16 Jul Everyday Movements You Need to Know for Back Health
By Will Kuenzel
One of the core tenants with 10/20/Life is the idea of treating your body like an athlete 24/7. Thes tenants include training, recovery, nutrition, sleep, etc. Where that becomes difficult for some of us is how we move outside the gym. Our repeated actions start to catch up with us over time. Things that once didn’t cause problems before are now the problem. Wear and tear can eventually beat us down, and we don’t even know it.
You’re walking from your office to the conference room, and you drop your pen. How do you pick it up? Without even thinking about it you’ll instinctively bend at the back, keeping the legs relatively straight and reach down to get it. Doing this once might not be a big deal. Like a having one beer, or one doughnut. You’re probably not going to notice the difference. But when it happens more frequently and doesn’t stop? Slowly over the course of time, it starts to add up. Those beers or those doughnuts begin to add a little weight. Those movements we don’t think matter, can slowly over time begin to create a bit more wear and tear than we’d care to think about. Compound those little movements, with significant trauma and it really adds up. Statistically speaking, 31 million Americans experience low back pain at any given time. About 80% of Americans will have some form of lower back pain. That number of people is equivalent to the entire population of Canada!
The movements listed below are not an antidote to lower back pain, nor can I guarantee that they will completely prevent us from having episodes of lower back pain. They are simply a few alternatives to consider that might help reduce the constant wear and tear that could potentially lead to more issues.
The Single Leg Deadlift
I will typically use this movement to pick up something small like the pen mentioned in the example above. Weight is evenly distributed throughout the foot; hips hinge while one leg moves back. The primary hinge point is the at the hips. This helps to reduce movement through the spine and is the movement I prefer when picking items that are small, both in number and size.
I have two small daughters. I am routinely getting down on my hands and knees for playtime, talks that require me to be on their level, or just to pick up the insane messes that trail behind them. I have a callous on my knee from getting into this position often. I’ll utilize this when I know I have to be down close to the floor for an extended amount of time. Picking up twenty-five books is not easy. If I were doing it while standing and bent over, my lower back would be quite upset with me after about book ten. This enables me to gather up a handful of books into a stack and then I more easily pick them up with the next method.
“Lift with your legs, not your back” I know we’ve all heard this. While it’s true to a certain extent, the back does come into play to help hold our position. Hinging at the hips and sitting back on to the heels will allow a deep squat to get low enough to pick up most more massive or large objects. Similar to a deadlift or a squat, this would be the preferred method to pick up those things that are larger and heavier.
It’s impossible to account for every scenario in life. There will be times when our options for movement are incredibly limited. Trying to maneuver with an 8-month old strapped to your chest enlightens a person to some of these limited ranges of motion. When the options are available to us, we should consider what might have the least amount of wear and tear on the body. We’re only given one body. We need to take care of it over the long haul. It’s difficult to see how a small movement could have a significant impact, but it can happen when combined over and over, over time. The body is resilient but only up to a certain point. It is our responsibility to take care of it the best we can. Having the goal of moving like an athlete 24/7 brings the perspective that everything we do makes a difference. Every movement outside the gym is mindful as every movement inside the gym. Treat everything as if it weighed significantly more. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The fewer bumps in the road then, the fewer stops or detours we have to make on our journey through life with this body.
A back injury is seen by many as the ultimate career-ender. In truth, if handled properly, it is far from a death sentence. Follow the journey of international powerlifting champion Brian Carroll, who can attest to this first hand. This remarkable athlete went from 1100 lb squats and 800 lb deadlifts to unending pain and disability after a massive spinal compression injury. Pick up a copy of GOI here!