It’s Monday. For the last 6 months you’ve had your eyes set on this day. Today is the day that you plan to finally hit the squat rack and smash a personal record of 405. The coveted 4 plates! You’re so excited that you actually greet your 7 A.M. alarm with a smile, but as soon as you go to stand up, you feel an unpleasant feeling in your lower back. You immediately reach for your night stand to help hold yourself up. Lumbago, also referred to as lower back pain, strikes at the absolute worst time.
Many people struggle with lower back pain throughout their lives. Some have it chronically, some have it from work and some have it from going too hard in the gym. Lower back pain is an absolute KILLER for those who are avid gym goers because almost every workout, in some shape or form, requires use of your lower back.
At times, lower back pain feels like the end of the world with no hope of recovery. But, with the right mindset, exercises, and perseverance; I believe that anyone can get a good workout in, no matter how much pain they’re in. In this article, I will be showing you how to exercise with lower back pain and help you prove to yourself that there is always a way!
Getting in the Right Mindset
Everything you do in life starts with the right mindset. Facing the gym with lower back pain is no different. You can wake up, feel that excruciating pain in your lower spine and quit right then and there. Crawl back into bed and have a terrible mood for the rest of the day. Cursing this, cursing that. Or, you can wake up, feel that same excruciating pain but instead of getting mad at the world, you can see it as another challenge that is there for you to overcome and become a better person because of it.
What I find helpful is doing some mediation for about 10 minutes in the morning and just trying to take my mind off of the pain and focus on what I have in store for the day. Studies show that the more you focus on something, the more prevalent it becomes in your life. Therefore, the more you focus on that nagging back pain, the more it will hurt and hinder you from doing what you want to do.
When you are able to take your mind off your lower back pain, an amazing thing happens. You feel better about yourself, not only because you stopped focusing on your back pain, but because you have overcome an obstacle that stops others dead in their tracks.
Exercises/Stretches for Lower Back Pain
Obviously, having a positive mindset isn’t going to fully cure a sore back. So, after you acquire the right mindset, there are many stretches and exercises you can do to help ease your pain.
My personal favorite is a movement I call the kick back lunge. You lay on your side with your legs straight out and you take your top leg and move it straight back as far as it can go horizontally. Then you raise it up as high as you can and hold it there for about 3 seconds. After the 3 seconds, you bring your knee diagonally down towards the ground bending your leg at the knee while doing so. Almost like you’re doing a high knee on the ground. After 5 reps of this, you flip over and repeat the process on your other side.
After doing this, you feel immediate relief from your lower back pain. It almost feels too good to be true. This workout works especially well before you perform a set at the gym. If you are about to hit a heavy set and don’t want to worry about lower back pain getting in the way, perform this stretch before the set and the pain will be nonexistent!
This doesn’t last, however, as this workout only stretches the tendons in your lower back for the time being. After they tighten up again, the pain starts to come back.
But, if you do this exercise three times a day, eventually you will strengthen those tendons in your lower back and your lower back will be far more resistant to pain!
Although it is almost impossible to do a lot of workouts with lower back pain, there are some alternative workouts that you can do that require minimal effort from your lower back.
For legs, most squat variations will be too harsh on your back but a great substitute workout that I’ve found is the Bulgarian split squat. This workout, when performed with a dumbbell in each hand, allows you to take tension off your lower back while really hitting all parts of your legs including the glutes, hamstrings and quads.
For upper body workouts, the lower back isn’t that much of a hindrance. But if you find that you are unable to perform an upper body workout, try to find a variation where you are able to sit down. For example, the standing military press can easily be done while sitting while using either a barbell or dumbbells. Same goes for many bicep, tricep and chest workouts.
On a day with low back pain, I find myself performing a lot of seated exercises.
Taking a Break
Some days, if it feels like nothing is going your way and you feel that even if you went to the gym you wouldn’t be able to give a full 100%, it’s OK to take the day off! Too many people stress over missing one day in the gym. The gym isn’t going anywhere. It is perfectly fine to take a day off every once in a while and, honestly, I recommend it because if you’re a loyal gym member like myself, your body deserves it! Even if you are just starting to workout, however, don’t be discouraged if you have to miss one day due to back pain.
The important thing to remember is to never make taking a day off a habit. Once you turn laziness into a habit, it is very hard to break.
It’s Your Choice
In conclusion, waking up with lower back pain doesn’t have to mean the end of the world. In fact, it can actually mean the opposite. It can mean that even through adversity, you are able to get done what needs to be done. It can give you a self-confidence boost that might actually help you, not only in the gym, but throughout the day.
A positive mindset, a little stretch here and there, performing alternative workouts and just taking a break every once in a while can be all you need to combat the infamous lower back pain that millions struggle with on a daily basis.
After all, it’s not the lower back pain that stops you, it’s you.
There’s always a way!