But talking about this time when I flared up my back, the #1 exercise that I found for myself and for clients was right away trying to get into a back relaxation position.
So what I end up doing is lying on the floor with something to put my legs on — it could be a chair, a chair works okay.
What ends up working better is a couch. What also ends up working good is a coffee table or one of those things in front of the couch that you put your legs on.
Let me show you what I end up doing. I end up lying down and how easily you get into this position really varies.
I try to relax and really focus on relaxing all the muscles in my body, specifically the muscles in the hips. It can be front, side, behind, inner part and also the muscles in my low back area.
I want to connect my brain to those muscles and get them to relax and decrease the tension. I will hold this position for about 2 to 3 minutes.
Sometimes I will be in this position for about 5 minutes in order to put myself in that back relaxation position which is low stress on the back and allows me to begin that recovery process when it comes to a back flare up. This exercise starts to relax the muscles so that muscle tension is decreased, as muscle tension is one of the causes of pain in the lower back.
And then the second thing is to start regaining that movement in the back because that lack of movement is also contributing to the pain. After this, I would end up going into those movements that assist when it comes to addressing muscle tightness and loss of movement when you have a back flare up.
The next time you end up having a back flare up, try this position out and then start going through those movements that relax those muscles and help regain that movement.
Those are the things that will help overcome your low back pain. And for myself, the last three times, they’ve ended up helping me recover from my back flare up in about 3 days.
So if you want to have a little bit of information on the exact program that I use, you can check out Low Back Pain Solved. That’s the program that I use and give out to my clients when they flare up their backs. It shows what they can do to take control and recover from their back flare ups .
If this is your first time visiting Exercises For Injuries, make sure to wander around. There’s all kinds of information when it comes to a variety of injuries and exercise solutions.
A few weeks back we were chatting about back dysfunction. It was based on what I learned from watching his Shatterproof Spine program.
I asked if he could expand on things and share what he had said with EFI readers.
Take it away, John.
In this day and age of technology, sedentary lifestyles, and poor posture—all trainers have their hands full trying to enforce optimal exercise execution. And I don’t simply mean “not swinging the arms” during biceps curls or “not going low enough on barbell squats”. I am referring to very small deviations in optimal performance.
Common Rookie Trainer Mistakes
Starting with advanced exercises is the most popular and most unknowing mistake made by exercisers in gyms today. This mistake is committed because users choose complex exercises or heavy loads without working with progressions first. An even bigger mistake committed by personal trainers is not assessing clients at all before beginning an exercise program. How do people in the gym commit this mistake? They lack proper instruction, coaching, and body awareness. Most novice exercisers don’t know how to “feel” a muscle during certain movements or drills. Their bodies are loaded with muscle imbalances and compensations that further exacerbate dysfunction without them even knowing. Trainers miss these subtle hints because most trainers do not perform movement assessments or they simply don’t have the keen eye to spot everything during a movement. That keen eye is polished with a competency in basic anatomy and exercise biomechanics.
Body Movement versus Machine Movement
Most trainers and exercisers assess capability with the “first set” of a loaded exercise. I’m sure you’ve seen it or experienced the “Express-Line” at your local commercial fitness facility. Most new exercisers are placed on strength machines consisting anywhere from 6-12 exercises. Trainers are instructed to orient new exercisers on these machines without a movement screening or basic assessment. Once a client is placed on a machine, a load is placed and there you have it: the trainer “no longer” pays attention to the mechanics of the body. They only focus on the proper “usage of the machine”.
Importance of the Keen Trainer Eye
Other trainers that do not place their clients on machines but try to incorporate “core” or free weight exercises usually miss important points. Clients will perform a squat with a shoulder press using dumbbells –because the trainer has informed them that it is “a great multi-joint exercise that utilizes a lot of muscles and therefore, burns a lot of calories”. However, without a proper assessment or keen eye for cueing, once a load is introduced such as body weight or dumbbells, and the movement has not been properly coached or assessed, the dysfunction is engraved in the nervous system. Check out this poorly executed glute extension. This is a perfect example of building on top of dysfunction:
The video shows a constant pelvic rotation without any proper alignment of the spine. Sure, her buttocks area is getting a great workout, but at the expense of the constant rotation at the lumbar spine. Recent research from Dr. Stuart McGill shows that rotating at the lumbar spine is contradictory in low back health.
5 Stage Approach to Exercise Program Design
Witnessing many of these unfortunate instances in the gym, and listening to tales of poor training programs used by my clients in the past, I began studying much of Dr. Stuart McGill’s work. Dr. McGill is a world renowned low back researcher based in Canada and has done a tremendous job of covering the back in his book, “Low Back Disorders”. Upon reading this research and implementing many of the protocols, I began to implement a 5 stage approach to exercise program design.
