Although most people have heard that it is important to lift with their legs and avoid lifting while bent forward at the waist in the home or work setting, this advice seems to suddenly be forgotten in the context of weight lifting for exercise. Even some certified personal trainers, who really should know better, sometimes instruct their clients to do exercises that place the low back in jeopardy.

The basic rule for lifting things at work or at home is the same as the rule for lifting weights – avoid lifting while you are bending forward at the waist. To be faithful to this safe lifting rule, some weightlifting exercises should always be avoided. While it is true that exercises like straight legged dead lifts can promote the development of specific muscles, they tend to be extremely damaging to the lumbar intervertebral discs.

Unlike muscles that get stronger the more you stress them, the discs get weaker the more mechanical stress is placed on them. It’s not worth developing muscles at the risk of causing a disc herniation. After all, the inactivity that will follow a disc injury is going to wipe out any muscle development you’d get from bad exercise choices anyway.

It’s easy to see how certain weightlifting exercises violate the “don’t bend at the waist” rule. Exercises like the aforementioned straight legged dead lifts and the classic exercise, “Good Mornings” where you bend forward with a weight bar across your shoulders are obviously not good choices if you want to avoid a low back injury, but there are a few exercises that might not be so obvious as to their potential to damage the low back.

One of these is the popular standing bicep curl. Now, there’s actually nothing wrong with this exercise when done with proper form. The problem is, many weight lifters attempt to lift more than they are really capable of (this is a common phenomenon among male weight lifters, particularly in settings where there are people around to “show off” for).

With standing bicep curls, the common “cheat” to lift more than your capabilities is to do what I call the “lean and jerk” (not to be confused with the powerlifting event, the clean and jerk). Basically, the lean and jerk consists of leaning forward with the weight and then quickly jerking backwards with the torso to build up momentum on the weight to be able to complete the curl. Even if you are only bending forward a few degrees, that is all it takes to distribute unbalanced pressure on the intervertebral discs in the lumbar spine of the low back, especially if you are holding a heavy weight. Besides the damaging pressure placed on the spinal discs, the rapid backward jerk of the upper torso can easily damage muscles and ligaments. So, the bottom line here is if you want to do curls, choose an appropriate amount of resistance and do the exercise with proper form.

One popular weightlifting exercise that breaks the safe lifting rule (but without being initially obvious about it) is the seated row machine. Certain types of seated row machines have a padded support that fits up against the chest and reduces stress on the back by preventing you from getting pulled forward, but those machines without chest supports can present considerable opportunity for poor lifting form that can easily result in major injury to the low back.

As with the “lean and jerk” maneuver to cheat when doing bicep curls, many individuals will try to use too much weight on the row machine and wind up getting pulled forward (bending at the waist), on the eccentric (relaxation) phase of the exercise. So, the exercise winds up being one of the weight pulling the torso forward, and the lifter jerking backwards as he or she performs the row. Once again, there’s nothing wrong with seated rows per se, even on machines without the chest support, but when done with improper form and too much weight, they are a back injury waiting to happen.

To sum things up, avoid any weightlifting exercise that requires you to bend forward at the waist to perform the lift, and for all other exercises, use an appropriate amount of resistance for your level of strength and maintain proper form at all times.



Source by George Best

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