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Strength training with low back pain while trying to gain weight

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  • Strength training with low back pain while trying to gain weight

    I am trying to restore weight because I am underweight, but my goal is to do so healthfully, and gain more muscle mass and minimize fat gain through strength training. I have been doing pilates for my core daily for about an hour a day (moves like the bicycle, boat pose, etc), plus exercises with weights (I follow the livestrong woman toneitup videos). However, recently my lower back has been hurting, even though I think I am doing pilates with proper form. I also have tendonitis, so my arms have been hurting due to using weights.
    The equipment I have are weights, and an exercise ball. I don't have access to a gym. Since I am still underweight, I don't have the strength for vigorous exercise or heavy lifting. Is there any other form of exercise that will help me build muscle but not hurt my back? It's stressful to have to gain weight when I'm not working out.

    Also, I did pilates and weights daily, but is this necessary, or should I alternate days or follow some other strength training schedule while gaining weight?

  • #2
    I would think if you have lower back pain, you aren't using proper form for the pilates, either that or extremely tight leg muscles are putting a strain on your back. Are you doing much for stretching?
    Check out the Primal Blueprint Fitness e-book - you can download it free from the MDA site.

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    • #3
      How are you eating? I've found that keeping strict paleo/primal to avoid all those dietary inflammatories has been critical to overcoming chronic back and knee pain. In the absence of some specific structural diagnosis, it's far more important than exercise in my experience.

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      • #4
        Do you have access to a Roman Chair? I use that whenever I go to the gym and it really helps alleviate any lower back pain for me.

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        • #5
          I've been stretching thinking it would help the back pain, but I might have overstreched my muscles because it hurts when I do. I've been eating totally healthy, having enough protein daily and I usually have salmon/fish several times a week for the omegas.

          I took a look at the PBF guide, but I'm not sure about the WOW days where you lift heavy with my current back pain. is there another way to build strength?
          Also, I was strength training daily but is it actually better to skip days?

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          • #6
            Deadlift.

            Sent via A-10 Warthog

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Mr. Anthony View Post
              Deadlift.

              Sent via A-10 Warthog
              +1. The only way your back is going to heal/repair itself is if you repeatedly put it through a full-range of motion. You have to provide the stimulus. That was one of the take-aways from this inspiring story: Starting Strength
              The Champagne of Beards

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Alfi56 View Post

                I took a look at the PBF guide, but I'm not sure about the WOW days where you lift heavy with my current back pain. is there another way to build strength?
                Also, I was strength training daily but is it actually better to skip days?
                If you do a beginners program like Stronglifts you take a rest day in between lift days. So you would lift on M/W/F. Your muscles do need rest to grow. Also, I second doing deadlifts.

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                • #9
                  Good book to start with here Foundation: Redefine Your Core, Conquer Back Pain, and Move with Confidence: Eric Goodman, Peter Park, Lance Armstrong: 9781609611002: Amazon.com: Books

                  The book is a good set of 4-8 exercises to re-engage the posterior chain. Once you got that working for you add in the deadlift.

                  If that isn't doing the trick you better find a chiropractor.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Mr. Anthony View Post
                    Deadlift.

                    Sent via A-10 Warthog
                    Definitely deadlift. I've got lower back issues as well, deadlifts and stretching relieve the pain completely.

                    Trunk rotation, grok squat, hanging from a pull up bar and various hamstring stretches are my stretch routine. Don't underestimate the effect tight hams have on your lower back.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Neckhammer View Post
                      Good book to start with here Foundation: Redefine Your Core, Conquer Back Pain, and Move with Confidence: Eric Goodman, Peter Park, Lance Armstrong: 9781609611002: Amazon.com: Books

                      The book is a good set of 4-8 exercises to re-engage the posterior chain. Once you got that working for you add in the deadlift.

