Self-Maintenance for Your Body
When I was 5 years old, I fell off of my bike and injured my back. The Dr. said that it was probably a pulled muscle and he sent my parents and me home without much information. That was the beginning of a lifetime of struggles with back issues. Throughout the rest of my childhood, into my teen years, and beyond, I’ve been plagued with back issues. At the age of 21, I was working as a foreman at a factory when I sustained a herniated disc in my L5-S1 region. That derailed so many things in my life. I couldn’t play sports or work out as hard as I normally did. As any naïve 21 year old would do, I declined physical therapy but took the pills that my doctor prescribed, and the issue kind of resolved itself and I went back to my normal activities. As the years went by, I’d have flare-ups every once in a while, but I was usually able to bounce back relatively quickly with lots of anti-inflammatories and a bit of rest.
About four years ago, I really got into powerlifting and wanted to compete. The problem was that every time I started to gain a lot of strength in my squats, bench presses, and deadlifts, I’d end up straining my back. I’d be 3 weeks out from competing in a meet and I’d have to withdraw due to back spasms. For a while, I just thought that it was a sport that placed too much demand on someone with a bad back and I considered giving it up. The problem with my personality is that I am very competitive. I can’t just go into the gym and work out. I need a reason to do what I do. There is a constant need to be better than the person I was yesterday in everything that I do.
I began to comb the internet to figure out what I needed to do to keep my back healthy. The problem is that there are a lot of “experts” and “coaches” out there who are willing to share their “knowledge” with you, so be wary. When I started to analyze why my back hurt all of the time, I realized that my hip flexors were extremely tight. If you have tight hip flexors, they will pull your torso forward constantly and the back takes all of the pressure from this. That’s why a lot of my clients who work at desk jobs have low back pain. Sitting in a chair all day will cause your hip flexors to be tight. The same can also be said about tight hamstrings, quads, IT band, piriformis, etc. Do you notice the trend that any tight muscle in the lower half of your body will probably cause back pain?
This past April, I finally returned to the platform and competed in a powerlifting meet, winning my weight class. I was able to stay relatively healthy through a lot of self-maintenance. Just like a car needs a top-off in fluids or routine maintenance, so does the human body. I put a lot of emphasis on flexibility, mobility, and soft tissue work. This keeps my back mostly in check. I follow a protocol that involves the use of a foam roller, soft tissue release with a lacrosse ball, and a lot of stretching and flexibility. I perform this up to three times a day, especially in the morning and before I work out. It takes about ten minutes to do this and believe me, it’s worth it! I also bought an inversion table to help decompress my spine and allow it to draw in water. Strengthening the core is also crucial as the muscles in the core include the low back and its supporting cast in the oblique muscles as well as the abs. I’ve also grown smarter during my training as a 32 year old versus when I was a bulletproof 21 year old. Listening to my body has helped tremendously. If I’m feeling overly sore, I’ll tone my workout intensity down or give myself another day of rest. A 12 week injury derails a lot more progress than taking an additional day off.
Here are some of my most reliable resources:
As I researched, I found that there are a lot of powerlifters and Olympic lifters out there that have the same back issues or even worse issues than I have. I have two primary go-to people whose advice I follow. My first go-to person is Dr. Kelly Starrett. Kelly is a physical therapist who works with tons of athletes around the world to help with mobility. He has a channel on YouTube called “Mobility wod”, where he shares tons of knowledge regarding self-maintenance. He also has a book titled “Becoming a Supple Leopard”, which has helped me tremendously with injury prevention as well as taking care of lingering pain. My second go-to person is Joe DeFranco. Joe is a world renowned strength coach who works with many professional athletes. Joe has a protocol called the Agile 8, which I perform up to three times a day. It helps me loosen up, and take care of soft tissue that can be a bit inflamed from some of the crazy stuff I do. I urge you to check out both of these individuals as they are willing to share a wealth of knowledge.
Try to incorporate flexibility and foam rolling into your training. You’ll be glad you did. I promise. Try out a yoga class at our facility. It will have you feeling relaxed and will help mobility! If you have any questions, feel free to ask me how to use the foam rollers and other techniques that I discussed.
Yours in Health