12 Feb The “C” Word and the Best Exercise to Prevent Low Back Pain
The topic of LBP is massive considering the estimates are that approximately 85% of the population will have episodic low back pain (LBP) at some point in their life.
There are many causes of LBP, including bad posture, chronic overstretching of the ligaments and surrounding tissues, repetitive stress, and a specific mechanism of injury (although this is usually not commonplace).
The question is simple, what is the best way to prevent low back pain (LBP)?
The answer is even more simple. It’s having well conditioned spinal musculature (or should I say the “C” word, meaning CORE.)
Let me define “core” for you, since this is a term that’s used quite loosely these days.
Your “core” is primarily composed of the many muscles of the spine, the muscles of the abdominal wall, the back extensor group, and the quadratus lumborum (a major player in stabilizing the pelvis and lumber spine).
You can also argue that there are other multi joint and lower extremity muscles included in this group, as well.
Let me refer to these muscle groups (the core) as my trunk muscles from now on.
As a former back patient myself (I had lumbar disc surgery many years ago), I’ve personally found that the key to a healthy back is in keeping my trunk muscles strong.
But, muscular strength is not the only thing you need to keep your back healthy and injury free.
You also need ‘muscular endurance,’ as well. As leading spine biomechanist, Stuart McGill has pointed out, spinal muscular endurance is a key to reduce the incidence of LBP.
Why is this? Because in your day to day activities, your trunk muscles often co-contract throughout your movements, working together synergistically. This is how you function normally, your muscles are firing all the time to keep your torso rigid and protected.
So, in actuality, your trunk muscles function to limit motion, to “stabilize.”
When I was a physical therapist, we used to called this ‘abdominal bracing’ which is the co-contraction of all the spinal muscles.
Doesn’t it make sense to train your trunk muscles with the very best methods to “stabilize” your trunk during movement?
By strengthening and appropriately conditioning these powerful muscle groups, you’ll be on your way to building a ‘back of steel’ that will improve your posture, prevent potential injury, allow you to perform better and more safely, and be at an extreme level of overall fitness.
After all my experience (as a back patient, orthopedic physical therapist, long time weight lifter, and kettlebell instructor), I am going to say that the best exercise for overall back strengthening and conditioning is the kettebell swing, without a doubt.
I’ve personally discovered that when you perform this exercise correctly, there is nothing better for overall back health.
But, the real key in this exercise is not only that it will make your back extremely strong, the muscle endurance is what is dramatically improved by doing the kettlebell swing.
Just try swinging a kettlebell for a hundred reps or more and you’ll know exactly what I mean. If you’re doing the exercise correctly, it’s not pain at all that will stop you, but muscle fatigue that comes into play and makes high rep swings so incredibly challenging.
Now, there are many great back exercise, don’t get me wrong on that. Exercises like:
- the plank,
- the quadraped birddog,
- chops and lifts,
- bridging variations,
- suitcase carries,
- and the list goes on…
All of these are great exercises, in my opinion, for improving strength and endurance in your back to prevent injury.
But, if there is one best exercise for complete back health and injury prevention, I feel that the swing is the king (ooh, I like the sound of that!). If you need to see good kettlebell swing technique, here’s one of the videos I’ve done to demonstrate proper technique, providing front and side views: kettlebell swing video demo.
And, the swing is not just awesome for your back, there’s a ton of other benefits you’ll get from this exercise.
Proper technique is the law for this exercise and for your back health. Remember, if you are doing the exercise correctly, you will not get hurt.
Make sure you learn how to do this the right way, from the moment you pick up the kettlebell, to the time you place it back on the ground. Safety is first.
For more information on a new kettlebell study that I summarized, evaluating the kettlebell swing, click here.
Now, not only are you building a seriously strong and powerful back, but what you are doing for your hip flexibility is sensational.
Let’s face this fact, many people have some sort of hip complex dysfunction going on. What I mean by this is that it’s extremely common to have hip flexor tightness and/or lack of hip extension muscle power or weak glutes.
Learning how to perform a correct kettlebell swing will help to correct this. And because of the relationship of these muscles with the lumbar spine, this will also contribute to preventing LBP.
If there is one best exercise for ultimate back health and preventing injury, it’s the properly performed kettlebell swing.
I should also mention as I wrap up, that I am not saying this should be used for back dysfunction (meaning there is an existing injury or pain). I am saying for someone that has a healthy back, this is probably the very best exercise, I believe, that will be highly successful in preventing low back injuries.
So, if you don’t already know how to do a kettebell swing, learn how to do this exercise properly and save your back in the process. Build a ‘back of steel’ by doing the kettlebell swing.
Look for more instructional videos coming soon on this powerful total body exercise.
And, don’t forget to grab your Free copy of “A Course in Kettlebells” right now!