1

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Lifting heavy with back problems

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created April 11, 2011 at 3:20 AM

I've had some chronic low back pain that I'm working on in physical therapy, 2 months or so now. So my question is how to incorporate lifting heavy into my workouts? kettlebell? body weight exercises instead? just wait it out till the back gets better (which it's likely never to be 100%)?

9ac8a7b68cf079b22de42b703e466e64

(787)

on June 11, 2012
at 06:54 AM

And yes, I've used a 16kg kettlebell and used good form (I filmed myself) but still had major pain.

9ac8a7b68cf079b22de42b703e466e64

(787)

on June 11, 2012
at 06:53 AM

I've experimented with kettlebell swings and always have excruciating back pain the next day. It's not a soreness but a like something is off/ out of place. I've since found about my right hip is 11mm higher than my left, essentially giving me a leg length discrepancy. Despite some helpful chiro work, my everyday back pain is pretty bad, meaning no real weight lifting for me.

8c2ed9a35f6c4d35a3552a13ddabec8d

(525)

on April 14, 2011
at 09:03 AM

yes, i've heard that its more beneficial for women to lift weights than men. due to their weaker backs they are more susceptible to osteoporosis and they won't get jacked like men because they can never have high enough testosterone levels. good luck all the same.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on April 12, 2011
at 04:24 PM

If I may make a suggestion, just suspend judgement and adhere to it as much as possible for a week or so. You have to make a real, determined honest effort. Good luck!

9ac8a7b68cf079b22de42b703e466e64

(787)

on April 12, 2011
at 01:51 AM

i just ordered it. it was $7 on amazon so i figured it couldn't hurt. hope it helps

9ac8a7b68cf079b22de42b703e466e64

(787)

on April 12, 2011
at 01:50 AM

i'm not simply wanting to lift because someone told me too. there's a lot of evidence supporting the benefits from it. i have, though, been watching my posture

9ac8a7b68cf079b22de42b703e466e64

(787)

on April 12, 2011
at 01:48 AM

thanks. i've been interested in art, but not interested in paying (being in college sucks). i do have a kettlebell so i'll look into swings with proper form, obviously. and recently, i've been doing some of the exercises from mobilitywod.com and realize how tight i am

9ac8a7b68cf079b22de42b703e466e64

(787)

on April 12, 2011
at 01:46 AM

the pain has always been nagging so i finally decided to do something about it (going to the doc and doing pt). it was kind of a weird situation. i went to the doctor, told her my problem, and she, without really checking out anything, sent me the pt. then the physical therapist never really diagnosed me without a specific problem. he said though, the my lower spine might be genetically predisposed to having less curve, that i had some general tightness, and that i was having problems recruiting my abs and buttocks. so far though, it has been improving. it just seems like it'll be a while

9ac8a7b68cf079b22de42b703e466e64

(787)

on April 12, 2011
at 01:42 AM

yeah. i've been minimalist/ barefoot for two years now so that's not the problem. i take omega 3 daily, so i've got that take care of. recently, i've been started on some mobility/ range of motion exercises that have seemed to help. eventually, crossfit will hopefully be in my future. thanks for the advice

9ac8a7b68cf079b22de42b703e466e64

(787)

on April 12, 2011
at 01:39 AM

definitely. i started doing yoga regularly a couple weeks ago and i've noticed a difference

535633b57c4a4940d1e913e7a12ee791

(1013)

on April 11, 2011
at 02:16 PM

Matts advice is sound. Finish PT before you start lifting heavy. Make sure to work your core with bodyweight exercises. Weak abdominals and bad posture can cause chronic low back pain. I had the same problem and slowly worked into a deadlift program and had great success. The key word is slowly and get a personal trainer to show you the correct form and routine.

B895a5790f9c9eea663f2e8819b8d9c9

on April 11, 2011
at 03:36 AM

You don't want to build a skyscraper on a weak or broken frame. Finish the pt, but go shoe minimalist. Get some vibrams, take you omega3 as an anti inflammatory and work your mobility/range of motion. Once you feel comfortable start going heavy for you and join a reputable crossfit gym. They'll work with your limitations in a way that builds your strength and form properly.

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14 Answers

best answer

1
5b69a02dadcae753771921d913909215

(1457)

on April 11, 2011
at 03:36 AM

Speaking only from personal experience, I know that my body works better when its trained to work better. I used to have back pain, have dislocated my shoulder (torn cartilage), messed up knees, ankles, etc. I know everything feels better, works better and stronger when its trained habitually using the proper form and types of excercies. When I stop for more than a month, all my nagging injuries start to show up again. Also, when starting out its going to be painful, its best to do some type of rehab so you learn whats good pain and whats bad pain (for this particular injury).

