I used to hate warming up and to be honest I still do. I hate “wasted” time and there is still a small part of me that feels like I am wasting my time when I could just jump right into my workout and get it done. I learned real fast, thats not the case when your dealing with back pain. There is never a case where a warm up is really not needed but if your dealing with back pain this has to become a priority. What I have done over the years is fine tune my warm up to really focus on a few important things that everyone should include. Today I want to give you my go to warm up for working out with back pain! Check it out.
When it comes to working out with back pain everything you do has to be considered before actually doing it. Are you squatting just because your friends are or is that what the guy you workout with thinks you should do? Before you even begin to consider what your going to do in the gym, you have to be laser focused on priming the body to be ready to take on the workout. This is where the warm up comes in. I have a very specific warm up that I like to follow that both relieves pressure in my lower back but also helps strengthen and add stiffness to my core to help with stability. When repairing a bad back through exercises, everything has to be calculated and consistency in the basics is monumental.
I want to share with you something that I have been working on improving for the past year. I tend to cycle different exercises every few months but they all cover the same bases as far as building core endurance and creating stiffness. Start doing this warm up circuit before every workout!
1st. Walk: 10-15 Minutes
A fast but controlled pace for 10-15 minutes before you start anything is excellent for getting the muscles surrounding the lower back and hips to fire aiding in stability and to prepare the area for the work you will do later in the workout. In some cases, depending on the person, you may need more time during that walk. I always suggest going off of how you feel through out your walk. You don’t want to walk for 15 minutes just because someone told you to. Make it a goal to hit 10 minutes. If you can make it without any pain or discomfort then next time increase the walk by 2 minutes. What you don’t want to do is work yourself into being in pain before you even start working out. Now, for some you may need more time to work out out some weekend kinks. I know for me I spent a good 2-3 hours building a box garden and shoveling compost this past weekend and my back was fried the next day. It was the constant flexion I was in while shoveling and getting the compost in the garden situated. If this sounds familiar for you then take a little more time to get the area warm and to relieve any knotted areas that could be causing the tension.
2nd. Alignment check:
I don’t spend a lot of time doing this but it’s something that I learned from seeing a sports chiropractor. He was big on getting my body aligned before other treatments such a trigger release or Graston. I don’t get adjusted before every workout nor do I believe that a simple adjustment can rid you of back pain but I like to use a foam roller and stability ball to align my spine and take it through a gentle cycle of extension. I simply use my body weight to make any adjustments needed. I do light rolls back and forth until I feel everything get in place. A big part of my issue is my muscles not being able to stabilize the L5-S1 area so the discs get out of position and cause inflammation. After I spend a minute or two on the ball or roller I can notice a difference in how the area feels from the subtle releases I get from doing it. For me personally a bad day at the gym can start before I even do anything. If I have been sitting for too long or have been bent over a lot during the day, I can feel a catch in my lower back that typically will release from rolling or hanging from a bar. It’s after this release I like to hit the core exercises hard so I can continue to build the stability the area needs while the spine is properly aligned. Keep in mind, I am not a chiropractor, this is a technique that I have used in the past and still to this day do when my back is giving me issues. Everything I use I have learned either from a professional in the field or self experimentation. Take everything at your own pace and listen to your body and what it’s telling you!
Go slow and allow your body to completely relax
Take deep full breaths while in motion
If it hurts stop.
You can do a similar roll on your belly if extension doesn’t help.
Prescription: 1-2 slow rolls back and forth. Optional belly roll as well.
Now I like to ignite by core for stability (natural exercise belt) for the rest of my workout.
So now that I have walked and aligned my spine I usually feel pretty good. From here I like to hit some basic core activation drills to further warm up my trunk and get the muscles in the area firing. The exercises I choose for this are usually anti-rotation exercises such as Pallof Press, Pallof Press Circles and the Baby Rolls. If done right these can really get you sweating and add lasting stiffness for your spine for the rest of your workout.
3rd. Pallof Presses
These can be done with a band or cable machine hook up. Key is to have a solid trunk contraction all the way into your lower belly and butt. Think tall shoulders and a neutral spine.
As the weight (your center of gravity) goes out in front of you, it’s going to require more and more core stability to keep you in a neutral position. Do slow and controlled reps with manageable weight. Remember this is a warm up.
Maintain a stable trunk
Head, chest and and hips should be inline
Prescription: 1-2 sets of 8 presses, facing both directions
4th. Pallof Press Circles:
This is a great way to add a little more work to the regular Pallof Press. The key to this is building endurance, NOT over all strength. So don’t go loading a bunch of weight on and seeing how many of these you can do. Start small and add just enough weight to be able to complete the task with perfect form. If it gets too easy adjust by 5-10 lbs and stay there until it becomes easy again. This is only a warm up so don’t try to wear yourself out doing these
Take normal breaths
Keep your head, chest and waste in line and tight
Only thing that should be moving is your arms and shoulders.
Prescription: Do 2 sets of 8-10 of circles both clockwise and counter clockwise, facing both directions.
5th. Baby Rolls:
You can do these in any open space. The hard part is learning proper body position and stiffness. You can even see me not staying as tight as I should with each roll. To do these right lock the arms, chest and trunk down along with a stiff butt and legs. Think of your body as one giant log that is just rolling back and forth. The goal is to accomplish these rolls without any twisting or rotating of the spine. You also want to make sure you are breathing during this exercise. Don’t Hold your breath!
Rock back and fourth slowly maintain control.
Hips should be inline with head and chest
Prescription: 2 sets of 10-12 rolls side to side
Boom! There it is!
Take the time every day to do this warm up and adjust to make it fit you perfectly. You can even use this warm up as an “off day” workout that hits the core. Get comfortable with this being done like clockwork. Master the movements and become obsessed with getting your warm up done. You will thank yourself in the long run.
Thanks for reading!
What is your go to warm up to help with your back pain? If it’s not listed above let me know below!