Did you know that building up muscle is a great way to heal or prevent back pain? That’s right, having strong and flexible muscles can help prevent major injuries.
The problem is that if you’re not lifting properly, you can actually cause pain and injuries in your back. This may seem counterintuitive, but the trick is making sure that you’re lifting weights the right way.
To make your life a little easier, we’re going to talk about the things you can do (and what not to do) when lifting weights so that you can learn how to avoid back pain.
Read on for eight important tips that will protect your spine and back muscles as you begin or increase your weight lifting routine.
1. Start Small With Smaller Weights and Fewer Repetitions
One of the easiest ways to injure yourself while weight lifting is to go too far too fast. In other words, you don’t want to go from never lifting weights to free-lifting one hundred or more pounds.
When you’re performing any kind of weight lifting, you should always honor your edge. Start with smaller weights and perform 10-15 repetitions. After a week or so, you can use heavier weights or perform more repetitions. Allow your body to build strength slowly to avoid straining or tearing your muscles.
2. Warm Up Your Muscles First
Before you hit the weight room, make sure that your muscles are warmed up. Start by stretching each part of your body from your legs to your hips to your arms, neck, and shoulders. It can also be beneficial to perform a bit of lit cardio before you start lifting weights, as this will get the blood flowing and loosen up your muscles and joints.
3. Engage Your Core
Don’t neglect core strength when you’re diving into weight lifting! By strengthening your core, you can protect your spine by redistributing weight and pressure away from the flexible lumbar section of your spine. Add core strengthening exercises to your workout routine and make sure that your core is engaged before you start lifting.
4. Assume the Lifting Position
Another easy way to cause a back injury while weight lifting is to neglect proper posture and positioning.
To lift just about any weight, but especially barbells, you want to stand so that your feet are shoulder-width apart and your knees are loose, not locked. Keep your chin up and your spine straight so that you are looking straight ahead. Pull your shoulder blades back so that they are sitting flat against your back, almost as if you were trying to flex your lats.
If you are uncertain whether or not you are standing correctly while weight lifting, ask for the help of an instructor or fitness coach at your gym. Remember, they’re there to keep your workouts safe!
5. Tighten Your Glutes
Your core is not the only set of muscles that can help lock your spine into place and take on extra pressure. Your glutes are useful in this area, too.
Before you start to lift, contract your glutes so that you’re familiar with the feeling. You’re going to want to pay special attention to this habit when you are beginning to push your hips forward, near the top of your lift. By contracting your glutes, you actually enable the lower back and hips to lock into place and move together, rather than moving separately.
6. Do Not Round Your Spine
The lumbar section of your spine is one of the weakest parts of your spine. As we mentioned earlier, doing things like engaging your core helps your body to rely on stronger muscles, rather than putting pressure on these more delicate ones.
When your spine is rounded, it typically means that your hips are too high and you’re not engaging the right muscles. If you try to lift weights with a rounded spine, you’re allowing that pressure to go straight to your lumbar. This can cause serious injuries, muscle spasms, and pain in the lower back.
7. Do Not Move Quickly or Unevenly
If you’re used to cardio, you may operate on the assumption that faster is better. This is a mentality you’re going to want to shake before you add weight lifting to your workout routine!
When you lift weights, especially when deadlifting large barbells or dumbells, it’s all about moving slowly and steadily. If you start moving too fast or use jerky motions while lifting, there’s a much greater chance that you’re going to put more pressure on certain muscle groups than others. This can lead to sprains and tears that can be both painful and difficult to recover from.
8. Do Not Hyperextend
There are a lot of ways to hyperextend certain areas of your body while weight lifting, but let’s focus on the hyperextension that can cause trouble for your back. By creating too much of an arch in your lower back while lifting weights, you can overload the lumbar. This leads to stiffness, stress fractures, and even an increased risk of arthritis.
By squeezing your glutes as you lift, you can discourage hyperextension.
Learn How to Avoid Back Pain and Keep Up the Good Work
If you’re learning how to avoid back pain in your day-to-day life, you’ve probably discovered that building up your strength is a great way to do it. However, you also need to learn how to avoid back pain while building up strength. Follow our eight tips to protect your spine and the muscles in your back so avoid unnecessary pain or injuries.
If you’re already suffering from back pain, you’ve come to the right place. Contact us to find out more about our rehab programs that will help you restore strength and ease to your back.
Are you looking to get more guidance? Prefer expertise to piece step by step on how to get mobile with an injury?
Wishing you the best,
Dr Danh Ngo PT DPT OCS SCS
Board Certified Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Specialist
Doctor of Physical Therapy
RockTape Certified Advanced Movement Specialist and Mobility Specialist
Titliest Performance Institute Certified Golf and Medical Professional