so the good Doc has requested I talk a bit about my back pain journey. At first I was flattered that he would want to hear the story, but now I realise that his back has been hurting, so he had an ulterior motive all along... I'll try and keep this brief and concise.
Back first started hurting in my teens. It went out in maths class once and I couldn't move. My mates thought it was hilarious but I was properly crippled! This was when I was 15. I have always had terrible posture, part of which I think is genetic (none of my family have good posture), but a childhood playing computer games instead of sports didn't help. From the age of 15 on, my back would hurt every day. Sometimes a lot, sometimes not much, but never was it pain free. I went to see three different physios on the NHS, all of which told me that I should rest. That was a big help.
in my late teens I got into lifting weights, but only started to take it seriously 3 or 4 years ago. I thought I was making myself super strong and awesome, but I was, in fact, just building strength on top of dysfunction, which is bad. My deadlift was the most horrible, rounded back thing you could think of. I just assumed your back was supposed to hurt the day after deadlifts. Also, in my quest for an ATG squat, I was so paranoid about not hitting depth I would squat all the way down til my hamstrings hit my calves. This is far too low for my and would put me into a very rounded position, but I didn't realise that at the time.
so last summer I think it was, after a particularly bad incident which left me crippled for about a week, I decided enough was enough. I went to see a much better physio, who told me that although my back was bad, it didn't have any lasting, irreversible damage (not herniated discs or anything). Turns out there's a tendon runs up your back, and mine was all inflamed and hurting. Basically what I needed to do was:
-release my piriformis
-strengthen my glutes
-strengthen my abs
so my hockey ball became my best friend, and I sat on that for ages every day. I also did supersets of bird dogs with hip thrusts, every day, multiple times a day. It helped a little, but I was still going into the weights room and hurting myself. I was getting frustrated, so I looked to what I was doing in the gym, instead of what I was doing at home.
KPj helped me out loads with this too. I went through to Kilmarnock to do some benching with him one day and he had a look at my mobility. He laughed at it, which I thought was very unprofessional. He also took one look at my front squat and told me I was squatting too low, and told me my dumbell rows were reinforcing bad posture. It was quite eye opening to say the least!
So, it turned out that a LOT of what I was doing in the gym was hurting me. I decided to:
-drop deadlifting completely. A controversial, and heart breaking decision at the time, but since doing this I have not had to miss a workout due to back pain.
-monitor my front squat depth. I use aerobics steps to make sure I squat below parallel, but not so low that my back rounds. 4 of the little plastic things that go inside an aerobic step is the perfect depth
-drop the weight on my rows and concentrate on good form (strength came back pretty quickly anyway)
-really concentrating on getting my glutes and core firing during warm ups. This was a really big deal. Times when my back was a little achey coming to the gym, a few sets of glute activation and bird dogs made me feel like a new man. Muy importante. This, along with dropping deads was probably the most important change in my routine.
these changes in the gym did loads more for me than all the bird dogs and stuff at home. Honestly, I think that those moves are better done as activation work as part of your warm up, than done at home to try and remedy back pain. Stretching my hips didn't seem to do anything either. I actually think stretching is a load of nonsense now, although I still stretch my hips prior to a lower body workout just in case.
-stretching and core work in the house didn't do a damn thing
-if something hurts, don't do it
-find a way to do what you can as safely as you can
-get someone who knows what he's talking about to check your mobility and tell you what's contraindicated.
there you have it. Really, it's all my own fault for forcing myself to deadlift so much when my back clearly couldn't handle it. Since dropping the deadlift I've been able to train much more often and train my legs loads harder so it was actually the best decision I've ever made in my lifting life. I'm not anti-deadlift, however I do think you need to be honest about the type of training that suits your goals. If something you are doing makes it harder to hit your goals, you shouldn't be doing it. That, for me, was deadlifts.