Enjoy the story and info.
My Back Gave Way
One day, I was doing five sets of front squats with w/chains. On the fifth rep of one of those sets, I felt something “give” on the left side of my low back. My entire low back was in pain, and I couldn’t complete another set. I finished with some glute ham raises, cable chops, step-ups, and a couple of other things just fine; however, the next few days, my back hurt like crazy, and I was worried.
I trained my upper body fine and took off the rest of that week. The following week I felt a little better and could train decently. I got some tissue work done, called an adjustment, and I felt like I was good to go; thus, I continued with my training for the meet and was hitting some PRs for about a month after the “injury.” I decided against doing the meet but was still training pretty well.
What I Should Have Done
I should’ve taken a decent amount of time off from intense training, but when I’m in the zone, I’m in the area. Anybody who’s competitive with anything can understand that. The pain came back, and I ended up making things worse as I tried coming back too soon a couple more times. I had a grade 2 strain (at least) near the 12th rib attachment site of the (QL) and had some bruising on the rib.
This might not sound like much, and there are plenty of worse injuries, but it was terrible because it affected pretty much everything I did. The pain was nagging, sharp, annoying, and sometimes extreme. Too much stress would cause spasms here and in many surrounding areas, and it was straightforward to restrain the area.
The QL muscle is a crucial spine and hip stabilizer for nearly any activity; thus, it was challenging to give it the rest it required since it was so active. It connects to the 12th rib, the lumbar vertebrae, and the posterior iliac crest, making it a vital back muscle. Because my left glute wasn’t working correctly for who knows how long, my left QL worked excessively and ultimately ruptured. This was a cumulative injury as the rotation and shift had likely caused countless micro-trauma over time.
I had neglected soft tissue work for too long and hadn’t addressed imbalances appropriately for long enough. I had to back off from heavy powerlifting for a little while, and I eventually realized that the entire experience was a blessing in disguise. It forced me to take a step back to determine the answers to some questions.
What caused this to happen, and what held back my lifts?
What do I need to fix things so I can come back stronger and healthier?
I Finally Took Some Time Off to Figure Things Out
Glutues Maximus and Medius Exercises
I took some time off and then had to figure out ways to improve my body and strength without straining this area and making things worse. I focused on hammering out gluteus maximus exercises and gluteus medius exercises, emphasizing catching my left glute up to my right. It took some time and effort, but I pulled it off.
I worked on My Obliques.
I worked on biomechanics and technique to help stabilize my spine and pelvis until my shifts were almost eliminated. I’ve invested in a sled to strengthen my legs without straining my back. I had ART, chiropractic care, and massage. I did everything possible to improve myself and heal my injury simultaneously.
Single-Leg Exercises Helped
When it had healed enough to allow it, I began to focus on getting my single leg lifts significantly stronger. Single-leg variations didn’t aggravate anything, while bilateral lifts seemed to aggravate it once I got to a certain weight. Single-leg variations were something that I had done but had never really focused on getting strong with. Pushing these lifts up would help iron out hip and trunk imbalances and increase strength and stability simultaneously. I would rotate in 2-3 week cycles of barbell reverse lunges, front split squats, barbell step-ups, yoke bar reverse lunges, one-leg squats, and Bulgarian split squats while sometimes adding chains to keep things interesting. I worked in the mid to high 200-pound range for most of these, which was a good increase from where I had been before.
Exercises to Target the Glutes
A glute focus was created using different leg hip thrusts, leg RDLs, reverse hypers, clam shells, side leg raises, bird dogs, cable chops, sled drags, prowlers, kettlebell swings, and other exercises. I have been steadily pushing up leg hip thrusts with a 135-pound bar or many chains on my lap, one-leg RDLs with around 150 pounds for reps, clams, and SLRs with heavy bands, and I have gotten stronger on all of these exercises. I’ve probably put an inch or two on my glutes over the past two years. I also did some psoas and adductor strengthening as my hips all over were not as solid or stable as they needed.
My back has always been a strong point while my hips lagged. I have done lots of Y’s, I’s, high to low rows, and face pulls variations for lower traps. Since lower traps attach on T-12, which is close to that 12th rib, gaining strength, stability, and endurance here has helped to provide added support around the area and also helped to rehab the place.
Exercises to Target Quadratus Lumborum
For direct oblique and QL work, I got on a diet of side bridges, rotating side bridges, cable hold variations (split stance, tall kneeling, squatting, etc.), cable chops, side holds, and offset farmers carry. All of the single-leg work hit obliques and glutes as well.
One great corrective exercise I had used previously was the offset step-up. You can either put more weight on one side of a barbell or hold a dumbbell in one hand and do step-ups. The offset weight will force the right oblique and hip muscles to fire to keep your body square. I have seen these work not only for myself but for many others as well.
The added oblique and glute strength is a big help to QL since it now has the appropriate support from its friends. While I know that there are varying viewpoints on reverse hypers, I love them, and they were a big help in rehabbing my back and keeping my strength up. The fact that I could train glute function along with trunk stabilization via low back muscle activity combined with the traction and decompression that the exercise provides helped me tenfold. Doing them correctly and with control is an excellent exercise for both posterior chain strength and recovery.
A great friend and colleague tracked my biomechanics to identify my neutral position while removing my shift. I solved this problem by squatting and pulling with a barbell or kettlebell lighter. I did plenty of mobility work for the hips and spine; some are stretching for the left TFL and psoas (a part of the shift).
So by now, you must be wondering what has changed with the old, weak points being more crucial and biomechanics improving. Previously, my hips were the culprit if I missed a deadlift. Whenever my squatting or pulling levels increased, my deadlift increased as well. I’ve given my squatting and pulling a heavier bilateral leg workout in the last few months. I’ve made big PRs after a few workouts in the squatting and pulling disciplines. I’m working my way back up on the deadlifts, but I just pulled 500 pounds pretty casually and easily, and I believe I’ll be able to do even better soon.
Thanks to the new glute strength I have acquired, I feel more stable and more explosive out of the hole. I plan on making some big gains over the next year, and I believe that if this accident hadn’t happened, I would still be wondering what I should work on.
One more part to come. The above was part 2, and you can check out part 1.
Thanks to Nick Rosencutter for the great information above.
Rick Kaselj, MS