And You Wonder Why Your Back Hurts?

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Sundays tend to be the one day out of the week where I’m able to slow down, take a deep breath, and catch up on life. Put another way, grocery shopping, laundry, or whatever else the GF tells me to do. As well, Sundays also allow me some time to catch up on some reading or any other form of continuing education (Webinars, podcasts,DVDs, etc) that I don’t have a chance to get to during the week.

This past weekend, I was able to watch two things. The first, admittedly, had nothing to do with strength and conditioning, but was pretty badass nonetheless.

As I noted a few weeks ago, I plowed through The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo while I was on vacation, and it ended up being one of the most entertaining books I’ve read recently. For anyone who likes mystery/thrillers, this is a must read. Likewise, the film – which was made in Sweden a few years ago – was released here in the U.S a few weeks ago, and I was able to go see it this past Friday night.

Much like the book, it was easily one of the better movies I’ve seen this year – which is surprising considering most film adaptations make me want to melt my face off with a blow torch. Read: they suck.

UPDATE: I spoke too soon. I just read this morning that there are plans to make an American version for a release date sometime in 2012. So it may suck after all. I swear to god Hollywood, if you cast some no-talent assclown like Keanu Reeves to star in this, I’ll boycott you for like a week. And I’ll send you up to your room with no dinner.

Alright with that out of the way, I can discuss the other thing I watched over the weekend – Dr. Stuart McGill’s DVD The Ultimate Back: Enhancing Performance.

They might have just as well titled the DVD Dr. Stuart McGill Drops Knowledge Bombs All Over Your Ass, because that is exactly what he does in this video. The main objective of the DVD, of course, is to guide the user through some basic assessments (as well as showcase some fantastic exercise progressions), which in turn will give the viewer the tools he or she will need to write effective programming.

Without giving away too much, I will say that the main objective of the DVD is to outline the 5 Stages of Building the Ultimate Back; which are divided into five sections

– Corrective/Therapeutic Exercise

– Stability/Mobility Considerations

– Endurance

– Strength

– Speed Power

While I obviously took a lot away from the DVD, one of the main things that stood out (at least for me, and especially as someone who has worked with his fair share of people with lower back pain), was how many people are quick to skip steps.

I recently started working with a client who has been hampered by a nagging back injury which not only has affected his training, but his everyday life as well. To make a long story short, among other things, he can’t sit for long periods of times without discomfort, yet his first question to me was “when can I deadlift?”

Uh, hello???? How about we work on the fact that you can’t bend over without wincing in pain before we worry about that deadlift? Likewise, while I can appreciate his enthusiasm, my job as his coach is hold him back a bit, and to get him to understand that fixing and/or correcting any aberrant motor pattens should be his first priority.

For example, lets take something as common as someone’s breathing patterns. If said individual doesn’t know how to use their diaphragm correctly, and as a result tends to be more of a “chest breather,” what do you think will happen? The muscles of their lower back will become hyper-tonic due to the repeated pattern of hyper-extending their lumbar spine, hundreds, if not thousand of times per day. Take this bad pattern and draw it out over the course of days, weeks, months, and years, and you can see how this can wreck havoc on one’s spine health.

Similarly, take someone with poor upward rotation of the scapulae, and what do you think will happen every time you ask them to lift something over their head? Again, they’ll compensate by hyper-extending their lumbar spine. This is particularly important for anyone who trains overhead athletes. Improve their upward rotation, and I’m willing to bet their lower back (and their shoulder) will feel better.

Along the same lines, whether we’re discussing people who sit in flexion all day in front of their computers, or those who carry heavy bags or backpacks over their shoulders, or even those who don’t realize that how they sit down and get up out of their chair affects their spine on a day-to-day basis – it’s imperative to get them to understand that they need to spend sufficient time fixing all those aberrant motor pattens before they’ll see ANY improvements in the weight room. In short, DON’T SKIP STEPS FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!!!

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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