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  • Building Muscle w/Lower Back Issues?

    Here's my dilemma - any help from you smart, fellow PBers would be awesome!

    I'm 6'0" and about 162lbs. Skinny dude. I've been lifting heavy and eating Primal for a while now; deadlifts, squats, bench, press, pullups mainly. Doing a modified Starting Strength sort of deal.

    However, I have worsening lower back issues - to the point where I can't squat or deadlift any significant weight without pain. Immediate and long-lasting pain. Note: I am doing physio-approved exercises to help with this.

    I want to continue attempting to gain muscle via lifting (the lifts I can do) and eating lots of Primal-approved foods. However, I'm unsure of how realistic that goal might be if I can't do the big, compound lifts that hit my central nervous system.

    What are you thoughts? Can I still gain weight & muscle by doing bench, press, pullups and perhaps lunges while eating lots? Will I gain fat? Will I stay where I am?

    Any thoughts or help, however random, would be greatly appreciated!

  • #2
    Why do you have back issues and what exactly are they? And what "physio approved" exercises are you doing to help with this?

    Post some footage of yourself squatting and deadlifting if you can - it would be uber helpful!
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    • #3
      Thanks for the quick reply, Coach.

      My back pain started with a twisted pelvis from an epic snowboard bail last winter. I went to physio, got it back in place and was instructed to stretch more, as I also have EXTREMELY tight hamstrings/legs, which are pulling on my back. I promptly forgot about stretching and slowly, my back pain came back. I sit all day (graphic designer) which exacerbates the problem.

      Now I'm on a stretching and core-strengthening program (planks, bridges) to help with my back.

      I do think, when I started lifting, my squat and deadlift form left something to be desired. Leaning forward on squats, rounding back on deadlifts. I've since studied Rippetoes videos and got some help from trainers with regards to my form; I think it's pretty solid now (I don't have videos, sorry). I'm sure my crap form didn't help either, but that was a while ago and I've been lifting properly for a while now.

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      • #4
        I have/had similar back problems and with a little work am fine now.

        I tried everything to fix it and the best things were:

        - Heating pad in the morning
        - 10 min stretching 3x per day (focusing on hips, hams and piriformous)
        - Got a foam roller and learned how to use it
        - 1 on 1 pilates session for 10 sessions to rebuild my core strentgh
        - Yoga once a week

        Now I just do the stretching after workout, foam roller as needed and yoga 1x per week.

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        • #5
          I had back problems. Many experts told me not to lift. Back pain didn't go away. Started lifting, avoiding back. The problem did not budge. Said, "screw it," and started deadlifting and hitting the back again. Back was very sore at first, but it went away (started at very light weight). Zero back troubles to date even though they said this would make my back worse. The experts seem to want to keep you broken. Also, your back will probably get worse if you avoid working it.

          I'm not saying you should do what i did, you may have some other troubles there, but what iv'e learned is that avoiding the area will not fix it. Try to figure out whats going on, if its muscle damage i believe you need to work it to re-heal itself.You may have some other issues with your spine or something. Try fixing your posture? Try Grokhale's book (its a good book).

          Hope this helps

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          • #6
            Thanks guys. It's not like I CAN'T squat or deadlift; it's just that I can't without significant weight. Maybe it would be worthwhile to up the reps a bit and take the weight way down in order to still strengthen my back without putting so much stress on it.

            arthurb999: Thanks for the tips. I'll look into the foam roller etc.

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            • #7
              Check out this guy's website. I am going to incorporate some of his suggesitons myself. Try to ignore his 'casual' style.


              MobilityWOD

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              • #8
                guitarmy,

                I had lower back problems that would keep me flat on my back for a week. The pain was unimaginable. I was told by a chiropractor that I trust that the very best exercise for lower back is stair stepping machine. I was very lucky that I had access to one in my apartment gym. After just three months of 50min three times per week I have never had the lower back pain again. I have also never used the stair step machine again. If you can get one, even a cheap one from craigslist buy it, use it and be free.

                M
                Calorie Counter

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by NeoBerserker View Post
                  I had back problems. Many experts told me not to lift. Back pain didn't go away. Started lifting, avoiding back. The problem did not budge. Said, "screw it," and started deadlifting and hitting the back again. Back was very sore at first, but it went away (started at very light weight). Zero back troubles to date even though they said this would make my back worse. The experts seem to want to keep you broken. Also, your back will probably get worse if you avoid working it.

                  I'm not saying you should do what i did, you may have some other troubles there, but what iv'e learned is that avoiding the area will not fix it. Try to figure out whats going on, if its muscle damage i believe you need to work it to re-heal itself.You may have some other issues with your spine or something. Try fixing your posture? Try Grokhale's book (its a good book).

                  Hope this helps
                  My story is sorta like NeoBerserker's:

                  I broke my back falling off of a helicopter in 1997 (my L3 vertebra still looks like a door wedge). All the doctors told me not to lift anything and just to essentially be lazy if I thought it would hurt my back to do otherwise. After awhile I was a mess and couldn't do a damned thing. I eventually just started lifting and slowly learning how to squat and dead with proper form. I mostly did 5 sets of 20 rep squats (which I can proudly say I can do with 225lbs now) but I just started with the bar. For deadlifts I made sure I had extremely strict form and just worked on it from there.
                  I never have back pain, ever. The only time my back ever "acts up" is if I sleep on it wrong and then it just requires stretching and some foam roller and I am good after 30 mins.
                  If you can, just try to strengthen the muscles slowly.
                  People too weak to follow their own dreams will always try to discourage others.

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                  • #10
                    It sounds like you will need to go back to the drawing board a little (pardon the pun). Foam roller (as suggested), mobility and stretching will be the things to focus on.

                    Is there anyway you can film yourself squatting and deadlifting? It would really help so much. Front and side view with moderate loads would be great.
                    Sandbag Training For MMA & Combat Sports
                    Sandbag Training Guide on Kindle
                    The Complete Guide To Sandbag Training
                    Brute Force Sandbags
                    www.facebook.com/sandbagfitness
                    http://fitedia.com/ - Health and Fitness eBooks, video, audio and workshops

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                    • #11
                      My question would be if the pain is truly originating from the spine, or could it be in the pelvis/buttock area? I have had a few back injuries, but what I mainly deal with now is what seems to be piriformis syndrome, which is pain in the buttocks. This often mimics back pain. I am able to squats and deadlifts, but I often have pain in the buttock area near the low back. It usually goes away with walking around.

                      Another thing, be careful with stretching and yoga maneuvers. I found out that my spine is congenitally predisposed to inflexibility, which caused me to hurt myself doing stretching. Yoga and stretching sound really good and healthy, but only if you have a normal spine. Some of us don't.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by john_e_turner_ii View Post
                        My question would be if the pain is truly originating from the spine, or could it be in the pelvis/buttock area? I have had a few back injuries, but what I mainly deal with now is what seems to be piriformis syndrome, which is pain in the buttocks. This often mimics back pain. I am able to squats and deadlifts, but I often have pain in the buttock area near the low back. It usually goes away with walking around.

                        Another thing, be careful with stretching and yoga maneuvers. I found out that my spine is congenitally predisposed to inflexibility, which caused me to hurt myself doing stretching. Yoga and stretching sound really good and healthy, but only if you have a normal spine. Some of us don't.
                        Get a foam roller and destroy your piriformuses and IT bands.

                        Yoga progression needs to be done slowly and not forced... most amreicans don't have the patience and want to power through to the "next" level but that's not how yoga works.

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                        • #13
                          Oh, I have been doing that with a foam roller and a tennis ball too. So far, it's made little progress. My main problem is in the morning with pain. It seems to loosen up and subside as the day goes on. Sorry for hijacking thread with my issue....

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                          • #14
                            Great to see so many people chiming in. Sounds like light(er) loads and super-strict form is the way for me to go. Coach, I'll try and get my workout partner to film squats/deads.

                            john_e; it's more pelvis than spine. I think that's an important distinction, so thanks for asking that.

                            I also think it's important to note that my back problems aren't near as bad as some others mentioned in this thread (I'm not flat on my back for a week; I haven't broken my back; etc. I feel for you guys!).

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                            • #15
                              This book on back pain is recommended a lot. It is free just pay for postage. I am having lower back pain and sciatica from buttocks down to ankle.
                              http://www.losethebackpain.com/7daybackpaincure.html
                              Last edited by Sue; 03-26-2011, 08:01 PM.

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