.

The lower back muscles can be trained directly and effectively since they are the primary movers in numerous multi-joint exercises.

The intervertebral discs (IVD) are located between each vertebra and work as shock distributors. The disc is composed of a fluid filled nucleus inside of a hard outer lining.

Most severe lower back injuries involve the intervertebral disc. Direct blood flow to the intervertebral disc ceases after the age of six. Following the cessation of direct blood flow the disc receives its nutrients through osmosis from the vertebrae located directly above and below it.

 Healthy Intervertebral Disc: Movement is the key to healthy intervertebral discs. Nourish the discs through motion exercises. Stay active and train on the fitball, bosu ball and mini trampoline. Small controlled bouncing exercises on the fitball and bosu ball increase hydration and nourishment to the disc.

Through the ageing process the intervertebral disc gradually dehydrates and loses height. Increase fluid flow into the disc through consistent exercise and motion to maintain disc height and health.

Proprioception: Regular exercise on the fitball provides proprioceptive training to the lower back and core. Proprioception is your body’s awareness of where it’s at in nature. Proprioceptive training improves balance and stability thus reducing the possibility of injury since the body reacts better to sudden unexpected positional changes.

Exercise Technique: Proper form is indispensable in back training. Perfect your exercise technique to lower injury risk and maximize benefit. Practice correct form until its second nature before escalating intensity. Protect your spine by never twisting, bending or extending more than necessary during an exercise.

Strength Training: Strengthen the lower back with basic exercises such as deadlifts, cleans and kettlebell swings. These exercises work multiple muscle groups along with the lumbar spine muscles.

 Avoid overtaxing the lower back by doing too many exercises in one routine. Rotate your lower back exercises on a regular basis to target the muscles at various angles. Exercise variety prevents overtraining, decreases injury risk, limits the development of strength imbalances and keeps the mind and body energized to workout.

 Body Signals: Pay close attention to your body before, during and following a workout. If you feel strong train with intensity. If an exercise doesn’t feel quite right, skip it and proceed to another exercise.

The saying “No pain, no gain,” applies to muscle fatigue not joint, nerve or bone pain. Training through nerve, bone or joint pain is a precursor for injury.

Recovery: Allow your back sufficient rest between workouts. This includes workouts for the legs, abdominals and middle back that also tax the lower back. Inadequate rest between training sessions leads to overtraining, injury and frustration.

Strength Imbalance: Flexibility and proper movement patterns are essential to developing and maintaining lifelong lower back power and endurance. Muscle tightness is common in the hip flexors, hamstrings, piriformis and lower back muscles. The most common areas of muscle weakness are the abdominal, hamstrings and gluteal muscles.

The combination of muscle tightness and muscle weakness contributes to poor posture, incorrect movement patterns, decreased athletic performance and numerous symptoms. Stretch the tight muscles and strengthen the weaker muscles to eliminate this unhealthy mixture.

After exercising is an ideal time to stretch. Perform a thorough warm-up and cool-down with emphasis on the tighter areas. Execute dynamic range of motion movements before training and hold static stretches after activity to increase joint range of motion and muscle flexibility.

Hip Flexor Muscles: The hip flexor muscle group is very important to lumbar spine health. The hip flexor muscles originate on the lateral aspect of the first, second, third and fourth lumbar vertebra. They travel downward, attach to the front of the pelvis and insert onto the thigh bone.

Tautness in the hip flexors creates tension and limits proper motion in the hips, pelvis and lumbar spine. Spend extra time stretching the hip flexor muscles to eliminate this potential source of pain and limited function.

Conclusion: The lower back is an intricate system of interdependent structures that play an essential role in exercise, sports and activities of daily living. Incorporate basic exercises, proper technique and necessary recovery time to develop lifelong lower back health and function.

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