We debunk 4 big fitness myths

Ever since man first became aware and evolution put the foot on the accelerator, our society has became increasingly health conscious. The earliest hieroglyphics depicted a primordial man besting a sabre-toothed tiger with a kettle bell. Maybe I am exaggerating but the point I am trying to emphasise is that fitness and health are synonymous with our culture and our condition. We are at the crescendo of our fitness and health obsession. It is now a multi-billion dollar industry, gyms are never empty and a mix with all types of people and nearly everyone and their nan has a few fitness tips for you. We can get caught up in this game of physiology pass-the-parcel and many people may be exerting their precious energy through misguided guidelines. I am going to be that guy and say what all fitness guys say, “I will debunk some fitness tips that you are wasting your time with”.

#1 Outexercise an unhealthy diet

The one myth that we don’t want to debunk is the myth that you can out exercise your unhealthy diet. We all like to cheat our diet on the odd occasion and this is fine in moderation. However, you cannot continue eating unhealthy and expect to have a body that the Greeks would have chiseled out of marble. The correlation between diet and performance is obvious. You can’t go to the gym and hydrate on coca cola. This would burn you out faster than a bale of hay. New York based personal trainer, Maik Weidenbach believes that “80% of what you look like is based on diet”.

#2 Women lifting heavy will get big

Another myth that can be attributed to the misconceptions of society rather than fitness culture is that women have to lift light weights and do higher repetitions. This myth is commonplace within the fitness culture. This is because women believe that they will become bulky when lifting heavy weights. This is untrue because women’s testosterone is lower. Due to this they likely won’t be able to lift as much weight as men. It is recommended that women do six to eight repetitions of a weight that challenges them instead. They don’t have dumb down on the weight. Just make sure you resist the weight and you will have a defined body that any classical artists would be happy to draw.

#3 Spot reduction

I am a personal trainer and I have a number of clients who ask to reduce fat from one area. This is often referred to as spot reduction. To burn weight quickly you will have to perform a lot of cardiovascular and resistance exercises. However, the effects will be visible all over your body. You cannot just target one specific area. This would lead to you having a convoluted shape and could also lead to injury. Sport reduction is blind ignorance but I do appreciate the reasoning behind it.

#4 Shakes are healthy

The biggest consumer myth on the health and fitness market is that shakes can help you slim. This is far from the case. Shakes are a mix of unnatural proteins, colouring agents and sugar sweeteners which are just as detrimental to your body as almost any other compound. They also wont keep you full. You burn as much energy when digesting foods in your body. This is why you should target healthy whole foods that provide the right amount if fibre. They also fill your stomach much better than hollow shakes. You should also look for high-end whey proteins and add some vitamins or nuts for added measure.

It is hard to disseminate between the amount of training and nutritional tips that saturate the market. I understand that this it not too dissimilar but believe me when I say that I have learnt from crafting nutritional accompaniment to my clients’ training regimes. These are the main myths that hold most people back from attaining their fitness aspirations. Let’s hope that we learn before passing them to further fitness generations.

5 reasons why battle ropes are brilliant for exercise

In this blog, Russell Hurst, owner of Ropes Direct, outlines what has made battle ropes so popular and how they can be used to give the entire body a workout.

For years, I knew who my customers were. They were mainly people who needed mooring or rigging for their boats or builders who needed rope for on-site.

Therefore, I was surprised several years ago when people started contacting me looking for advice on which kind of rope would be best as they wanted to install a set of battle ropes in their home or at their gym. I can understand why people are beginning to use ropes as part of their fitness regime too, as they offer a lot of benefits. Below I explain five reasons why battle ropes make a great addition to your workout.

1. Allows you to exercise anywhere

It doesn’t matter where you want to train, as long as you have a secure anchor point to loop the rope around, you’re good to go. This means you can theoretically use battle ropes anywhere, making them an extremely practical piece of exercise equipment. Therefore, if you don’t enough room in your house, you can go out to your back garden. Similarly, if you live in a small apartment, you can take the ropes out to your local park.

