Give Me The Fish (GMTF): If you tweaked your back while training or some other acute injury, head to this article here. Otherwise, you’re in the right place. The home of chronic back pain. This article is for those that don’t lift, are tired of tweaks (spasms), and want to stop back pain for good.
Why? Because it can be fixed and all it takes is you doing four things:
- Get a Coach
- Squat Heavy
- Deadlift Heavy
- Auxillary Exercises
*Note there are a limited number (very small number) of cases that can only be treated with surgery, but chances are you are not one of them, myself included.
Table of Contents
Stop Back Pain For Good
Debilitating pain sucks and back pain is no exception.
Everything we do is with our backs, which means we get the joy of re-experiencing back pain over and over again.
But that’s not the worst part.
The worst part is that it’s entirely preventable, if not permanently, at least significantly reduced in occurrence.
It’s not your fault you haven’t fixed it, it’s mostly due to the myths that have saturated the health and fitness communities.
Let’s put it to rest now and stop listening to the terrible advice that is floating around and start getting rid of our pain.
Bottom line: You can stop back pain from debilitating your life.
Myth 1: “Don’t Lift With Your Back”
To humor those that keep spreading this myth:
You are meaning to tell me that a creature that has developed across millions of years to stand up, with a spine that has some of the most robust muscles in the entire body (including redundancy), and that is designed to work the same way as a crane, yet, it is not supposed to lift things?
If that is the case, it sounds like Mother Nature made a huge mistake. And, you could be right.
I’m just confused as to what this guy is doing.
Mareks Leitis picking up a few hundred pound Atlas Stone.
Dudes in 3rd world countries working everyday like this are also baffling me.
Also, what about this guy?
And this guy?
Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, broke the World Record for the heaviest deadlift, lifting 1,104 pounds.
Are they defying the laws of physics and human anatomy too?
I think not.
The truth is, YOU, (as in the non-lifter) can’t lift with your back.
It’s not because these guys are special, it’s because you are weak. I don’t mean this to be rude or hurtful, but the truth is the truth.
This weakness is caused by you avoiding to lift with your back for your entire life.
Despite what your Health Teacher told you, if you don’t use it, you lose it.
All of this is made worse by you hunching over all day, whether standing or sitting, and stretching your back muscles out while hunched over a desk making it as strong as a wet noodle.
You don’t hurt or tweak your back because you can’t lift with your back, you tweak it or hurt it because you never use it in the first place.
Then at some point, out of nowhere, you take your back from years of operating at “0” and then try lifting something really heavy.
Essentially making it go to 60mph around a narrow mountainous road and then metaphorically driving it off a cliff.
Now you have crash-landed in the land of non stop back pain.
And you start blaming it on the road, but the fact is that you were going 60mph on a road built for 20mph.
This is exactly what happens with back pain.
So, no, it’s not that people can’t lift with their backs, it’s that they neglected and abused it and then made it perform at high levels.
Myth 2: Your Stuck With Back Pain For Life
Unfortunately, doctors encourage this thought process (who have zero training in strength training/ physical therapy and/or its benefits), and then surgeons recommend needless surgery (not always, but a lot of times).
Doctors and surgeons are trained to diagnose and treat through medicine and surgical means. These are essential skill sets and I’m glad they exist, but if you give someone a hammer, everything looks like a nail, and doctors happen to have scalpels and pills.
If you listen to Mark Rippetoes, 80% or so of all humans have some type of noticeable deformities in their spines, and guess what?
They don’t all have pain.
With that in mind, if you go get x-rays done, chances are the surgeon will find something.
Out comes the muscle relaxants, hydrocortisone shots, and the knife.
And before you get all defensive, let’s say they are right.
Why not try everything else first before you do something with permanent consequences?
I’m not sure about you, but it sounds like it’s worth a shwack, even if it’s just to put off paying the thousands in medical bills.
Or, we just strength train (specific and targeted).
Most people have non stop back pain because they have muscle imbalances by a combination of tight muscles and weak muscles (the article mentioned at the beginning explains why).
By fixing those, we can remove your pain.
Strength coaches and physical therapists have been able to stop back pain for decades by adressing those imbalances and then making them less so.
This isn’t something new. This isn’t a B.S fad. This is facts.
A strength coach in comparison is also drastically cheaper.
Myth 3: “Lifting Weights Hurt My Back”
There are only a couple of reasons why you possibly think lifting hurts your back.
- Load management
- Incorrect form
And, what surprises most people, it’s these reasons, in this order.
Load management is all about PROGRESSIVE overload.
If you didn’t notice, progressive is the keyword here.
Most people try to lift too much too fast.
Regardless of how your form is, bodies are amazing and can adapt to most things. Even terrible form.
The thing is, worse form means you need more progressive overload due to the lack of efficiency and physics, due to adding shorter and more levers (muscle segments working independently and poor anatomical structure) causing more energy to be lost, therefore it takes more work to do the same amount of effort.
So, as long as you understand load management, you can do less work and give your body more time to recover and you’ll be fine.
The next issue is incorrect form.
As we mentioned above, incorrect form makes lifting harder. But, I fibbed a little. Bad form can cause injury, despite proper load management, but the key is time.
Kelly Starrett, a famous physical therapist who works with high-level competitive athletes has a great quote:
Your body is set up for millions of cycles… So by the time you’ve worn a hole in your kneecap, herniated your disk, or torn your labrum, chances are good that you’ve expended millions of cycles. In other words, your tissues and joints didn’t just wear out; your body put up with your crappy positions and movements for the equivalent of millions of cycles. – Supple Leopard by Kelly Starrett
If you rely on hard body tissue (cartilage and ligaments) and not soft tissue (muscle) when you do things, you are relying on a structure that is hard and sometimes impossible heal.
Over time those hard things wear down by lack of recovery and then something catastrophic happens.
And then the classic, “lifting hurts my back/knees/etc. or whatever” comments come.
But really, it’s just improper technique, normally compounded by poor load management.
Step 1: Get a coach
Step 2: Lift weights.
Step 3: Stop Back Pain
You will likely need a strength coach to walk you through how to do this.
This isn’t because I’m a strength coach, it’s because barbell training is very safe if done correctly, but very unsafe if done incorrectly.
Get a coach and figure out what your specific problem is, be guided on the journey to success, and stop back pain for good. I have personally coached dozens of people into a mostly pain-free existence and this can happen for you too.
If you insist on doing this yourself, I highly recommend you watch starting strength youtube videos, read the starting strength book, start squatting (below 90) and deadlifting. And, while you’re at it, you might as well get stronger everywhere else.
Let’s stop playing the victim mindset, embrace the uncomfortable, and have a pain-free life.
I’m happy to coach you along the way.
Keep the forge burning,