Safely Incorporating Weightlifting for Core Strength
Building a strong core will support your spine and will help reduce the severity and frequency of back pain episodes- but where to start? What to do? If you are new or recovering from an injury, I recommend seeing a trainer or physical therapist to help develop a program with good technique to reduce stress to the Spine. They can also assist you with modifications and help you progress to your goals
Remember to always keep the core “engaged” (tighten up all 4 layers of your abs by squeezing them or pulling your belly button toward your back). This helps keep proper form and prevention of low back injuries.
HOME EXERCISES will often include Push-ups, Planks, Pelvic Tilts, Crunches, Squats and Lunges. Consider a BOSU ball (half ball/half platform) to keep you from overcompensating if you have a “stronger side” and incorporating balance and proprioception.
MACHINES will isolate specific muscles and you can slowly increase weight. Remember to always use a SLOW AND CONTROLLED movement for both better strengthening and injury prevention
Here are some popular Core Strengthening Machines:
Leg Curls (try legs separately!)
Cable or Suspension Training Machines can be utilized for resisted exercises, isolating any muscle groups including biceps, triceps, deltoids, but also exercises addressing multiple muscle groups such as Kneeling Cable crunches and Cable Kickbacks. Keep an eye on your form!
FREE WEIGHTS add proprioception to help with balance and stabilization but keep a few things in mind:
Technique is KEY; if you are new- have a trainer/physical therapist work with you.
Higher Repetitions and lower weights are less stressful on the spine than heavy weights and explosive movements. Consider a Spotter.
Examples include: Squats, Lunges, Bench Press, Lateral Raises, Chest Flies
Some Exercises that incorporate multiple muscle groups are excellent at strengthening but should be done with the guidance of a trainer or physical therapist and after you have reached a high-level of fitness. Improper technique or too much weight can result in Injury. Some examples: The Deadlift, Clean and Jerk, or The Snatch. If you have a prior injury or have disc degeneration, these exercises create a lot of stress on the back and you will want a physical therapy evaluation before attempting. If athletes are doing these for sport preparation- make sure that you are doing it right!
DEADLIFT TECHNIQUE TIPS:
Keep a FLAT BACK with the spine in NEUTRAL alignment, shoulders drawn down and away and head should remain inline with the spine.
Avoid starting with the hips too low in a “Squatting” position
Think of PUSHING the floor away rather than lifting up the bar
Bar path should be in a straight, vertical line (avoiding starting too far out in front and keep the bar close to the shins/knees)
Avoid JERKING the weight, build tension slowly through raising the bar off the floor
Avoid OVEREXTENDING at the end, the Lockout
Everyone's program will need to take into account their baseline strength, conditioning, and any spine or Joint issues. Also important to combine lifting with Cardiovascular exercise for your best benefit. And don’t forget to have fun! Time to get strong in order to become more mobile after a spine injury, get ready to play sports, to run, or to get onto skis, paddleboards, and bikes!