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Why Bodyweight Training Is TERRIBLE For Low Back Pain

I remember when I got my first personal training client that was suffering from low back pain. It was honestly super nerve wrecking because I was only 20 at the time (yea, not even old enough to legally drink but I was training people with pain, crazy right?!) and of course I didn’t want anyone else to know that I really didn’t know what I was doing.

Like a lot of young coaches I knew the basic muscles, some decent exercises, and how to create a nice foundational workout to get someone in good shape. However, as far as accomplishing fitness goals and dealing with an issue like low back pain was something I definitely didn’t feel comfortable with in my coaching.

low back pain

Whether or not a lot of coaches want to admit it or not, they typically lack confidence in working with people with chronic low back pain. I would even go as far as to say they are nervous and being honest, they should be! Chronic pain of any sort is a very challenging and multi-factorial problem that is experienced by everyone differently. Low back pain is one of the toughest because a flare up of pain can cause MAJOR issues in someone’s quality of life. That means if you accidentally cause someone to go into a flare up of pain you are really messing with their lives!

That’s why I understand SO many fitness pros are nervous and default to using bodyweight to work with clients with low back pain. The idea is often they can’t hurt someone if they aren’t literally placing any load on their body. While I can appreciate the thought, it is actually a HUGE problem in using bodyweight training for people with chronic low back pain.

How?!!!!!

In order to move well in bodyweight training exercises you have to already have good mobility and stability because there is nothing to give your body feedback and assistance. One of the big reasons people bend right over on a bodyweight squat, look like they are walking on a tightrope on a split squat or lunge, squat their hip hinges, and flail around on dead bugs and bird dogs is because they don’t have this important feedback or assistance.

Coach Cory Cripe shows how a client becomes SO much better in the split squat if they are able to use load in a very specific way to integrate better core stability. 

Bodyweight training is tremendous for workouts IF someone already knows how to move well because your body relies on what are called more reflexive stability methods. That means our nervous system knows how, how much, and when to create the most stability in a movement. You could imagine such qualities requires one to already have some good fitness in order to perform any bodyweight training exercise well.

Won’t loading someone with chronic low back pain only increase the chances we cause that flare up we wanted to avoid so badly? I TOTALLY appreciate the apprehension, but that implies we are using weight to challenge the movement pattern. In DVRT, something we teach a lot with tools like Ultimate Sandbags, kettlebells, bands, and more (because these tools do a great job of giving feedback in ALL different ways) is that they allow us to teach people HOW to create stability when they need it to produce better movement.

bodyweight training

None of the above exercises are “bad”, but for the individual they need the RIGHT type of feedback and all of a sudden they can create a great squat. 

Using tools to teach how to develop stability can be transformative because it takes SO much less time to teach people how to exercise better, but something also more important. That is exercise doesn’t have to hurt! Maybe the single BIGGEST reason that anyone with pain doesn’t want to exercise is they think that exercise HAS to hurt in order to be effective. Unfortunately, the message the fitness industry sends out overall does promote this very idea!

As ridiculous as the above may look to those in the industry we SHOULD be aware that is the perception by not just those with pain, but many who are looking to start an exercise program. If we can in a matter of MINUTES help them see that exercise doesn’t have to be painful, brutal, or anything of the sort to be effective, the impact we can have is the most powerful.

Physical therapist, Jessica Bento gives some great examples of how we implement these strategies for different movements. Each is done with great intention and progressively, but all with the purpose of providing feedback so the lifter has better control, movement, stability, and can benefit faster.

These are just some of the MANY ideas we will teach in our new DVRT Rx Low Back Online Course. You can find more about it HERE and email us at info@ultimatesandbagtraining.com with any questions. We are ONLY taking early bird sign-ups this week and it will start October 3rd.