by Max Dallman, USA-W Level 1 Sports Performance Coach
Occasionally, injuries pop up when preparing for a competition. Last year, as I trained cleans as I usually do, I felt a “tear” in my upper back. Unfortunately, the pain was enough to stop my training session. With the meet only 10 days away, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to compete. I quickly formulated a loose plan to rehabilitate. The following day, I attempted some bodyweight Romanian Deadlifts (RDLs) to partial range. Even though this caused some pain, I did them. For me, this worked out really well! The next day, I could go for full range RDLs. Then, with another day of rest and recovery, I could add a barbell! I continued to feel better with this approach, and ended up performing well at the competition. What did I learn from this? We need a focus on developing and training our backs.
Why is this so important? Well, think about it! Just stand upright? Better have a strong back. Not to mention how it needs to perform when under load (like a barbell). Wanna squat? Better have a strong back. Wanna do yardwork? Better have a strong back. And so on. Most people have no idea what their back is doing because they can’t see it and never really think about using it properly. Having a strong back and, specifically, control over your lower back is arguably the most important thing you can get out of barbell training. Unfortunately, many people I know have back pain, even though it’s often completely preventable.
To train your back, you need to begin with a load it can handle. If you are weak and/or injured, you may start with Supermans, Reverse Hypers, Back Extensions, and Good Mornings. These are things that should be done every time you train. Deadlifts are great, too, but must be done in moderation once you are stronger. While you can’t necessarily train your back too often, you can overload it, which can lead to injury. Just remember you want to build your back, not test it. When you do back training, it should be for ultra-high repetitions at a low to moderate weight. Do five or more repetitions each set. Not sure what some of these exercises are? Check with your coach!
If you have back pain, you should first consult with a medical professional, preferably one who is willing to collaborate with your coach. You can become pain-free by becoming stronger. I’m proof that it can be safe and that it works. You gotta have a freakin’ strong back if you want to make it through life. Humans are upright animals. We move and carry and lift all the time. Chores, landscaping, groceries, buying stuff, moving, and helping friends and family is just a small list. In order to do the things you need and love to do, you have to put in the work of taking care of yourself. Otherwise, your back might explode like mine did and getting back from injury is not fun!