You are going to have to do your own research into the excercies you need to be doing, but start off light and focus on form, form, and form. Then, as time goes on you will know when you are ready to go heavy (deadlifts are your best friend for back pain... as ironic as it may seem, but its really not). Just remember form is more important than the weight, doesn't matter if you are 200lbs deadlifting a 45lb bar for 5 reps, it will make you feel like a million bucks down the road if you do it right.

All that said, I am not a doctor and I don't know your specific problem, so take every thing I said with a grain of salt and do what you ultimately think is right. Also, if you are in doubt, just ask yourself if what are doing is worth it. Lifting an extra 5lbs might boost your self-esteem but might also be the needle on the camel's back (is that how the saying goes?).

2
F6ea948ab43dc51d72509c0989e670fe

(1639)

on April 11, 2011
at 07:34 AM

I have low back issues. Well, had low back issues. I had them every day for 15 years, for about a pain scale of 6-8. At points it ruined my life, or just made me plain miserable. I've gotten rid of that in the last 3 months or so. I'm not a doctor, but this is what worked for me. Use at your own risk...

1

Check out active release techniques. Seriously, I didn't realize how messed up my body was till I went in for a treatment. Really helped with movement and muscle stabilization issues. http://www.activerelease.com/

2

See if you can find a RKC in your area and learn how to do the kettlebell swing. I credit the swing for fixing it. Several weeks of doing 2 sessions with 200-300 swings and I got rid of the pain. If you're having this pain and stuff, make sure they know ck-fms (movement stuff). http://www.dragondoor.com/instructors/rkc_instructors/

3

Check out MWoD. I do a session a day (starting at #1), and I've noticed I move, squat, lift and feel better. http://www.mobilitywod.com/

9ac8a7b68cf079b22de42b703e466e64

(787)

on April 12, 2011
at 01:48 AM

thanks. i've been interested in art, but not interested in paying (being in college sucks). i do have a kettlebell so i'll look into swings with proper form, obviously. and recently, i've been doing some of the exercises from mobilitywod.com and realize how tight i am

1
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on June 11, 2012
at 06:33 PM

I had a lot of back trouble for a few years. It seemed to be caused by a bacteria problem in the joints. A bacteria that feeds off starches, I was told. Cutting out the starches, helped but didn't fix the imbalance that had been caused. Pushups helped but what really helps me are deadlifts performed with bands instead of weights.

1
7431586c21bca496c5a7ec7bd0ca4d6e

(974)

on April 11, 2011
at 03:39 PM

In addition to the suggestions above, try yoga.

9ac8a7b68cf079b22de42b703e466e64

(787)

on April 12, 2011
at 01:39 AM

definitely. i started doing yoga regularly a couple weeks ago and i've noticed a difference

1
Cf626d3fba66c18297b3f1116a920e58

(3417)

on April 11, 2011
at 02:01 PM

Strength training builds, well, strength and significant flexibility which can help to restore some mobility and function. Form is king, and with sound lifting mechanics and as many warm-up sets as needed, it's difficult to injure yourself without moving more weight than proper form allows.

I don't know a lot about CrossFit, so I can't say much about that. Paleo people seem to experience awesome results doing CrossFit, so maybe give that a shot.

As for my own experience, for most of my life, and I'm only 22, I've had awful thoracic back pain. Being cognizant of my posture at all times and doing strength training has totally vanquished my back pain in less than a year. Keep those shoulder blades retracted, lumbar in extension, abs tightened, and the chest elevated while you walk and work out. Worked for me.

0
A08b210e4da7e69cd792bddc1f4aae4b

(1031)

on June 11, 2012
at 07:24 AM

With any back problems it is always best to get a scan first before committing to physical exercises. If you have a mechanical problem with your spine exercise can make it worse -- I know from personal experience as I got dangerously close to losing the use of my legs! An x-ray is a start, CT is better, an MRI would help show up soft tissue problems too.

0
Medium avatar

on June 11, 2012
at 06:27 AM

Kettlebell swings will fix a low back quicker than anything I've seen. You'd think that reversing the momentum of a heavy weight at the bottom, with your legs and low back, would send you screaming. The first few sessions will definitely make you sore. But before long, you'll get your snap back. Train exactly what you are weak at, that's the principal. Trick is to use enough weight; using a light weight will enable you to 'wince' and cheat around the spot that hurts, and working that spot thru its normal range of motion and function is exactly what you need to do. I'd say never start with lower than a 16kg kettlbell. Its counter intuitive, but a bit more weight in the swing demands better, if not perfect, form. Definitely get a certified RKC (not some crossfit yahoo that thinks he gets it) teach you. My sacrum fits weird in my pelvic bones from birth, and I've always had issues with my low back. Ketlebells keep me on the road, period.

9ac8a7b68cf079b22de42b703e466e64

(787)

on June 11, 2012
at 06:53 AM

I've experimented with kettlebell swings and always have excruciating back pain the next day. It's not a soreness but a like something is off/ out of place. I've since found about my right hip is 11mm higher than my left, essentially giving me a leg length discrepancy. Despite some helpful chiro work, my everyday back pain is pretty bad, meaning no real weight lifting for me.

