Imagine for a moment a tree that just takes your breath away …
Without strong and connected roots; the trunk of the tree will have trouble withstanding the slightest of winds.
Your body is a lot like the structure of the tree you just imagined:
- Your spine is like the trunk
- And your lower body is like the roots
Have you had chiro, physio, osteo, massage and more; and still your lower back pain keeps creeping back?
You know life’s less joyful when your back is always whining at you and you don’t want to keep going back to the chiro with that same old issue, so I’m going to share with you my story of how developing my roots helped me finally get long-term back pain relief.
You’ll learn about:
- Overuse habits and how they can cause lower back pain.
- Why you must improve your observation skills for better back pain relief success.
- Why your back is often not the deeper issue causing you pain.
After 10 years as a fitness professional, I had lower back pain too!
Hi, My name is Markus and I’m from Austria.
I’ve been working as a fitness professional for nearly 10 years now.
- I did a lot of education and workshops from Kettlebell instructor to Bodyweight Trainer.
- I followed a lot of training programs and exercise regimes myself.
- I did many of the mobility, stability and flexibility programs out there.
- I lifted really heavy stuff (Deadlift with 2.5 BW, Back Squat with 2 BW, Chin up with 0,6 BW)
- I thought I was pretty flexible, because touching my flat hand on the floor, and performing a deep squat position was never a problem for me.
But deep down, my body didn’t feel good …
When I had trouble finding answers to these issues with myself and my clients, I had to ask myself …
What was going wrong? Did I learn the wrong stuff? Am I a bad coach?
But all this changed when I found Benny Fergusson and the Movement Monk practice.
Since I’ve been a Movement Monk student, a major skill Benny has been teaching me is to become a more attuned, less judgemental observer of my body.
I’ve observed one contributor to lower back pain that I didn’t notice before, that was staring me right in the face all along …
Lower Back Overuse Habits
As your lower back intersects with the centre of your body, it’s involved in nearly every movement that you do throughout the day, whether it be at the gym or walking down the street.
The question is:
- Are you over using your back while you’re doing these movements?
- And is this habit of overuse causing your body to give you signals of pain, so you’ll do something differently?
If your lower back is stuck in a habit of overuse, it may be generating force, instead of transferring it around your body.
Lower Back Pain Relief and Force Generation
In my observations over the last 6 months I noticed with myself and a lot of clients, that it is very common to use the lower back to primarily generate force instead of to transfer force.
When you look at it from a physics perspective, it doesn’t make much sense that a small area like your lower back should be used to generate high amounts of force and do all your heavy lifting. Especially with such strong areas of the body like the hips being so nearby.
This video will give you a visual as to how small the lower back is in comparison to the hips.
Your lower back and the whole spine works most effectively and efficiently, and is less likely to give you the signal of pain, when you can transfer force from your feet to your hands (and vice versa), without restriction.
This principle is demonstrated so beautifully by dogs.
Notice how force flows through the body so easily. Imagine how this dogs back would move if it had weakness, or tightness around its hips.
However, in the case of many people I observe who regularly experience lower back pain; It is very difficult to fluidly transfer force through the body, if your hips and lower body are overly weak and flaccid, or strong and rigid.
And this isn’t just common in sedentary people.
Often the fittest and strongest people have the biggest structural imbalances around their hips.
If you’ve focused your training around strengthening big surface muscles from squats, deadlifts and lunges, and not working on your deep postural muscles around your hips and spine; It can create blockages to natural, connected movement and increase the chance that you are using your lower back to generate force during nearly every exercise!
I know what this is like …
After years of strength training; I piled muscle and strength on top of deep structural imbalances. This caused tension to build up in my lower back over time, and made me feel vulnerable when moving outside of my comfort zone.
To undo and release my lower back overuse habits, so force could flow through my body better; I practiced re-building my roots.
A body without strong roots, is akin to building your house with its foundations planted in sand.
Strong and Mobile Lower Body Roots = Tension Free Lower Back
As we’ve established so far; When your lower body roots are not well developed it can cause a chain reaction, leading to tension in your lower back and many other areas in your upper body.
Here’s a visual to help you understand this movement principle further:
To develop strong and mobile lower body roots, it’s not just as simple as doing pistol squats or lifting weights.
You need to learn to let go of the tension in your upper body and allow the weight to sink and relax into your lower body. This is when the strengthening process begins.
Here’s an example in this video:
While the type of lower body exercises you do is important, the most important factor in your progress is the level of mindful awareness you practice while you’re doing them.
However, not all exercises are created equal, which you’ll learn about at the end of this article …
Mindful Movement for More Efficient Lower Back Use
Moving with a mindful intent is a great way to become aware of, and gradually release; habits of rigidity (unconscious contraction), and flaccidity (unconscious collapsing) when you’re moving your body.
As you practice moving your body more mindfully; over time you learn how to more seamlessly connect your body and mind, so you can let go of tension causing habits that can pull your back out of alignment.
To be mindful is to pay attention, and be fully present, to how you’re interacting with yourself and the world around you.
You’ve got to keep one eye on your body and mind at all times.
Practicing movement without mindfulness, is like driving your car with the hand brake on … Sure you can move, but eventually something will break.
Mindful movement is a way to cultivate a space within yourself. A space that’s free of labels and judgement. A space that allows newness to fill the way you experience your body in each unfolding moment.
This sounds really easy, but for most people it can be a very hard task in the beginning.
Here’s some mindful movement tips so you can move better, without your lower back doing all the work:
- Centre Yourself: Before every exercise, take a few deep breaths deep into your lungs, whilst expanding your diaphragm and your lower torso. Become aware of your whole body and how it’s centred and aligned in each unfolding moment.
- Relax Your Pelvis: Let your pelvis (hips) sink down, and do your best to elongate your lower spine; but don’t tense your glutes up.
- Soften Your Chest: Allow your chest to sink, soften and relax, without collapsing your spinal alignment. Be mindful of not lifting your chest up or sticking it out; this will help you to relax your lower spine and straighten it a little bit more; it will also reduce the tension in all of your spinal muscles.
Practice allowing your consciousness to permeate into every cell in your body. In time you can develop a body that has a thousand eyes.
Now combine your mindfulness practice with these movements, inspired from Shaolin training and internal martial arts …
Not All Lower Body Strengthening Exercises Are Equal
If you’ve got an overactive lower back; building a strong and mobile lower body isn’t as simple as going to the gym and doing some squats, deadlifts and lunges.
You need to go deeper than just trying to get stronger legs.
It’s important to build your strength and flexibility.
And you can do both at the same time with the powerful practices in the next post.
They’ll help you move with the power of a tiger and the lightness of a ninja.
Here’s a quick recap of the process we shared above: