Thursday, April 15, 2021

My prophylactic back exercise routine

I wrote the original of this post in the early COVID era. Since then I expanded the basement home gym with a way over-specced power lifting squat rack and a full Olympic spec weight set (what I could find, more than I wanted).  I also ran into some minor back strains, perhaps due to on/off COVID CrossFit and more of the age and arthritis annoyances. Between those two developments I've expanded my pre-lifting warmup. I still do the morning stretches and (on non-lifting days) the evening Roman chair, but if I'm lifting I have a more extensive warmup now:
  • Roman Chair 10 reps
  • Inchworm toe touch to push-up then Up/Down dog 5 reps
  • Tuck 20 reps
  • 1 arm lateral planks 40 sec each side followed by 5 lateral dips
  • Touch toes with rounded back and slow roll-up
  • Bar hang knee/hip rotation 40 reps (Hang from bar, trace figure 8 with knees while flex or extend hips.) 
  • Tuck 20 reps
  • Roman Chair 10 rep with two 15 lb dumbbells held in 90 degree reverse curl
  • Romanian Deadlift (RDL) with 15lb dumbbells x 10
  • Roman Chair 10 rep with two 25 lb dumbbells held in 90 degree reverse curl
  • Romanian Deadlift (RDL) with 25lb dumbbells x 10
  • RDL with 95 lb barbell x10
  • Tucks
  • RDL with 115 lb barbell x 10
  • Tucks
  • RDL with 135 lb barbell x 15
  • Tucks
  • RDL with 145 lb barbell x 10
 The Roman Chair is a 10yo StrengthTrainer ST45.

Then the workout. 

In the morning, for over 12 years I do these stretches every morning before I get out of bed, I got them from Physicians Neck and Back Clinic in Roseville MN (click for full size):

I don't bother with the wall lean stretch in morning (see below) and I combine the standing thigh stretch with a freestanding balance exercise of pivoting forward to stretch hamstring.

Editorial comments from 5/24/20

My experience as a physician who treats people with back pain and as someone who has had some success with the problem is that nobody wants to hear that fitness is (almost!) the only fix. I get it, twenty years ago I also thought of this is an unfixable problem too, but at least since 2009 this has been common knowledge. The surprising bit is how much exercise it takes.

My back isn't bulletproof. I've had several episodes of back pain over the past 12 years. The most worrisome was seven months ago and was probably an L5/S1 disc prolapse. That took 6 weeks to mostly heal with diligent exercise and 10 weeks before I could set new CrossFit personal weight lifting records. I think I have some residual left foot extensor weakness (had to switch from low support CrossFit shoes to real running shoes for runs). On the other hand I play ice hockey, do CrossFit Olympic lifts, and basically expect a lot out of a crummy old back.

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