Low Back Q and A

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Mark –

My apologies for taking so long to respond! Things have been uber busy at CP, and with the Holiday looming (cue Jaws theme music here), I’ve just been swamped trying to keep up with writing, programs, and answering emails.

Anyways, I’m sorry to hear about your dilemma! Believe me, as someone who know what it’s like to not be able to train they way you’d like, I can commiserate.

To answer your question:

1. Why the fuck are you doing Russian twists????????? I say that with a little bit of “tough love.”

2. Go get some aggressive manual therapy done. Trust me, you need it. The fact that this keeps getting aggravated, tells me that you probably have some significany soft tissue restrictions: scar tissue, adhesions, etc. I’d try to find a really good MANUAL therapist (someone to get his or her hands on you) that can do some Graston, ART, what have you.

3. You, my friend, need to back the heck up and slow down. You’re talking O-lifts and you can’t even do a Russian Twist without pissing your back off. To that end, I’d spend the next few months doing nothing but tons of single leg work, core work (pallof presses, lifts, chops, etc), pull-throughs, hip thrusters, etc. You “might” be able to get away with things like goblet squats, but you’ll have to see what you can tolerate.

4. I know everyone “thinks” their form is spot on, but most likely, it sucks. Believe me, I’ve seen plenty of t-nation meatheads walk into CP thinking they’re god’s gift to deadliftting, only to have to resist the urge to throw my hands up in the air and say “WTF was that????” Seriously. It’s uncanny how many dudes out there will say “my back hurts all the time when I deadlift/squat, but I KNOW my form is perfect.” Oh really? Then why does my spine hate you?

I could be wrong, but I’d be willing to play the odds and say that you’re technique needs work. Take some weight off the bar, check your ego at the door, and learn to do it right.

5. I’d try to add in your fair share of offset loading. We’ve been using “offset'” variations at CP, and love them. Using an example, instead of doing DB reverse lunges with a dumbbell in each hand, try performing the same exercise while holding ONLY one dumbbell. By doing so, you’ll automatically force the hip stabilizers to fire, not to mention engage the core to keep you from tipping over. You can do these with Farmer carries, step-ups, you name it.

6. I know I mentioned it above, but core work is the name of the game here. Specifically anti-rotation. Can’t reiterate that enough.

7. Upper body is pretty much free-reign; albeit I’d be reluctant to include a lot DB work while your back is pissed off. All that loading and un-loading the DB off the racks and getting set up on a bench can be problematic. Instead, you may want to stick with barbell variations. You can perform push-ups till you puke your face off – I encourage it, in fact. Push-ups, as I’ve noted in the past, are not only a fantastic upper body exercise that develops the upper body, but they also help teach people to learn to engage their core (in this case, the entire lumbo-pelvic-hip area) in a more functional manner. Here, too, you need to make sure your techique is spot on. You’d be surprised as to how many people butcher these as well – elbows flared out, hyperextended cervical spine, hyperextended lumbar spine, to name a few.

Chin-ups would be great, depending on your tolerance.

Anyways, I think that should be enough to get you started; or atleast, maybe a few light-bulbs went off.

Good luck,


Tony Gentilcore, CSCS, CPT


From: Mark Williams

To: tgentilcore18@yahoo.com

Sent: Thu, November 18, 2010 12:00:04 PM

Subject: Email from Reader tonygentilcore.com

Mark Williams () wrote:


Fully understand I’m about to ask for free advice, but, well, the pride’s

kind of out on vacation anyway…

About a year ago, I herniated a disc in the lumbosacral clusterf**k that is our

low backs, and, over the past year, worked my way back to front squatting, back

squatting, unsupported dumbbell rowing and even Olympic lifts (Bentover Rows,

RDLs, and Deadlifts remained off limits – just too much flexion, I guess). My

question is: I jacked the sucker up again the other day (tried some DB Russian

Twists after a long, long time without doing any, and the little bit of flexion

with lots of rotation was a not, not smart idea) and was wondering the best

progression back to full go.

Once this thing calms down enough to not have to steady myself when pulling my

pants up after a poop, the progression plan was:

– DB lunge variations

– SL Squat variations

– Bar lunge variations

– High Box Squats

– Front Squats

– Back Squats

– Sumo-deadlifts

– O-lifts

Does this look good to you? What would you add? As of now, I’m just going

through the mobility/movement prep/activity dynamic warm-up (whatever name you

like best) that I can each day, which means, for me at least, lots of

ankle/psoas/internal-external hip rotators mobility work. The hope is by next

week to start the DB lunge variations.

Any advice you might have would be greatly appreciated, man. Thank you!

Mark Williams

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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.

I don’t share email information. Ever. Because I’m not a jerk.

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