Thursday, June 19, 2008

Thoughts on Back Health

Those who think of hypertrophy around the lumbar spine as a marker of back health or view it as a training goal are misguided. Absolute spinal erector strength doesn't necessarily protect your back from anything; skilled movement patterns are more likely to do that. Back health (from a sagittal plane standpoint) is about control of torso orientation and alignment, while moving within the context of gravity. It is about understanding the difference between spine flexion/extension and hip flexion/extension. It is about limiting shear, torque and compressive forces over time, while maximizing strength and mobility of the lower extremities. Back health starts from the ground up, not in the back musculature.

4 comments:

climber511 said...

What are your thoughts on flexibility (or lack of) - especially in the hamstrings and hip musculature as it affects lower spine health and movement?

whatupdun said...

This may be a silly question, but I'm curious nonetheless:

Two people had identical "understanding the difference between spine flexion/extension and hip flexion/extension . . . [ability to limit] shear, torque and compressive forces over time, while maximizing strength and mobility of the lower extremities" would a person with greater posterior muscle mass be at an advantage compared to someone with less mass? Another possibly silly question is at what point could the extra mass be less advantageous if the quoted qualities were exceptional?

The Iron Maven said...

Hip mobility, or lack thereof, profoundly affects lower spine health over time. Excess spine movement and loading due to hip immobility is, in my opinion, a primary cause of back pain and dysfunction.

The Iron Maven said...

Mass isn't necessarily indicative of functional strength (isometric or concentric), control or coordination, so I think it is hard to say that more mass could confer an advantage, particularly with regard to the posterior torso muscles. It could be a disadvantage if normal segmental movement is limited with specific movement skills. It is unlikely to be a disadvantage with pure lifting tasks, but I don't think it necessarily confers an advantage; it just means that person gains mass more readily.