Weight lifting is a classic way to get in shape and blow off some steam. If you’re a seasoned fitness expert or just getting into this healthy habit, it’s important to know about how to prevent lower back pain and how to prevent a back injury when you’re weight lifting.
Whether you experience a sedentary lifestyle at the desk or actively jog, juggle children, and manage a household, you’ve likely experienced some lower back pain or strain at times. The muscles in your lower back are among the ones we use most—even during mundane activities, like maintaining posture or driving a car.
However, we also use these muscles rigorously when we exercise, even if we focus on the upper back. That’s why weightlifters often notice stronger core and lower back development even if they’ve been focusing on upper arms and upper back muscle groups.
While you work these muscles regularly as a weightlifter, it’s important to stay on top of them and train them regularly, too.
Let’s take a look at how to safely do that with help from your physician, chiropractor, and personal trainer. (Please note that this is general advisement and not medical advice.)
In this article, we will discuss the following:
- Strengthening Your Lower Back
- Spinal Erectors
- Isometric Exercises for Your Lower Back
- How to Deadlift Safely
- Weightlifting Belts
- Chiropractic Adjustments for Weight Lifters
Strengthening Your Lower Back
Weightlifters sometimes ignore the lower back because its muscle group isn’t noticeable in the mirror. However, these supporting muscles are essential to the rest of your workout—and they work overtime when it comes to the interior of your physique.
Think of them like the inner strings that keep a piano working—it doesn’t matter how amazing that piano looks if the strings are detuned.
About Spinal Erectors (Lower Back Muscles)
We often refer to the lower back muscles of spinal erectors, which are part of the posterior chain. These muscles trail from the back of the knee to the middle of your back, and when they’re not functioning properly, you’ll know because you’ll feel it.
Isometric Exercises for Your Lower Back
We recommend isometric workouts for the health of your lower back. They’re especially better for this muscle group if you’re concerned about strains on the lower back muscles or have had problems with them in the past.
Exercises you perform will affect the rest of the posterior chain—something important to keep in mind as you plan your routine. Back exercises, especially when weightlifting is involved, are especially holistic.
How to Safely Deadlift with Your Lower Back
Proper form is key to preventing back injury when weight lifting—especially if you want to prevent injury to the lower back area. Here are some tips on how to prevent a back injury while weight lifting.
- Make sure your back is in a neutral position before you lift the weight. Bending, rounding, or arching your back will put pressure on your spinal discs, and it can potentially cause back strain and injury. You’ll also strengthen your back more effectively with proper form.
- Before you commit to the lift, lock your back into a neutral position. Don’t just feel it settle—commit to it against the weight. Pull your chest up, ab muscles in, and focus on your breathing. Make sure to hold that breath before you make the pull and repeat between each repetition.
- Flex your lateral (shoulder) muscles and lock them there. This stabilizes your upper back and prevents upper back weight lifting injuries.
- Squeeze the glute muscles. Yes, you need to feel that firmness in your posterior. That’s the final confirmation that you’ve locked into that proper position.
- Your hips and legs should be doing most of the work here, but don’t worry—this exercise strengthens your lower back. Think of it as your number one support.
As you can see, your technique isn’t just important because of its effectiveness, but for the health of your spine. Lower back pain is one of the most common recurring complaints we hear from weightlifters.
Consider a Weight Lifting Belt
Weight lifting belts are not a magic cure-all when it comes to preventing lower back injury during weightlifting. However, they can help, and we recommend using one (despite any gym stigma against it).
Weight lifting belts are tools to assist you in proper technique, which can aid you in preventing back injuries and general soreness.
The weight lifting belt offers something to push against when you’re getting ready to perform that deadlift. When you brace your core and hold your breath, the weight lifting belt is there to support you (and your breathing more so than your back itself).
When you shop for a weight lifting belt, look for one that’s the same width all around. Don’t go for the type that’s larger in the back. That’s because weight lifting belts aren’t about that physical lower back support as they are about supporting your core bracing and breathing techniques.
This may cost around $100, and you want to aim for a belt about 3 inches wide.
Chiropractic Adjustments for Weight Lifters
Active weightlifters and athletes should receive regular chiropractic care. For most, this means adjustments, as well as monitoring the state of the spine using chiropractic imaging. Depending on your situation and workout regiment, we may focus on spinal decompression, which often occurs in 1 to 3-month segments.
Weight lifting is generally a healthy habit, and staying in shape is ideal for your entire body. However, your body is like a car—even those that run best require some regular tune-ups to avoid problems down the road.
With quarterly visits and preventive care, we can help you identify certain issues early on, such as:
In addition to regular treatment, you should schedule a visit if you start to notice regular pain post-workout—especially if you’ve really focused on that technique.
Are you experiencing back pain due to weight lifting or other strain?
Make an appointment. Early treatment is critical to ensure no disruption in your regular life.
Let’s work together to get you back on that weight lifting bench.