Building upon the last question, when is the last time you hurt your back intentionally? I'm going to go ahead and guess that for many of you, the answer to this question is never or not recently. I don't mean when is the last time you hurt your back as in intentionally injured yourself. I'm saying when is the last time you straight up went to war in the weight room and made a solid effort to train, strengthen and bulletproof your back muscles. If you don't know when that time was, then perhaps you deserve all of the aches, pains and injuries you sustain with mundane little tasks like picking up a grocery bag to get out your crap food that you don't need or the crap food that you think is good for you because some garbage magazine said that it was but it really isn't and is in fact, in all reality, crap.
Now, before going further, let me make it perfectly clear that hip mobility and stability, glute function, abdominal endurance and stability, lumbopelvic stability, proper movement patterns, good thoracic spine mobility and solid control all around the pelvis and spine is of huge importance and should always be developed for optimal back health. McGill's stuff, Sahrmann's stuff and all of the movement impairment and corrective stuff out there is all awesome and needs to be addressed. What I am going to write about today is something that, at least in my eyes, you don't hear a whole lot about anymore. Actually training the heck out of your low and mid back and developing bulletproof muscular support, strength and endurance all around your spine and back region. There are tons of muscles to be developed and while glute work, abdominal work, etc. are all important, the back needs to be trained and trained hard. It seems to me that many have almost become scared to train their back because of all of the info that is now out there about stability, hip function, etc. Iliocostalis, longissimus, spinalis, multifidus, rotatores, semispinalis, quadratus lumborum, lats, trapezius and even the deep little intertransversarii and interspinalis muscles make up just a general summary of the many muscles that make up the lower region of the back (many of which continue up into the rest of the back on up into the neck). Want to be freakishly strong? Better train these muscles. Want to get big and muscular? Better train these muscles. Want to get lots of chicks (or, umm, good looking guys)? Better train these muscles. Want to prevent unnecessary episodes of back pain? Better train these muscles.
More commonly than should occur, I have clients “alert” me that their backs hurt or were sore after certain workouts. Now, “pain” as in bad pain that occurs from a tear or passive tissue injury is not something we want and if this is in fact occurring, the program needs to be modified for that individual or you need to learn how to use proper form. However, muscular soreness from training hard with solid exercises like deadlifts, back extensions, reverse hypers and good mornings is something that we need to push through with. Now, if your back is completely torched all the time and you don't feel much in your glutes or hamstrings, then you should probably reevaluate your technique or program. But if your back is sore or hurting sometimes after a hard training session, then maybe your building up some tolerance in those tissues where it needs to be built up. Maybe your toughening those tissues up so that next time you want to pick up that bag of groceries or carry that piece of equipment across the yard, you won't curl over and use three forms of the “f” word. Because when it comes down to it, if you never train those muscles and tissues and are afraid to put some positive stress through those muscles and tissues, when you do put some unexpected stress through them, you can easily run into problems.
If you look at some stuff out there by guys like Louie Simmons and Chuck Vogelpohl, some of the strongest men to ever walk the planet, they even go as far as to say you should do some exercises with a “bad” or rounded back position to build some tolerance in the tissues so that if you do catch yourself in that position, nothing “bad” will happen. When I worked at a corporate wellness center in La Crosse, my boss at the time, Cori Cripe had general population clients do some exercises with “natural” form (which often was not textbook like) so that if they found themselves in a bad position in a real life situation, their body would be prepared for it. I think that this is an interesting concept because while we can train proper body mechanics as much as possible, there will usually be some odd situation where we might not be able to use picture perfect form. Look at some strongman activities or warehouse jobs. While I don't think doing tons of sets and reps with “less than perfect” positioning is a good idea and that people absolutely need to learn and train with proper mechanics first and foremost, I think this idea has some value for certain people. The main point that I am getting at is that we can't be afraid to train the low/mid back and put it through some work.
Deadlift heavy, do your back extensions, perform reverse hypers, do good mornings all morning, row and pull heavy, swing plenty of kettebells and do things like these until you have some nice steaks on each side of your spine. (Of course learn proper form and use good hip drive w/ a good back position) Train each side and get the deeper fibers with side holds, side bridges, cable chops, heavy carries and windmills. Get a little dirty with it. Build a fortress. Get rolling. Have a little soreness? Good!! Get stronger. Build some endurance in those fibers (research shows back extensor endurance is a huge part of preventing back issues). The more tolerance you have in the wide array of tissues back there, the easier everyday activites will be, the stronger your body will be as a whole, the more muscle you will build and the more members of the opposite sex you will attract. A strong, endurable, muscular and well developed back is the cornerstone of a fit and strong body (talking mainly about low/mid back in this article but upper is just as important; i.e. do your rows and face pulls:). That goes for males and females. While pecs, arms and abs get all the attention in many “circles,” the back is where its truly at. It is the base for everything else. So train it and reap the rewards.