Back Exercises

The Good, Bad, and Ugly When Training With a Bad Back

We show you the moves to avoid, and those to perform to strengthen your back muscles.


5 Things Guaranteed to Lead to Injury During a Workout

We need healthy back muscles to squat, to press, to pull, to push. And for anyone who’s been sidelined by a back injury, you know how important proper back rehab exercises are. Even if you’ve never had back trouble, it’s never too soon to adopt a spine-sparing core and back routine to prevent future trouble.  

SEE ALSO: 3 Tips to Get Rid of Back Pain

Dr. Stuart McGill, professor of Spine Biomechanics at the University of Waterloo, in Waterloo, Ontario, has devoted his career to researching and developing the safest and most effective core exercises to address low-back pain. McGill has rehabbed the backs of some of the world’s greatest athletes, taking them from immobilizing pain to pain-free performance. 

Unfortunately, too many lifters are performing exercises they are led to believe are good for the back, when in reality, they can actually contribute to new or recurring lower-back pain. What are they? According to McGill, these four rank as some of the most troublesome movements that should be avoided.

The bad

1. Swiss ball crunch: Similar to the movement pattern of the ab crunch machine, the Swiss ball crunch places the same compressive load on the low back with the added risk for disc injury.

2. The ab crunch machine: This motion pulls your back into flexion, placing substantial compressive force on the low spine. Performed repeatedly, this exercise increases the likelihood of disc problems.

3. The torso rotational machine: Repeated side-to-side twisting around the waist wears down the outer layer of the disc. This heightens the risk of the gel-like substance inside the disc to seep out and rub against the spinal nerve causing substantial pain in the low back.  

4. The “Superman” movement, which targets the muscles that run the length of the back, imposes a nasty 1,400 lbs of pressure on the hyperextended spine, making it an especially problematic exercise for anyone, with or without back trouble, to perform.

To counter these risky movements, McGill has developed his signature “Big Three” exercises that keep the spine in a neutral position, eliminating compression on the low back and reducing the possibility of injury.

See 'The Good' moves on next page.

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