2. They’re good for different exercises

Battle ropes also allow you to try out a diverse range of workouts too. As well as being able to use it as a climbing rope (if space allows) to work both legs and arms, you can use them to also work your back muscles by attaching it to a weight and pulling it from a seated position, or you can them to work different parts of your arms and chest by creating waves, spirals or whips as pictured.

3. It’s good for the entire body

As suggested in the last point, as battle ropes can be used to do different exercises that work different parts of the body, this means they are great for creating whole-body workouts. Furthermore, as well as working all areas of the body, including the neck, shoulders, abs and legs, all that rope work means battle ropes are also great for improving the grip strength in your hands too. I would even go as far as saying that, once you learn the full range of exercises you can do with battle ropes, you won’t need any other fitness equipment.

4.You can tailor the exercise

In addition, you can also pick the right rope depending on your ability; longer, thicker ropes are harder to work with. Therefore, if you would initially struggle to use a longer rope, you can choose a shorter, thinner version, build up your strength and increase the size and length of the ropes you use as you get fitter, stronger and more adept at the range of exercises possible.

5. Manila ropes are cheap to buy

Finally, using battle ropes also means that you don’t have to break the bank in order to afford a full and effective workout. I would recommend manila ropes as the best to use as battle ropes, and they are inexpensive to buy. You can also buy manila rope by the metre and in a variety of thicknesses too, making them the perfect kind of rope for those just starting out who want to build up their proficiency, as pointed out previously.

There you have it then; five reasons why battle ropes are a practical and affordable solution if you want to get fit, work different muscle groups and build body strength. Moreover, the intensity of the workouts also makes battle ropes a great way of also improving cardiovascular fitness and burning fat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

9 ways to stay motivated at exercising

Exercising is not something that comes easily to many adults. It takes a deliberate effort, to schedule 30 minutes a day, to keep the body healthy, fit and trim. According to fitness experts, below are the top 9 simple ways to stay motivated and have a healthy body.

Man and woman on a cross-trainer

1. Make it convenient

If it is not easy to find a fitness class, you are more than likely not going to go. Fit Mapped is a website that can help you find fitness classes, which are nearby and will fit your financial needs and fitness level.

2. Step it up

A pedometer is a great tool, to set and meet fitness goals. If you walk regularly, try adding a jog. Take the stairs, whenever possible. Once you “step it up” you will find yourself walking more often. So, instead of driving, you will perform many local errands, whenever possible.

3. Exercise for the endorphins

The body naturally releases a chemical known as endorphins, and this chemical generates an overall mental and physical feeling of happiness. Endorphins can bind themselves to neuron receptors, and produce the same effects as some pain drugs on the market. Many long distance runners experience something referred to as a “runners high”, and this reduces overall stress, negative thoughts and appetite.

4. Buddy Up

Not only will a workout buddy make a workout session more fun, but they will offer some accountability, and this will help you stay focused and inspired. It happens to all of us that we just don’t feel like heading to the gym, but having someone nearby to cheer you on, is a great mental motivator.

5. Rethink your exercise attitude

Stop thinking of exercise negatively, because of your excess weight gain. Think of it as a wonderful and normal part of your everyday routine. Any negative thoughts, associated with working out, should be replaced with the positive thoughts of the many mental and physical benefits that exercise provides. The right mind set plays a vital role in motivation, so remember to think of exercise as a luxury (something you love to do), and not as a chore or necessity that you dread.

6. Take advantage of the computer

The internet offers unlimited fitness classes (many that are free – which is a bonus); including learning the benefits of yoga. A few high-intensity moves, in combination with yoga stretches, and you can be burning calories in less than 15 minutes. YouTube is an excellent resource for free online exercise moves.

7. Turn on the Tunes

It has been researched and proven, by the Brunel University School of Sports and Education that listening to music, while exercising, will increase endurance levels by 10% or more. Also, music seems to have the ability to increase motivation, for those that are just starting out in the world of lifestyle fitness.

8. Set mini-goals

Big goals are great, but when they are not reached in a short period, discouragement sets in. It is for this reason that mini-goals must be set and met. Motivation is increased, as each mini-goal is met.

