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Strength Training With Back Pain – Is It Still Possible ?

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Strength training is important for your own health and fitness mainly because it helps replace the muscle you lose as you grow older. And YES….you can safely participate in and benefit from strength training even if you suffer from back and/or neck pain !

Your individualized training program will vary depending on any existing back or neck injury, severity of symptoms and overall fitness level. The key to success is slow deliberate progression that involves your whole body while emphasizing the core muscles surrounding and supporting your back.

back pain

It is very important to consult your health care provider/doctor prior to starting a strength training program especially if you have existing back pain or other health care concerns. If you have recently suffered from an injury to your back or neck then it’s important to have a physician or physical therapist oversee your physical activities.

Strength Training Is Highly Recommended For People Who Suffer With Back Pain

Benefits include:

  • Increased muscle tone that provides strong support and stabilization for your spine
  • Emphasis on maintaining correct posture and good body mechanics improving balance and coordination
  • Strengthens bone density offering protection against osteoporosis that can lead to spinal compression fracture
  • Helps to build a stronger heart, improve blood blow and decrease your blood pressure
  • Decreases the likelihood of future back injuries

The Science Behind Strength Training

Many people are not aware that strength training works to strengthen muscle by first causing microscopic damage or tears to the muscle cells, which are then quickly and naturally repaired by the body to help them regenerate and grow stronger. If you’ve ever felt sore after a workout, you have experienced this localized muscle damage caused by your body releasing the inflammatory molecules and immune system cells necessary to heal.

For this muscle breakdown and subsequent growth to occur you need to stress your muscles by forcing them to work in ways that are different than what they have already adapted to. This can be done by lifting progressively heavier weights or by continually changing your exercise routine to involve different and more muscle fibers.

muscle growth

Your muscles heal and grow while you are resting after your workout. They need adequate time to rest and the right type of nutrition to heal. Strengthening exercises (for the same muscle group) should not be done on consecutive days, every second or third day would be the most optimal and taking days off will give your body the necessary time to recover.

Types Of Strength Training

  • Weight Lifting – The use of free weights is a relatively straightforward and widely available method to build strength. Remember to start light, focus on your technique & add weight slowly and systematically. If you’re new to weightlifting, especially if you’re weight lifting with back pain, I would recommend doing some research on proper form and to start out with a personal trainer if possible. Start with a weight that lets you do 8-12 repetitions with good form where you might struggle with the last 2 reps. It’s always recommended to have someone spot you when doing compound movements to prevent reinjuring your back or anything else and you certainly won’t benefit from choosing a weight that’s too heavy. Remember the importance of posture – Tighten your abdominal muscles while you lift so they support and help keep your spine straight. Give yourself a stable and strong base by spreading your feet apart a few inches while keeping a slight bend at your knees.
  • Body-weight Exercises – Exercises that can be performed without any special equipment or facilities making them the ideal home exercise strength training program. Pull-ups, Chin-ups, Push-ups, etc force you to use your own body-weight as resistance. Just like weight lifting, it’s important to start slow and progress gradually.
  • Machines – The use of strengthening machines that balance the weight for you making them easier, but less effective than free weights or body-weight exercises. If you are able to hold a seated position without pain, the controlled motion of weight machines will allow you to exercise without a spotter or the risk and balance requirements of free weights.

gym machines

Before you start with any strength training program it’s important to warm up your muscles first. A good warm-up can include 10 minutes of walking fast on a treadmill, riding a stationary bike, or using a cross-trainer. During strength training try to focus on your breathing and never hold your breath. Exhale through your mouth when you lift the weight or engage your muscles and inhale when you lower the weight or relax your muscles. Additionally, try not to rest for longer than 2 minutes inbetween each set if your goal is muscle hypertrophy.

If you feel any bad pain, stop what you’re doing and rest. If the pain doesn’t subside within a day or two, talk to your doctor.

Have you ever tried strength training with back pain or any other injuries ? did it help or not ? Let us know down below in the comments !

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