Protect Your Back

baby sitting on man s shoulder
Photo by Maria Lindsey on

How’s everyone doing, gearing up to eat some Turkey?? Yeah, I know I am, everything in moderation, including moderation. Last week, I posted about back pain creeping in a little bit, and in my case this was due to lack of attention to detail while lifting up my 21 lb son. I posted about principles that I follow in order to keep my back safe at work, in the gym, doing DIY projects, and now for playing with my son, and here they are in greater detail:

  1. Abs tight

This is exactly how it reads, the act of tightening your abdominal muscles each and every time you place your body under load. Whether you are lifting a barbell at the gym, or simply your own body weight, learning how to tighten your Abs will keep your back safe. “Abs tight” is the reminder I give myself, and I realized I was not doing it when loading my son into his car seat recently, I am now. It is great to have an experienced trainer teach you this skill in order to master it, but here is how the concept breaks down:

Stand up straight, and contract your abdominal muscles as you would to do a sit up or crunch, but do not move. Do not “suck in” or draw in your stomach, assure it stays in a neutral position, only tight. You want to feel as if you a “bracing” your Abs to take a punch, test this out with your own hand to make sure (give your Abs a few taps). Learning to keep your abs tight will help you maintain a neutral position in your lower back when you place your body under load.

Take a quick look at this video for a Demo:

  1. Hips lead the race

Essentially, this means that any motion must be initiated by your hip movement (not your knees, not your shoulders, not your back). The term “lift with your legs” can be deceptive, your hips need to move first, and lead the rest of your body through a safe movement.

  1. Sturdy structure

Basically this is linked to point number 2, you always want your body in a safe, sturdy position when you place it under load. You also want a strong “lockout” at the top, straight line vertical from head, shoulders, hips, knees, feet.

If you place your body under load and do not have proper posture and alignment to evenly distribute the force that is being applied, the force will be applied to weak points in the kinetic chain. For example, lifting something over and over again by squatting down with your knees tracking far out over your toes will assure that shearing force is applied to your patella tendon, and usually result in soreness/tendonitis.

Take a look at this You Tube Video for a quick Demo! This will show you how to apply these concepts, no matter what you are lifting!

It is important to apply these principles each and every time we lift something, no matter how heavy or light. I hope these points to ponder are helpful for you as you examine your own movement patterns, and training routines. Have a great week, enjoy some Turkey!

My Back Hurts, Now What?

One thing I’ve noticed this week in my journey of parenting, my back hurts… that ever happen to you? Let’s start to break down this topic, and go over some guidelines to successfully navigate back pain if it comes up.

Rule #1 if your back hurts, don’t overdo it. Seems simple… but apparently not easy. To not overdo it, just be realistic about your current situation related to back pain, and plan your daily activities accordingly. For me this week, that meant less actual leaf clean up, and more play time with my son. Sometimes not overdoing it gives you unexpected benefits, the best things in life are free!

Rule #2 of back pain, find out why your back hurts. You should start with a medical diagnosis if you have pain (see a Doctor!), as this is nothing to fool around with. Once you can rule out any major/ structural issues medically, you can usually trace back pain down to one of two causes:

1. Acute trauma (fall, ill advised heavy lift, etc)

2. Repetitive overuse/ poor movement patterns

Ask, what is different in your life since your back has been hurting? Have you picked up a new hobby, started a new job, have a longer commute, did you fall? Asking questions about what has been different in your life since you’ve notice the back pain is a great starting point to start working on corrections. In my case, it is 100% reason #2. When my back started to hurt, I thought about how I’ve been moving differently since my son has been born. Additionally, how have I been moving differently since he’s been walking?

His car seat has changed recently, and my car is low for loading him in. I realized that I’ve not been following the principles of functional movement that I know will keep my back safe when performing this type of awkward move:

1. Abs tight
2. Hips lead the race
3. Sturdy structure

Here is a great drill to make sure you are moving in the right direction for a lift!

More on those concepts later. In addition to the car seat angle, my son loves to run over to me and be picked up. It’s one of the great joys of my life, and honestly I’ve never considered applying safe lifting techniques to lift a 21 pound person. However, I have a new appreciation for sticking to these principles of functional moment… by trial and error I’ve noticed my back feels better by following them this week.

I’ll be posting to share my journey as a parent to manage back pain, as I believe it’s transferable to any life change (new job, activities change, family status change, etc).

To correct the imbalances I’ve created currently, I’m doing a combination of stretching, and myofacial release techniques (more on that later as well). Cheers to your health, have a great, pain free week!

Please follow my Facebook page, 10 Minute Fitness Take-Aways as well, I’d love to hear any questions or thoughts you have on the topic!