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Wellness / January 24, 2018

3 moves for an injury-proof back

Written by: Morris Brossette

In my 23 years of training, I’ve had plenty of athletes come to me with what they assumed were “bad backs.” The ask for a routine of back injury prevention exercises

Generally, their backs were fine. They were simply imbalanced in a few key muscle groups—the core complex and the glutes—and their backs were taking the brunt of that imbalance.

To bombproof your back you need to build a strong foundation, and by “foundation” I mean core. The muscles of your core include the abdominals, obliques, transverse abdominus “TVA”, pelvic floor muscles, and several others.

They each serve a common purpose, and that purpose is to support and stabilize your spine.  The most effective way to build strength in this “core” group of muscles, that I have found, is by incorporating three basic movements, or rather anti-movements. These movements, not stressful back exercises, make up my preferred back injury prevention routine.

 

1. The plank (and side plank)

Holding yourself in the plank position with your shoulders over your elbows, glutes, shoulders, and head all at the same level, and breathing through your diaphragm is hands down the best movement you can do to build a strong core for back injury prevention. This movement can be done daily.

I recommend starting with three sets of as long as you can hold without beginning to shake or feel any discomfort in your back. Feeling any discomfort in the muscles of your low back while planking is your body signaling you that your abdominal core complex can no longer support you in that position. That is your signal to stop the set.

Pro Tip: Focus on keeping a relaxed diaphragmatic breath during the plank and by no means hold your breath. You don’t hold your breath while performing your sport so don’t do it here. Also, engage or “squeeze” your glutes for five seconds on, five seconds off during each set.

 

Side Plank

Same concept as the plank with the exception that you are on your side with feet stacked on top of one another. You will notice after the first time doing this movement that one side may be harder than the other. That is very common, as we tend to favor our dominant side, right hand/left hand, during sport, therefore creating an otherwise unseen imbalance.

Pro Tip: Start each side plank on the weaker/non-dominant side. It will take more energy to hold the weaker side in the proper position, so use your energy for that side first.

 

2. Anti-rotation “pot stir”

Sport requires movement of the body while maintaining integrity throughout your core to stabilize/protect your back. The Pot Stir movement can be done with a resistance band, or cable, and can be performed at multiple angles to challenge and build a strong core.

Standing perpendicular to the resistance with feet no wider than shoulder width apart, move the band/cable in a circular motion, as if you were stirring a large pot. Stay with your relaxed diaphragmatic breathing just as with the plank and side plank. I recommend three sets of 10-12 repetitions per side.

Pro Tip: Challenge your core by bringing your feet closer together. The closer they are, the harder your core works to stabilize.  Also, be sure to squeeze the glutes tight during each “stir” rotation.

 

3. The Glute Bridge

Lying on your back with our palms by your sides facing up, tuck the heels of your feet closely to your glutes. Engage or “squeeze” your glutes and drive through your heels. This will elevate your hips into the air into a “bridge” position.

Hold for three seconds at the top and then slowly lower your hips back to the ground.  As soon as your glutes make contact with the ground re-engage and repeat for 10-12 repetitions.  Do three sets of this movement.

Pro Tip: Once you can easily complete three sets of 12 repetitions, advance to a single leg glute bridge by extending one knee and bridging with a single side at a time for 10-12 reps.

If you feel any discomfort in your back with bridging, simply lower your hips until the discomfort goes away. That discomfort means you are bridging too high and using your back muscles (which you don’t want).

Each of the above movements should be performed daily, or at a minimum four times a week, as part of your active warm-up prior to training or during active recovery days. Make these movements a part of your daily activity, just as you put your pants on before leaving the house, hopefully, and you are well on your way to building a solid foundation for a bombproof back.

Do you have any questions or comments about this back injury prevention routine? Email them to [email protected]

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about the author

Morris Brossette

Morris “Mo” Brossette grew up running, hiking, biking, and basically living everyday in the woods. Each day was a new adventure of building forts, exploring new areas, and even as a child, creating obstacle courses and other physical challenges to build strength and fitness.

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