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How To Improve Functional Strength & Low Back Pain At Once!

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Jessica Bento, Physical Therapist (Creator DVRT Restoration Certification, DVRT Rx Shoulder, Knees, Pelvic Control, & Gait Courses)

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There are many things on the internet that just sound too good to be true and we all know they typically are in reality. So, why would I choose to use a headline that sounds so outrageous? How could we increase our functional strength and low back pain at the same time?

The answer is because it is possible if we understand what limits so many people and the fact that it isn’t just ONE thing. The truth is that we can look at a few keys and concepts that address the issues in functional strength and low back pain and then find exercises that best solve these problems.

Like what?

Hip & Ankle Mobility

While there is a lot of discussion of hip mobility, there tends to be much less about ankle mobility. Why would ankle mobility be important like hip mobility for functional strength and low back pain? Proper ankle mobility allows us to walk more efficiently loading the body far more safely and effectively. When out ankles “lock up” we get altered force transmission through the body and this can impact stress we see going through the low back.

From a functional strength perspective, we can’t run fast or jump high if our ankles are lacking great mobility. It will hamper our ability to perform movements like squats and can result in issues in our knees and hips (this is why we are against from elevating the heels during any of these movements versus just reducing the range of motion).

farmer's walks

Lack of ankle mobility can also cause our hips to keep tightening up because of the chain reaction that occurs from the ground up. So, what are some good options in both ankle and hip mobility? Check out some of these DVRT drills that use proximal stability along with feedback to create better mobility.

Great drills to help hip mobility through core stability and better interaction of our chains to improve our functional strength and low back pain issues. 

Coach Cory Cripe shows how we can improve ankle and hip mobility at the same time while also enhancing core stability. 

Learn To Control Our Core In Different Planes Of Motion

This doesn’t sound like something you probably hear people talk a lot about, but the idea of stability training that can help our functional strength and low back pain is about learning to resist other planes of motion while also then learning how to move through them very efficiently. I get it, training planes of motion rarely gets discussed because we tend to value load over every other variable and that makes most training just load based. For example, here is a university strength and conditioning program for athletes that was sent to us.

functional strength

If we break down this workout program we can find some pretty big holes!

functional strength

You see, it is common for people to miss such a foundational concept like the planes of motion. Which is odd because they play such a big role in our ability to perform well and be more injury resilient. That is why we begin with concepts like side planks and learning to control rotation like you see below…

As renown physical therapist, Shirley Sahrmann shares about what can be a major cause of low back pain, “During most daily activities, the primary role of the abdominal muscles is to provide isometric support and limit the degree of rotation of the trunk… A large percentage of low back problems occur because the abdominal muscles are not maintaining tight control over the rotation between the pelvis and the spine at the L5- S1 level.”

Progress These Ideas To More Dynamic Training

What is really surprising is how many coaches will say side planks and bird dogs are great exercises for stability and helping issues like low back pain, but then their strength training doesn’t carry these ideas forward. What we want to do is continue to use these ideas is more dynamic and functional strength based means. There shouldn’t be a difference in how we think of our functional strength training ideas with how we think about stability training and corrective exercise. How do we do that?

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Coach Johnny Rhodes shows some examples of how we can do this in building off our side planks.