9. Variety is the key

Variety is the spice of life, and when it comes to exercise, it will keep you focused, motivated, and help you reach your goals quicker. A good variety of training exercises can include, but are not limited to high and low impact aerobic exercises, core strength, group exercise sessions, weight training, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). So, you are encouraged to keep rotating your exercise programs, as this will keep your mind focused, your spirit motivated, and all your muscles working at the same intensity level.

Bonus

The Coventry University conducted a study that showed, that caffeine (from coffee) may help individuals stay motivated, and improve endurance during exercise routines. Coffee may reduce the buildup of adenosine. This chemical is responsible for making it difficult for muscles to exert force, which can make your muscles feel weak (especially during exercise).

Also watch

Top 6 workouts to tone your body:

 

More info:

https://www.fitnessbacker.com/blogs/7-ways-to-stay-motivated-to-work-out-regularly

http://www.menstylefashion.com/how-to-ease-stress-in-5-simple-ways/5/

 

Women’s clothing options for running

There is something quite liberating about an outdoor run. It is a time to switch off your phone, switch off your mind and focus solely on the rhythm of your legs pounding the pavement. No matter how much we may love running, sometimes, we all need new workout gear to motivate us to take that run early in the morning or late after a long day at work.
With the holiday season around the corner, we know that it is a time where we will be eating more than usual. More than that, it is a time of gift giving and appreciation so why shouldn’t we buy a present for us and splurge on a new workout gear to take us to our runs in the new year?
There are many great options for your next workout gear and below are three options with style and comfort specifically kept in mind.

running woman in shorts

The sexy runner

If you want to be comfortable but still feel sexy and stylish while running, then pair up a well fitted sports bra with a sleeves top that has a wide side, so that the bra peaks out of your side and you can show some skin while still looking perfect for a run. Finish off the look by pairing it with great yoga pants  – The Upside has a wide range for you to find the perfect pair .

The cool runner

If you don’t want to wear tight yoga pants to run but you are bored of the overdone plain jogger pants then invest in a pair of jogger pants with a leather side panel for a cool touch. You can also go for a two tone pant where the side panel would have a bold bright colour. Joggers are looser than yoga pants but that does not mean you should go for the shapeless kind by buying it a size bigger. Pair the pants with a fitted tank top or a fitted zip up if it is cold outside and bring the cool touch to your run.

The leggy runner

If you love showing off your hard work and it is warm outside then go for a great pair of running shorts. Unlike the everyday shorts, make sure the ones you buy for running are comfortable and not too tight to that they will not keep going up your leg with your every move. Pair the shorts with a T-shirt to cover up your shoulders if it is sunny outside and wear ankle socks with your sneakers.
Besides these three outfit ideas, there are other things you should keep in mind. First things first, make sure you wear the right kind of underwear ¬– lace, frills and thongs will cause chafing when running so opt for cotton underwear instead. When it comes to the sneakers, invest in a pair that is right for the shape of your foot before looking at style.

Picture credit: fitnessviking.com

5 Actionable Ways To Find Time For Fitness

Exercising is an essential aspect of living healthy. Coupled with a healthy diet, exercise will do wonders for the body which will carry on as we age. But sadly, not everyone is game on this on concept of fitness. In a world where walking a few blocks is tiring, too many people simply have no time to get exercise, or so they say. With all the hassles of everyday life you can almost side with them but that’s not the truth. Finding time for fitness is not about forcing yourself to exercise despite your busy schedule but rather finding the unnecessary things you do that eat your time.
This article lists 5 ways to makes sure you get a daily dose of exercise no matter how busy life is. By the end of this article, you’ll be surprised as to how much free time you actually have.

Make time to train
1. Write a plan

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” and this could not be any truer in today’s world. Getting started on a fitness routine all starts with a plan and it involves writing not just your exercise routine but more importantly a list of all the activities you do throughout the day.
This list makes you see the bigger picture of how your day actually goes every day. Do you always get up with extra time? Can you use that extra time for exercise? How early do you get off from work? Do you really have to watch that series tonight? These are all examples of questions you have to ask yourself once you form your list. Once you finish, you can then see which things you can change or remove to make time for your exercise.

