Is Your Workout Causing Low Back Pain?

Here’s a functional lesson on working out effectively, myth busting fat loss remedies, and healthy advice for back pain sufferers. Statistics show that 4 out of 5 of you reading this will benefit from this information! Enjoy!

— Dr. P

Written by Dr. Joe Mondoux (visit his Facebook Page frequently for updates)

Do you ever see people in the gym holding a dumbbell by their side and bending to either side? (Like the picture below)

Maybe that person is you?

Have you been told that this is a good way to work your obliques or “love handles” and help manage low back pain?

Unfortunately this is not the case and this may even be causing your low back pain. Don’t have any? Well, keep doing these and more than likely you will!

The myth of “spot reduction” has long been busted, which is the idea that you can work out a certain part of your body, such as your “love handles” and you will decrease fat around the area. This right here should be a hint that doing this exercise will not make your “love handles” any more lovable.

What you are actually doing in this exercise is working a very large and deep muscle that runs along either side of your spine called the quadratus lumborum (depicted here).

These muscles are the primary lateral flexor of the lower spine and has a propensity to become short and tight in most individuals. When this muscle becomes short and tight it compresses the lumbar spine which can then lead to low back pain. What is happening when we target this muscle with those dumbbell lateral bends? We are making this muscle even shorter and tighter — which does what? You guessed it, compresses the lumbar spine further and leads to low back pain.

Now I don’t want you to think that you should not train this muscle and that if you have been doing these lateral bends that you are a fool — far from it. This is a very important muscle when it comes to core strength and stabilization and when you only have so many tools in your toolbox there is only so much you can do. Therefore, I want to give you some more tools so you can work this muscle more effectively, target those oblique muscles properly, decrease your chance of developing/worsening low back pain, and build your exercise repertoire.

A great exercise to target those “love handles” is the kneeling cross-body chop (below). This exercise targets the oblique muscles as their main motion is rotation NOT lateral flexion. Exercises such as this will also work the quadratus lumborum, however they will train them in a way that will not overly shorten or tighten them.

Furthermore, this action mimics more common and realistic movements as opposed to bending to your side with a load. This is called functional training, which means we train the muscles in ways they are meant to move and move our bodies in ways that we were designed to move.

This will strengthen those muscles targeted but still will not decrease the fat deposition in the area. The only true way to decrease this and eliminate those love handles once and for all is to include more cardio into your workout and alter your diet (another topic of conversation).

There is nothing wrong with training to build size and look bigger, there is however something wrong with training muscles for size that don’t need it, which can actually have negative outcomes. Try switching out the dumbbell lateral bend for a more functional movement such as the kneeling cross-body chop. Your body will thank you, and you will be better off for it!

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