Back Pain? Here are 5 Exercises to Avoid

With a proper plan, the gym can be a wonderful place to prevent injury, but can also be the driving source of your pain.  Whether you currently have back pain or have a reoccurring nagging injury, here is a short list of exercises to avoid or alter to promote injury prevention!

Leg Press – True, the leg press can make you feel like the hulk, pushing up more plates than you can count with each thrust.  But the leg press is basically a squat with zero contribution from the core, and I can promise you that your ability to push lots of weight up a 45 degree incline is not your weakness.  The inability of the core to move and control the loads of squat and deadlift variations are where most weaknesses lie, and ignoring this fact will keep your injury potential high.  Swallow the pride and squat, even if it’s half depth bodyweight squats at first.

Over Head Press – Low Back pain often stems from dysfunction in the thoracic spine, such as lack of thoracic extension.  Coupled with lack of proper shoulder range of motion, the military press can easily cause pain and instability in the Lumbar spine.  Your time would be better spent on mobility exercises for the Thoracic spine and stability exercises for the scapulae in this case. When you have adequate mobility start next with single arm presses.

Leg Curl – Best case scenario, assuming you have perfect form and your entire abdomen stays on the bench while you maintain a neutral spine during the exercise.  While you may get some killer hamstrings, you again are creating dysfunction in the system.  There is not a single scenario you’ll find yourself in that will require you to activate only your hamstrings with your quads completely disengaged. Your time would be better spent perfecting the dead lift, squat, or lunge technique with different variations.

Back Extension Machine – Bottom line, your core (including diaphragm, abdomen, low back, and pelvic musculature) is meant to NOT move while controlling more distal loads.  Yes, you need rotation and other ranges of motion from the spine, but the core’s function is to be a rigid platform to swing the arms and leg about.  Therefore, trying to isolate the low back for a weakness is like trying to decide which one tire to change on a car that’s hit a spike strip.  As you train the system as a whole, you will strengthen the weak links.  Think about deadlifts or bent over rows instead (starting light of course!)

Seated Ab Crunch Machine – I’ve contemplated hiring a hit man to eliminate every one of these machines.  If I were a money hungry business man, I would get one for my office and convince my patients to use it.  However, my love for lumbar spines prevents me from following through with this plan.  Please keep this in mind.  Repetitive lumbar flexion and extension is terrible for your low back.  LOADED repetitive lumbar flexion and extension is asking for injury.  LOADED repetitive lumbar flexion and extension WITH rotation is enough to make my back hurt while watching another person perform this.  There are many cons to this excise and I’m at a loss for a pro.

Quality movement and exercise can be treatment for almost all joint and muscle pain.  However, when performed with no guidance and improperly, exercise can be a high risk activity.  Learning which movement and exercises will improve your condition may mean the difference between a long, pain free exercise career or winding up on the surgery table. 

Interested in great Chiropractic and corrective care to recover from a sports injury?  Interested in some group training? Just call for an appointment at 931-321-1414, or go and fill out the form under the “become a patient” tab.