3 Back Training Mistakes YOU Could be Making

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!

Mike Robertson has helped clients and athletes from all walks of life achieve their strength, physique and performance related goals.

He received his Masters Degree in Sports Biomechanics from the world-renowned Human Performance Lab at Ball State University.

Mike is the president of Robertson Training Systems , and the co-owner of Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training , which has been named one of America’s Top 10 Gyms by Men’s Health magazine in 2009 and 2010.

Before I go, if you like the info above.  Watch for Muscle Imbalances Revealed – Upper Body Edition where Tony Gentilcore, Dean Somerset and Dr. Jeff Cubos will be sharing their tips, tricks and exercises when it comes to the upper body training.  Mark down the date, it will be coming out Tuesday, August 9, 2011.

Rick Kaselj, MS

Clip from the Bulletproof Knees and Spine Seminar:

If you are interested in learning from the best in the world, think about coming out to one of these courses in Vancouver.  Big names like Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson have come up and taught full weekend seminars –   something they never do.  Coming up this fall is Nick Tuminello .  Make sure to mark down November 19 & 20 and we will see you in Vancouver.