Be faithful in small things, because it is in them that your strength lies.
The last couple of weeks we have focused on common problem mobility areas related to the strength and conditioning arena, and I think we have done some good. I have personally seen my athletes and individuals in town add one or two of the stretches and rolling techniques talked about in this blog to their routine, so job done! Unfortunately, in the world of weightlifting, improvement is never done (unless you just want to be the fish that squats in a pond of fish that only elliptical and look good-by comparison). Like I said, we touched on mobility, but we did not touch on another part of the equation: Accessory Work.
Accessory work is crucial in the development of a well-rounded, fully fit athlete in any arena. Weightlifters don’t just Clean and Jerk and Snatch, Powerlifters don’t just Squat, Bench, and Deadlift, Swimmers don’t just get in the water and swim their hearts out, Triathletes don’t just go out and swim, bike, run everyday. Get the point? Accessory work is anything and everything that is not part of your event: it is strength training for endurance athletes, it is squats, RDL’s, chin-ups, close grip bench, etc… for weightlifters and Powerlifters, it is anything that can help with imbalances that an athlete might develop over time, IT IS IMPORTANT!
All that above brings me around to the topic of today: Accessory work for lower back pain. Picture this: You have been working Squats, Deadlifts, and Cleans for months now just to be able to shake it like Shakira, but what good does that do you when your muscular imbalances have you dancing around like Quasimodo trying to Krump? Side note: If you do any squatting or pulling at all, you will at times have lower back soreness and maybe a little pain, this comes with the territory. If it is more than just a little pain or if it is a chronic problem, this post is for you! If you are uncertain whether this pertains to you (it probably does), take a look at your squat form. Do you pitch forward? Do you kick out one hip more than the other? Do you have pain on only one side of your back/glute area? If you can answer yes to anyone of those three questions, or you just want to be a better athlete, or you sit at a desk for God knows how long, or you are a human being, then you should probably read the rest of this and incorporate some of the Accessory exercises depicted below:
First up, Romanian Deadlifts:
The goal of this exercise is to increase the recruitment of the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. Start by stepping up to the bar, bend down grabbing the bar with a clean width grip, butt up in the air with a flat back and only slightly bent knees. As you start to pull, make sure almost all of your weight is back in your heels and you are pulling the bar up and back toward your hips. As you get past the knees, really engage those glutes and squeeze them through to full hip extension. As you lower the bar down, do so in a nice slow, controlled manner to get a nice eccentric load on the back and hamstrings. I usually keep this exercise to 3-4 sets of 8 repetitions working as heavy as possible with good, solid form.
Next up, Single leg Deadlift
This is a great exercise to test whether we have a deficiency or imbalance in one hip or the other. Similar start and finish to the Romanian Deadlift, with the difference being that one leg will be kicked back and off the ground. Note: You can also do this with a KB to start with and then work your way up to a barbell and make sure and watch out for the loaded hip kicking out to the side. The Rep and Set scheme is the same for this exercise 3-4 sets of 8 repetitions each leg.
Suitcase Deadlift/ Farmer Carries
The goal here is to lift the weight while keeping the hips as neutral as possible. This exercise is great for core muscular imbalances as well as glute, hamstring, and grip strengthening. Set up and lift is the same as the first two exercises, but won’t be as deep due to the farmer carry bar being quiet a bit taller than a normal barbell. To add a challenge, take it for a 45 second stroll then switch hands and do it again. 3-4 sets with 8 repetitions each side for suitcases and 3-4 sets of 30-45 seconds for farmers walks (making sure to work up to a challenging weight).
This is a great exercise if done correctly! The biggest issue I have with these is untrained athletes doing them for time or being taught to use momentum to get some crazy high number of repetitions in. If you are to do these, the lower back needs to stay tight and as structured as possible. This exercise is absolutely phenomenal at developing strength in the glutes and hams (this is where you should feel tension and where you should think about contracting) and usually is done for 3-4 sets of 8 repetitions. If you get to the point where this is easy, you can then add some weight by placing it on your chest and performing the raises.
Last is a little flow that Kaleigh came up with to work before and after any day that heavily relies on your lower back or if you sit for long periods of time.
Starting in child’s pose, hold for as long as comfortable then move up to a neutral spine. Next is Cat and Cow, moving through each of these 10-15 times each. Moving around to a seated position, we move into spinal twist on either side holding for 10 breaths, moving deeper into the stretch with each breath. Moving down to the mat, we work through bridge pose pushing up through the heels and lower back down one vertebrae at a time, moving through this pose 10-15 times. Finally, we relax into happy baby holding for as long as we like, letting our hips sink and relax into the mat.
The lower back can be very strong or very weak depending on how much time,effort, and intensity we put into the area. Going forward try to add one or two of these exercises into your daily routine at the end of your normal training session and I guarantee your lifts will improve (or at least your pain will subside).
Next week we will move to the hips and legs and show a couple of different exercises to help improve the squat and some to help with chronic injuries for some of our endurance based athletes.
Don’t forget that if you have any interest in competing in our super total meet (or just weightlifting or powerlifting) make sure to get a hold of us via facebook (sign-ups will start soon).
Also, we are collecting old athletic clothing and shoes at the gym to donate to a kids group in Tulsa. If you have any shirts, shorts, sports bras, shoes, etc.. that you have outgrown or just don’t wear anymore, please bring them by so we can donate as much as possible!!!
Check back on Wednesday for a new blog post called “Mid-Week Mobility” where we will give a yoga pose, mobility drill, and corrective exercise for a given body part to through into your daily routine!