9ac8a7b68cf079b22de42b703e466e64

(787)

on June 11, 2012
at 06:54 AM

And yes, I've used a 16kg kettlebell and used good form (I filmed myself) but still had major pain.

0
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on April 11, 2011
at 04:43 PM

Look, I know this book might sound a little far out, but it's author Dr John Sarno has street cred: he's professor of orthopedic medicine at NYU. Of course, that doesn't make him right, but I'll just say that I was in a situation where I thought my lifting career was over, gave his method a serious shot and it cured me. I haven't had any real back problems (nothing more serious than some tightness when I go heavy on deadlifts) in over 4 years since I tried his method. Worst that could happen is that you waste a few bucks on his book. If you get it from the library, you needn't even worry about that.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on April 12, 2011
at 04:24 PM

If I may make a suggestion, just suspend judgement and adhere to it as much as possible for a week or so. You have to make a real, determined honest effort. Good luck!

9ac8a7b68cf079b22de42b703e466e64

(787)

on April 12, 2011
at 01:51 AM

i just ordered it. it was $7 on amazon so i figured it couldn't hurt. hope it helps

0
8c2ed9a35f6c4d35a3552a13ddabec8d

on April 11, 2011
at 02:55 PM

You don't need to lift heavy weights just because Arthur De Vany or Mark Sisson might have said so. Make the diet specific to your needs as Sisson says in his Primal Blueprint. Another thing which he also says is avoid making stupid mistakes. So if its going to do more harm than good on weak back, I'd leave the weights.

Good posture, if you are going to lift weights, during all your exercises is essential though. If you maintain this all the time, you will not put so much strain on your back, but I suppose you already know this.

9ac8a7b68cf079b22de42b703e466e64

(787)

on April 12, 2011
at 01:50 AM

i'm not simply wanting to lift because someone told me too. there's a lot of evidence supporting the benefits from it. i have, though, been watching my posture

8c2ed9a35f6c4d35a3552a13ddabec8d

(525)

on April 14, 2011
at 09:03 AM

yes, i've heard that its more beneficial for women to lift weights than men. due to their weaker backs they are more susceptible to osteoporosis and they won't get jacked like men because they can never have high enough testosterone levels. good luck all the same.

0
Medium avatar

(3259)

on April 11, 2011
at 02:11 PM

Very similar situation, although I'm adding in some fairly serious muscle imbalance and stability issues that stem from a road biking accident that have never been properly treated (until now).

I agree with two suggestions above: minimalist shoes (Vibrams for me) in the gym, and active release. Both have given my healing and training about a 3 month boost, for sure.

I would also add that the single most effective thing I have done in...well, ever...is to seek out a PT that is also a strength and conditioning coach certified in FMS. The Functional Mobility Screen identified my specific imbalances so incredibly accurately that the exercises and mobility work he prescribed have literally given me a new body. Gray Cook is the guru of this stuff, and his approach to strength and mobility is (I think) revolutionary. You can find a FMS certified trainer through his site:

http://www.functionalmovement.com/SITE/

WARNING: many of the apparently minor and "wimpy" kinds of movement patterns FMS prescribes will seem almost pointless and irritating. If you have stability problems or poor mobility, they will break you. Once properly broken, you'll be able to rebuild on top of an incredibly solid foundation.

0
61852721b5ff3613f56f043fe890a679

(1172)

on April 11, 2011
at 12:07 PM

what is your official diagnosis?

0
9f9fa49265e03ddd2bf2bba5477a556b

(3184)

on April 11, 2011
at 04:55 AM

Well if you're working with a PT, it seems like this would best be addressed to your PT. You have to start with what exactly is the nature of your injury? Do you have a disc injury or a muscle tear? There's just some injuries where lifting heavy would be stupid and counterproductive. That you've been doing PT for 2 months now suggests to me you're dealing with a fairly serious back injury and there's probably a reason the PT hasn't recommend you get back into deadlifting yet.

9ac8a7b68cf079b22de42b703e466e64

(787)

on April 12, 2011
at 01:46 AM

the pain has always been nagging so i finally decided to do something about it (going to the doc and doing pt). it was kind of a weird situation. i went to the doctor, told her my problem, and she, without really checking out anything, sent me the pt. then the physical therapist never really diagnosed me without a specific problem. he said though, the my lower spine might be genetically predisposed to having less curve, that i had some general tightness, and that i was having problems recruiting my abs and buttocks. so far though, it has been improving. it just seems like it'll be a while

0
6f2c00fcbf48c69f0ea212239b3e1178

on April 11, 2011
at 03:43 AM

dddddddddddddddddddddddddddddd

-2
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on January 27, 2013
at 01:12 AM

I made a video on it here check it out

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