The key to a pain-free spine is to train your back to withstand higher pressures than you usually experience on a day to day basis. This way you will be prepared if you happen to lift something heavy in your garage, are on your feet longer than usual or have to push a heavy cart around the store. You want to become anti-fragile and raise your threshold over time.
Researchers have identified a specific exercise, the Russian Kettlebell Swing, is a great movement to increase the durability of your back. In fact, they found that when you properly perform a kettlebell swing (see video below), your back muscles contract at about 50% of their maximum capacity and your glutes contract at over 80% of their maximum — much higher levels than many traditional movements. The shear force on your low back goes the opposite direction of most exercises, again allowing for your spine to become stronger in a novel way.
If you have chronic or reoccurring back pain, it’s time to think about becoming anti-fragile. Ask me at your next visit if the kettlebell swing is right for you and how you can safely raise your threshold.
McGill, S, & Marshall, L. W. (2012). Kettlebell Swing, Snatch, and Bottoms-Up Carry: Back and Hip Muscle Activation, Motion, and Low Back Loads. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 26 (1), 16-27. doi:10.1519/jsc.0b013e31823a4063
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