If hitting the gym is on your to-do list this year, then you may be ready for some heavy lifting. You may already know to bend your knees to lift with ease, but you also need to keep your back straight!
Studies show that the most common injuries among weightlifters are to the spine, shoulders and knees. A neutral spine — with 3 natural curves in your neck, upper back and lower back — will protect you from these injuries. When held steady, it is the safest and strongest position for the spine.
The easiest way to find your neutral spine position is to stand tall with your back against the wall, touching the wall with your head, upper back and tailbone. Ideally, you should be able to fit your fingers between the wall and your lower back while keeping all three touch points against the wall.
Now, just because your spine is lined up doesn’t mean your workout can’t have range. Here are three excellent exercises that can lead to back injuries if you don’t maintain good form. Follow these tips to avoid the ache!
There are few exercises that work as many muscles as a squat does. They target the muscles in your lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps and can even involve your calves, shoulders, and core.
The key to injury prevention while performing this exercise is to avoid rounding your lower back.
Keep your chest up, bend your knees, and reach back with your glutes as if you were sitting in a chair. This will preserve your spine’s natural curve.
The deadlift is a double-edged sword. When done properly, it is one of the best exercises to build a strong back. But when done incorrectly, it can cause lower back injuries. If you keep your lower back neutral and the bar close to you, you’ll strengthen the muscles around your spine, avoiding possible injuries.
Before you begin, you should know that hip hinging is the key to success when deadlifting. The hip hinge involves bending forward at the hips while maintaining a neutral spine. Imagine there’s a wall a couple of feet behind you and try to touch your glutes to it. This forces you to hinge at your hips instead of overusing your knees. Remember to lift your chest – it’s the easiest way to make sure you’re not hunched over or rounding your back.
This exercise is perfect for overcoming the negative effects of sitting — it’s like putting WD-40 on your joints! It’s also a great way to teach proper technique for hip hinging, which is crucial for both squats and deadlifts.
The best way to avoid injury is to maintain a neutral spine and only swing the kettlebell as far up as shoulder level. Some exercises (e.g. a kettlebell snatch) will have you swing higher than your shoulders, but keeping it at shoulder height makes it easier to keep your spine in neutral position. If you swing any higher it can also be difficult to avoid shrugging, which can lead to shoulder issues.