Strength Wins Again

Last night I had a conversation with someone who had been experiencing chronic low-back pain for years. After several injections to help relieve the pain, she was told that her only option moving forward would be to undergo several procedures involving nerve manipulation, if she wanted to resolve the issue.

Needless to say, she did not like the sound of having to resort to this course of action.

Instead of doing more of what she was already doing, she identified some lifestyle changes that could be made and started heading in a different direction.

She started eating better and she started doing some true strength training.

She didn’t start doing 5lb. dumbbell curls while standing on a BOSU ball.

She didn’t start doing karate kick burpees.

She didn’t start doing twirly-do-dah twisty planks.

She started training movements that build total body strength.

If you have ever experienced low-back pain, you may gasp when you read that she started doing deadlifts.

She started to squat.

She was bench pressing and pressing overhead.

She spent time building a stronger upper back and midsection.

She didn’t do what many do - avoid things that involved her lower back altogether.

She actually did quite the opposite. She directly attacked her lower back with movement, working to strengthen and mobilize local tissues.

She familiarized proper positions.

She spent more time on her feet, and less time sitting.

She pushed for heavier and heavier weights.

She pushed for more and more repetitions.

Over the course of the several months she has given a strength training program an honest chance to do its work, she has noticed vast improvements taking place.

During our discussion last night, she reported to me that she no longer expects to need to go under the knife, and hopefully will never have to get an injection again.

Now that is a real, meaningful result!

I have written about how important it is to build, and then to retain your strength.

When you get stronger, any goals you are after become more reachable. Strength should always be the foundation.

I am very proud of this person. She has worked so hard and has had 100% trust in the powerful process of getting stronger the whole way. It’s amazing what a strong body will do for you!

Warming Up, Stretching, and Mobility

How much time do you spend warming up for your workout? How much time do you spend on stretching and mobility? Personally, I bet I spend 5 minutes or less on this kind of stuff most days.

Who really wants to spend a significant amount of their workout time preparing to work out?

I say just get on with it.

Of course, there are times when it is appropriate to prepare to work out by spending more time on warming up, stretching and mobility. But if on most days you need 10 minutes to do a general warm up and follow that up with another 10 minutes of soft tissue work or mobility work, I think you are probably wasting your time. Actually, I tend to believe that if you cannot have yourself ready to go in around 5 minutes, you may want to evaluate some things in your life, one of them being your training program.

This isn't to say that I am recommending that you jump into your workout completely cold either. For me, the absolute best way to warm up and prepare my body for a lifting session is to simply start doing the main movement of the session right away.

As an example, this is a typical protocol* I would follow for a squat-heavy workout...

  1. (A couple sets of) sitting in a very deep squat for 30-ish seconds, leaning and bouncing around to produce more stretch in different areas.
  2. (A couple sets of) 5-10 bodyweight squats
  3. (A set of)  sitting in a very deep squat for 30-ish seconds, leaning and bouncing around, this time with an empty bar.
  4. (A set or two of) 5-10 squats with the empty bar.

*I would likely do some ab work or different light intensity exercises amongst all of this. 

Then I would begin to work up to the weight I plan to use for my first working set. Do a set, add some weight, do a set, and continue this until I reach the weight for working set #1. "Working up" is something you should always do anyway. It allows you to practice and groove into the movement you are training while using very sub-maximal loads. By the time you get up to your working weight, you will be plenty warmed up and acclimated to safely handle heavier loads.

My overall recommendation is to get on with doing the movement(s) that are on the menu for the session right off the bat. Don't waste so much time doing pointless things you read you should be doing in a magazine.