This 5 stage progression looks like this:
Stage 1: Corrective Exercise
Stage 2: Stability
Stage 3: Endurance (training core with fatigue)
Stage 4: Strength
Stage 5: Power & Speed
These 5 stages are sometimes blended, modified, or executed in different order depending on the client’s fitness level and qualitative data I get from the movement screening and the initial assessment.
Furthermore, the time it takes the client to progress from stage to stage depends a lot on frequency, exercise adherence, and present fitness level. My job is not to keep them in a “corrective state” if their goal is to lose body fat. More than likely, when excess body fat loss has occurred, most corrective measures tend to clean up themselves–helping me to concentrate on the next stage or combining modalities. Sounds meticulous? It’s really not. The end goal is to optimize movement AS BEST AS POSSIBLE. It may never be textbook, but it is important to improve the movement in the capacity for which it is contained. Here is an example of the quadruped glute bridge featured earlier in this post with better coaching and body awareness.
Some “fussy-ness” or “exact-ness’ is important when observing a client exercise.
Does it mean that you should try to correct every little thing?
Absolutely not. If you employ that idea, you will never progress. Culmination is the name of the game and once a client or exerciser sees results, you have achieved a majority of your mission.
The work of Stuart McGill is explained in simplistic terms and practiced in this new workshop video, Shatterproof Spine. The help of assessments will aid trainers and exercisers alike to better understand how an exercise is affecting the movement pattern and muscles involved. With this type of feedback, dysfunction can be minimized and function should be optimized.
John Izzo is a prolific fitness blogger, amazing trainer and cool guy.
Great to have you here at EFI. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, expertise and passion with us.
Got some amazing information for you today. It is from a strength coach that I brought into Vancouver to share his information on how to Bulletproof Your Knees and Back.
The seminar was amazing!
I got some clips of the seminar below.
The great thing is, Mike recorded the full 16 hour seminar. If you missed the amazing seminar, you can check it out here:
Now let’s get into the great info, take it away Mike…..
We’ve all heard the stats – 80% of Americans will suffer from lower back pain at some point in time in their lives. As trainers, coaches, and therapists, our goal is to not only to get them healthy, but to keep them healthy as well.
The question then becomes – is your coaching and training really making your clients better?
Or, in a worst case scenario, possibly making them worse?
Below are the three biggest coaching mistakes I see trainers and coaches making when it comes to back pain.
While they may seem simple at first blush, these are the tools that make our team at IFAST incredibly successful at working with everyone from the injured and beat-up “corrective exercise” client up to high-level performance athletes.
Back Training Mistake #1 – Not Training Neutral Spine
Neutral spine is a concept that Panjabi first started discussing as far back as 1992. The hypothesis was simple: There’s a “neutral zone” where your spine is happy and healthy.
The further and further you move from that “neutral zone,” the more likely you are to get injured!
Coaching neutral spine is incredibly easy. All you need is a 4’ piece of PVC pipe that you can carry around with you during training sessions. While many have seen this tool used on core training exercises such as front planks, side planks and birddogs, its use really is unparalleled.
Instead of just coaching and cuing neutral spine on core exercises, start using it on virtually all of your big bang lower body exercises. Most clients will be shocked at how quickly they deviate from neutral when they’re asked to squat, deadlift or lunge with a neutral spine.
And if you think this is just too simple or just won’t work, here’s some food for thought.
I attended a seminar several years ago where strength coach Joe Kenn was discussing the power clean. He mentioned that one of the first things he does is put the PVC pipe on his athletes’ backs to teach them neutral spine!
Coach Kenn has worked at major universities like Boise State, Utah, Arizona State, and Louisville. And by the way, he’s now the head strength coach for the Carolina Panthers of the NFL.
If it’s good enough for Coach Kenn, it’s good enough for me!
Back Training Mistake #2 – Not Understanding the Role of Neutral Pelvis
Intuitively, neutral spine makes a lot of sense to people. Unfortunately, the pelvis tends to get lost in the shuffle.
Why is this a problem, you might wonder?
Simple – all the joints of the body are intimately connected to and influence the other joints. When you change the position of your foot, this can drive changes all the way up your kinetic chain!
The pelvis has a very direct connection to the lumbar spine. If your clients are walking around with a massive anterior tilt of the pelvis, this is going to increase the lordosis of their lumbar spine. As such, it doesn’t make sense to hammer your clients with neutral spine without also working to achieve neutral pelvis!
My two favorite exercise branches for mastering neutral pelvis are half-kneeling and tall-kneeling exercises. I recently gave a presentation at the NSCA conference outlining these two tools, and afterwards, I had an attendee come back and ask me what else I did to reinforce a neutral alignment.
I hated to break it to him, but this was it!
The key, however, is putting your client in these positions numerous times during their workout. For example if someone is coming to me and they need to really hammer neutral pelvis we could easily perform 2-3 tall- or half-kneeling exercises in each workout to make sure we really drive home the concept!
