One of the most common problems I see on a daily basis is clients with back pain. This can be instigated by a range or origins but most occur if they have a job which requires sitting at a desk for a large proportion of the day or they may just be suffering from lifting objects with poor form. Most back problems revolve around the ‘lordic curve’ or the duck butt which will make it look like your sticking your bum and chest out and give you the appearance of a pot belly.
Some people are born with an over exaggerated curve to their lower back, for which there is no cure, just ways in which you can stop this effecting your training and daily life. For the rest of you out there, the most common reason for this occurring is very tight erectors (lower back muscles) and hip flexors, and weak core and glute muscles.
Many people have weak glutes, hamstrings and core muscles which in turn the back muscles take on most of the daily strain therefore resulting in your back pain.
The glutes are not just made up of the big lifters and prime movers for the squats, but a range of stabiliser muscles that pull the femur straight in the hip joint. Also the type of core training needed does not get fulfilled with sit ups which only work to aid torso flexion, instead of securing the pelvis that you would get from correct transverse abdominus (TVA) engagement. (TVA muscle sits behind the ‘6pack’ muscles, and wrap around your spine for protection and stability.)
Often it will be a tendency to ‘lift your chest’ when squatting or ‘engaging your back muscles’ when performing row type movements without thought of which muscles to engage and the over arched back it creates. Alternatively, it will come from over correcting the problem of a hunched back and rounded shoulders.
Now you know this, ensure you have a NEUTRAL spine when performing exercises and think about contracting your lats and rhomboids to keep your shoulder blades where they should be on all exercises. This will not only ensure you don’t increase your lordic curve, but actually increase the tension in the muscles you are trying to work, making it a better workout all round!
Although it may or may not be particularly aesthetically pleasing to see someone poking out their chest and bottom, the effect this can have on your training and lifestyle can be pretty large. For example if you run and walk in this position with weak stabilisation around your hips, you will end up with a very sore back, as you are not in the correct postural position to take the impact of hitting the floor.
You will also feel it when you squat, deadlift and row as it will cause a great amount of pressure to be taken by your lower spine and surrounding muscles. Because of these weaknesses, certain muscles will tighten up and become very uncomfortable over time to over compensate and adapt to your activities in the best and easiest way possible, giving you back, hip and knee ache. What you need to do is correct this fault before it becomes an issue.
Corrective measures are the same as preventative measures, so everyone should be doing these few simple things along with their workout to ensure a great posture and a better body. Firstly, foam roll all around your hip joint (front, back and sides), glutes and hamstrings a few times per week to ensure they do not seize up mid workout or during the day, spend 20minutes on working on your mobility and also make sure you do unilateral leg work to reduce hip swing and increase the stability of your hip and knee, and finally work your core out as completely as possible, as well as engaging it in lifting movements.
That does not mean use 50 different exercises 5 times per week, but just make sure you are engaging the correct muscles and pulling your belly button in as hard as you can to ensure a flat back and a better posture. This can even be done at our desk, where you sit up tall, draw in your belly button, squeeze your butt and hold your core position for 5 breaths. Repeat as and when you can a few times per day, use more breaths if it is too easy.
– Aaron McClelland
Evolve Health & Performance