Are there bad exercises for your back?

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This week, we conducted a poll on our Instagram stories to gauge our followers’ opinions on whether certain exercises or movements pose a high risk of back injury or should be considered “bad for the back”. The results showed a nearly even split, highlighting a common debate in the fitness community. Both of the responses can be considered correct but context is needed. It’s essential to delve deeper into this topic.

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Consider the example of deadlifts, often labeled as harmful to the back. Let’s break it down:

1- Anatomy:

Our bodies are designed to bend forward and lift objects, a movement similar to deadlifting. However, individual anatomical differences and previous activity levels must be considered. Not everyone is built the same way or moves the same way. Mimicking a movement we see on a social media post may not be a great approach.

2- Individual Differences:

Not everyone’s anatomy is the same, and factors like previous injuries or declining physical activity levels can affect one’s ability to safely perform certain movements. People with inflamed hernias to the discs of their lower back may not feel too good about bending forward. Does this mean they never should?

3- Preparation:

Proper preparation is crucial. Starting with lighter weights and gradually progressing while focusing on technique and working on mobility limitations will reduce the risk of injury. Is it necessary for you though? Is it necessary (right now) for the person with an inflamed disc?

4- Risk-Benefit Ratio:

It’s essential to weigh the benefits of an exercise against the risks. Some individuals may benefit more from alternative exercises with lower risk that carry over well into their activities of daily life. Maybe it’s not worth it to do deadlifts and you can achieve the same result with a similar movement. However, do we want to avoid bending over altogether? Probably not.

Body awareness

Demonizing exercises can create fear and hinder progress. Pain signals a problem, but blaming the exercise is akin to blaming cooking for a kitchen accident. Let’s educate ourselves around how to cook safely and what tools we can use in the kitchen. Education is key.

Patients are often advised to avoid certain exercises without understanding why. Similarly, often recommending swimming for back pain without proper context overlooks individual needs and goals. The logic is often “swimming is still movement+ exercise and is low impact”. Great, but is swimming going to help me pick up my kid from the floor or get groceries out of the trunk of the car? Is it going to help me become more resilient or am I adopting it to replace something else out of fear?

Exercises as tools

Think of your body as a toolbox, with exercises as tools. Each tool serves a purpose and can be used effectively with guidance and practice. Just as a skilled craftsman selects the right tool, choosing suitable exercises tailored to your abilities and goals can improve overall health and function. With proper instruction, you can safely incorporate a variety of exercises to strengthen your body and enhance your well-being.

On our social media channels, we regularly share content about exercises and mobility techniques that can assist you. If you’d like personalized information tailored to your needs, don’t hesitate to schedule an evaluation by clicking here.

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