Dan John always says that if something is important, do it everyday. My clients may not be in the gym every day, but when they are there, we are going to spend the bulk of the time on addressing their weaknesses.
Back Training Mistake #3 – Not Focusing on the Details
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but when it comes to training people in back pain, the devil really is in the details.
A few years ago we had a client with debilitating back pain that came into our gym for several weeks. On his 2nd or 3rd workout he came in complaining of pain, and told me he couldn’t work out.
Never one to accept defeat, I told him let’s just go through your warm-up and see how you feel.
We got him loosened up a bit, and he started feeling better. Next, I asked him to just try going through the exercises as best he could, and if he had any pain, we could immediately stop.
We actually got him through his entire workout that day without one single tweak or flare-up. He was pretty shocked, but I wasn’t.
The details are critical; when someone comes in with back pain, here are some suggestions to get them through their workout pain-free:
Ask them to just go through the warm-up. Often some gentle stretching, foam rolling, and movement will get them feeling better immediately.
You must coach every set of every rep. Decrease the load, decrease the range of motion, whatever is necessary, but you must be 100% dialed in to your client and their workout. Any deviation from good alignment or lack of attention on your part could get them injured!
Summary on the Back Training Mistakes
Back pain is an epidemic. Americans spent $90 BILLION in 2006 alone treating their low back pain.
If you adhere to the simple guidelines I’ve provided above, you’ll be well on your way to becoming the go-to back expert in your area. And let’s be honest – if you’re the go to expert, you’re never going to have a shortage of patients and clients walking in your door!
I received a Facebook message and thought I would share with you my reply.
Here you go:
Hi, my name is TB and I was doing some research on the internet with regard to exercise after surgery.
My husband had a L5 fusion 4 yrs ago and has been on pain management since. We are desperately seeking ways to give him relief.
He is only 37 and we have 4 children, yet he is unable to live his daily life due to his back pain.
The information I found in regards to your work was geared toward Medical Professionals.
Do you have information that we can access and hopefully put to good work?
Thank you so much for any time that you may spend on this, we are pretty desperate.
My heart aches when I hear stories like this.
I understand how it is to be in pain and to wonder if you will ever be able to do the things you love or even be able to play with your kids.
All I can say is – you never should give up. Keep searching for an answer and keep moving.
It is my passion to help educate fitness professionals and clients to use exercise to help overcome their injuries.
One of those injuries is lumbar fusion.
Let me get to TB’s specific questions:
Will the Lumbar Fusion Exercise Program Help Those Recovering from Lumbar Fusion?
Yes, it will.
I initially created The Lumbar Fusion Exercise Program to help fitness professionals, but I have received feedback from those recovering from lumbar fusion that they have used the program to help themselves recover from their lumbar fusion.
#1 – Video Presentation
In the lumbar fusion exercise video program, I go explain what lumbar fusion is, a few of the causes, things you need to do to recover from a lumbar fusion, and outline an exercise program that you can do at your local gym or fitness centre to help you recover.
#2 – Copy of the Exercises
I also give you a copy of the presentation, with pictures of the exercises that you should be doing..
I recommend bringing the list of exercises to the gym or community centre and ask one of the staff to help you out ,even though I explain everything in detail in the presentation.
Feel free to bring the program to you surgeon, doctor, or physical therapist in order to get their feedback.
#3 – I am Here to Help
Plus, you can alway send me an email and I certainly try to help you out.
#4 – Here is Your Money Back
Lastly, if it is not what you want or does not help you, I will give you your money back.
I am here to help people and have been doing so since 1994.
Before I wrap up. I just want to say that this program is not a quick fix. You need to be able to dedicate time to exercise 3 times a week for 12 weeks. That is 36 sessions. The exercise program helps and it works, but not unless you do it as outlined.
Rick Kaselj, MS
P.S. – Here are a few more blog posts on spinal fusion exercises:
I just got a question about the Lumbar Fusion Exercise Program.
I though the answer would interest you.
I have just started the program today!
I got a surgery (fusion of D12 with D11 and L1, after a fracture) on August, 25 and I have been doing, for the last 3 weeks, a first rehab program (walking on the treadmill, aquatic walking and some basic strengthening exercises). I found your program very helpful for me, specially for the next stages. After one month of the surgery I was wondering what type of exercises would be appropriated for my case.
Regarding your proposal for Stage 2 and 3, can I assume that each one will last one month, with 3 sessions per week?
Yesterday I has my first back flare up in about two years.
I was a work and I was in an awkward posture lifting something. As soon as I lifted, I felt that little click. I hoped it was nothing but I could feel the pain increase in my back and all the muscle in my lower back tighten up.
I was right in the middle of work and could go now where. I had to keep working. There was no lieing down. I had to take care of it right now. I was able to get through the day by managed my back pain and doing 3 things to decreased my lower back pain.
Let me share with you a three things that I did right away as soon as I felt my lower back flare up in order to decrease the pain.
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