“Everybody could use more strength in the lower back.”
This was told to me by an Olympic weightlifting coach many years ago. He was talking about high-level weightlifters in general. I find this simple statement applies to not just weightlifters and not just strength training enthusiast, but to almost everybody on the planet.
We don’t even need to go into the anatomy of the low back or any scientific reasoning if you just think about it logically. We’ve all heard people say that a person’s quadriceps may be too strong for their hamstrings. Or maybe a bodybuilder’s biceps are big enough that it makes their shoulders look small. There are all kinds of strength ratios and aspects of having a visually balanced physique that are thrown around gyms every day and constant arguments about what proper strength ratios are.
Through all that is written or spoken about have you ever heard someone say “your lower back is overdeveloped.” or “Your lower back is too strong for the rest of your body.”? I doubt that you have because I find it is a weak point on many people. When we discuss the musculature of the lower back we are primarily talking about the Erector Spinea. These muscles are involved as stabilizers and sometimes prime movers in many exercises in the gym. They also function to protect the spine to some degree by keeping the lumbar spine straight. It is a relatively small and flat muscle so it often is invisible until someone has body fat below about 10%. There are other important muscles but in the spirit of keeping things short and sweet, we won’t go into many details. Here’s the bottom line…
The Importance of Low Back Strength!
If you are a strength athlete of any kind make sure you’re doing some kind of direct lower back work every week. If you are something like an Olympic weightlifter you might want to do this more than once a week. Don’t let your lower back be a weak point. If your triceps are weak you might not be able to lock out your bench press. This is in too big of a deal because your spotter can take it. If your lower back is weak when you fail that often means that your spine will be rounded over and risk damaging the spinal disk. Strong erectors will not only protect your lower back but can really help you break through lower body strength plateaus.
As for what exercises to do those are easy to find and perhaps will be subject in a future blog. However, keep in mind that not only strength but the endurance of the low back is important for injury prevention. For this reason, don’t be scared to do isometric work for time or higher reps on something like a back raise. Finally, if you are a very tall person or just have a long torso you need to pay extra attention to this area for you probably figured that out your first leg day.
Most people have back trouble at some point in their life. Try to not be most people.