                      If that isn't doing the trick you better find a chiropractor.
                      I'll second this recommendation. I recently got blindsided by a horrible episode of back spasms - paralyzing pain, 911/ambulance etc. The main underlying causes seem to be related to pelvic alignment and stability - probably initially caused by running but badly exacerbated by a worn-out mattress. The initial spasms were then followed up by secondary problems - over-rotated pelvis, SI joint etc. I'm at 8 weeks and am finally getting on some solid recovery footing.

                      After a bunch of reading, I came across the Foundation exercises (there is also a set of videos available - I picked up the downloadable version which works fine on my Android tablet). I'm not sure how much is really 'new' here vs re-emphasizing best practices, but I'm finding that it's a great routine to both re-learn proper activation as well as strengthen the muscles, build endurance where needed and also some degree of flexibility. It doesn't ignore the traditional 'core', but re-focuses the perspective on the posterior chain.

                      There's a good albeit long-ish interview between Goodman and Mercloa on Mercola's site if you want to check out the basic perspective/philosophy.

                      Once you have the biomechanics in order, then adding load-bearing exercises is a good plan - a *properly executed* deadlift is still my vote for the best single exercise you can do. You have to make sure you really understand the mechanics though, since 'don't bend your spine' doesn't really capture it.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Diechipmunk View Post
                        Definitely deadlift. I've got lower back issues as well, deadlifts and stretching relieve the pain completely.

                        Trunk rotation, grok squat, hanging from a pull up bar and various hamstring stretches are my stretch routine. Don't underestimate the effect tight hams have on your lower back.
                        Agree.

                        I have been doing "scorpion" stretches and hamstring stretches. Deadlifts build a strong back. I also have a wooden thing called a ma-roller that works wonders when my back feels a little sore. It's like giving yourself a shiatsu massage and is way more targeted on the back than a foam roller.
                        Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Alfi56 View Post
                          I don't have the strength for vigorous exercise or heavy lifting.
                          Heavy lifting is relative to how heavy you can actually lift. Just cause you can't lift as much as the next guy (or girl), it's how heavy it is for YOU that is key... a weight you can only do 3-5 reps of.

                          I third (or whatever we're on now) deadlifts. Also pay attention to pelvic/anterior tilt. I found I was way overextending my lower back during movements, and standing in general, which was causing frequent lower back pain. I haven't hurt myself at the gym since. *knock on wood*

                          Anterior Pelvic Tilt and Lumbosacral Pain as it Relates to the Hip Thrust and Glute Bridge | Bret Contreras

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                          • #14
                            The pelvic tilt link seems really helpful, and I think I do have that problem-thanks!
                            However, I don't have access to a gym to do the deadlift; I only have weights. I also want to avoid bulking up with the deadlight, and just want to tone up.
                            Also, should I be consuming ecess calories even on rest days? My main worry is gaining fat on my midsection, which I know is inevitable but I want to minimize it.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Alfi56 View Post
                              The pelvic tilt link seems really helpful, and I think I do have that problem-thanks!
                              However, I don't have access to a gym to do the deadlift; I only have weights. I also want to avoid bulking up with the deadlight, and just want to tone up.
                              Also, should I be consuming ecess calories even on rest days? My main worry is gaining fat on my midsection, which I know is inevitable but I want to minimize it.
                              Goodness gracious.... I don't even know where to start with this.

                              In order of misconceptions:

                              A. Deadlift wont make you bulk up. You don't accidentally get HOOOUGE with a couple of deadlift workouts.
                              B. There is either more or less muscle. Try to forget you ever learned the word "tone".
                              C. You don't need a ton of weight to start learning the maneuver.
                              D. Don't worry about increasing your calories. You are so untrained that just doing the work will induce muscle gain.

                              As to D. I just reread and saw that you want to gain weight (i.e. muscle but not fat). Well in that case lift and eat. No you don't have to gain fat with muscle, but you do have to pick a form of strenuous resistance exercise and stick with it so that the excess calories are used to produce muscle rather than fat.
                              Last edited by Neckhammer; 06-06-2013, 01:58 PM.

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