Sports / Orthopedic

Lower Back Pain from Lifting Weights: How to Stay Safe and Protect Yourself

Apr 10 2024

Do you ever get lower back pain from lifting weights? Weight training is a great way to build strength, improve fitness and enhance overall well-being. However, without proper technique and precautions, it can also pose risks, especially to the lower back.

The lower back is a vulnerable area prone to strain and injury, making it crucial to prioritize its protection during weight training sessions. Therefore, you’ll want to learn safe weight training practices and effective strategies to help you prevent back pain at the gym.

Why is lower back protection important?

The lower back, or lumbar spine, plays a crucial role in supporting your upper body, maintaining posture and facilitating various movements. Improper weight lifting techniques as well as excessive stress or strain can lead to pulled muscles, herniated discs or other debilitating injuries.

By incorporating safe weight training practices, you not only reduce the risk of injury but also optimize your workout effectiveness. A strong and healthy lower back enables you to perform exercises with proper form, lift heavier weights safely and achieve better overall fitness results.

Six ways to protect your lower back while weight lifting

1. Learn and practice proper form.

“Exercises can be a little more involved than you may think, and you need to focus on performing each one correctly,” Rob Caturano, a physical therapist at Mercy Health – Western Kentucky Orthopedic Rehabilitation and Therapy, shares. “For example, you should never lift with your back while keeping your knees straight. Instead, use your legs and keep your upper body in a neutral posture. Proper body placement ensures that you get the most out of each movement while protecting your body from injury.”

Rob continues, “Also, keep a weight close to your body while removing it from and putting it on a barbell. Avoid twisting with weights in your hands. Always do the footwork necessary to keep your feet and shoulders aligned. And when in doubt, consult a personal trainer or physical therapist about your form.”

2. Gradually increase weight and intensity.

Avoid the temptation to lift heavy weights beyond your current capabilities, especially if it compromises your form. Instead, gradually increase weight and intensity over time as your strength and technique improve. Progressive overload is key to building muscle and strength safely without placing undue stress on your lower back while avoiding pain from lifting.

Also, always listen to your body’s signals and avoid pushing through pain or discomfort, especially in the lower back area. If you are experiencing back pain or soreness persistently, it’s crucial to consult a health care professional or physiotherapist for proper evaluation and guidance.

3. Always, warm up and stretch.

A proper warm-up routine is essential to prepare your muscles, including those in the lower back, for intense weight training sessions. Incorporate dynamic stretches, mobility exercises and light cardiovascular activities to increase blood flow, loosen muscles and enhance joint flexibility.

Also, focus on stretching key muscle groups, such as the hamstrings, hip flexors and glutes, before starting your weight training routine. Dynamic movements, like leg swings, hip circles and torso twists, can help activate and prime the muscles for lifting exercises while reducing the risk of strain.

4. Strengthen core muscles.

A strong core provides crucial support and stability for your lower back during weight training movements. Incorporate targeted core exercises, such as planks, Russian twists and bird-dogs, into your workout routine to strengthen the abdominal, oblique and lower back muscles.

A well-developed core not only helps protect your lower back but also improves overall functional strength, posture and athletic performance. Include core strengthening exercises at least two to three times per week, focusing on proper form and gradual progression in difficulty.

5. Use proper equipment and accessories.

Utilizing appropriate equipment and accessories can further enhance lower back protection during weight training. First, invest in quality weightlifting belts. Wearing a belt can provide additional support and stability for the lower back during heavy lifts, such as squats and deadlifts.

Adjustable benches, stability balls and resistance bands are also valuable tools for targeting specific muscle groups while minimizing strain on the lower back. Ensure that gym equipment is set up correctly and adjusted to your body proportions to maintain proper alignment and reduce injury risk.

6. Listen to your body and rest.

Understanding your body’s limits and respecting its signals is crucial for long-term health and injury prevention. Pay attention to any signs of fatigue, discomfort or pain, especially in the lower back region, during and after workouts.

Allow adequate rest and recovery between weight training sessions to give your muscles, including those in the lower back, time to repair and rebuild. Also, incorporate active recovery activities, such as light stretching, yoga or low-impact cardio, on rest days to promote circulation, flexibility and overall recovery as well as reduce pain.

Lower back pain from lifting weights is something you can hopefully avoid when following the tips above. However, if you do experience pain, it is important to see a health care professional to come up with the best treatment plan for you and your body.

Learn about the sports medicine and orthopedics services we provide at Mercy Health.  

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