2. Limit internet time

One of the best technological inventions is the internet but there are simply too many people engrossed in browsing that they end up with less time for everything else including exercise. In fact, the average adult spends at least 20 hours browsing the internet every week and 28% of that is spent on social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram. That means most people spend 20 hours a week sitting down or not doing anything. A good exercise program doesn’t require more than 30 minutes a day and a 5-day exercise routine won’t cost you more than 3-4 hours a week which still leaves a person more than enough time to brag about their fitness achievement online.

3. Stick to the schedule

One of the banes of finding time for fitness is exercising at the right time. For most people, the right time could be before they go to work or after leave the office. Sticking to an exercise schedule can make routines easier to manage than exercising only when they’re is free time. Not only will this eliminate distractions but this will also help prioritize exercising above any other activity.

4. Reduce TV time

Couch potatoes love their TV shows and there seems to be no way of uprooting them from their seats. A 2014 survey suggests American adults watch as much as 5 hours of TV a day and that means 5 hours of doing nothing but staring at a screen, most likely with something to eat such as a few chips and maybe a can of beer or soda. Not only are they not moving but they’re also eating junk food which does more harm to a person’s health.
If you’re one of these people then you definitely have more time than you think. As mentioned earlier, a good routine doesn’t need to take more than an hour to complete. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to know what happens in the latest episode of your favorite show then you can simply record the show to watch later. For starters, treat your shows as a reward after you do your workout.

5. Exercise without exercising

Exercise doesn’t have to involve actual exercise. In the simplest definition, exercise is to merely work your muscle groups to make sure they remain strong and healthy. With that definition, there are plenty of ways to get fit without actually exercising.

  • Cleaning the house – One of the best ways to get some exercise. Not only do you get to burn calories but you also end up with a cleaner house! It can be something as simple as sweeping the floors or a hard workout by rearranging furniture and lifting tables and chairs.
  • Walking to work – Walking has its own health benefits and there’s no reason not to take advantage of it. If using public transportation, you can simply stop a few block away from work and walk it until you reach the office. It’s a bonus if you can take the stairs specially if it’s only one level higher.
  • Playing outdoor games – Perhaps one of the best way to get a good workout is to disguise it in the form of a recreational activity. Basketball, tennis, or even a simple game of Frisbee is considered a good exercise. The more a game requires physical effort, the more it becomes a good workout. The best part is you’re doing this with a lot of people which helps make sure the exercise doesn’t end up boring you.

The Challenges of CrossFit

Crossfit pullups

CrossFit split many opinions, people believe they are a great way to test your body, others believe they are a waste of time. Being fit and doing CrossFit can provide different aspects to your fitness, bringing a no nonsense approach. After analysing the CrossFit challenge we assess why it splits opinions, and why it is so difficult.

The Challenge

When challenges require pushing your body and managing time they can often bring out panic in you. WOD, or workout of the day is a competitive environment that can persuade you to compromise form for speed. These challenges sometimes produce the worst in people as they can suffer debilitating injuries.
If you lack form, you throw away every minute of work you’ve done in order to show yourself off. Pushing yourself and getting through the course quicker is very much an emphasis on practicing for this daunting challenge.
When doing things in repetition purely for form it gives you an extra edge once pushing for heavier weights as we found out. Through practice it will gradually get better, but the importance of practice means your confidence will significantly increase.

Mental Challenge

Mental challenges happen every day, even at the gym. Exercises you don’t enjoy can ruin your workout, or often make you lazy. CrossFit tests you in every way, even with the exercises you don’t like.
Knowing what you are weaker at will allow you to broaden your workouts, also making it easier to adapt to CrossFit challenges as there are so many different activities. You will definitely find something that you will struggle at.
Working on exercises you are weaker at pushes your body to the limit and pushes through the mental block that our minds tend to prevent us from doing.

Pride

Being able to compete and do CrossFit challenges brings a huge amount of pride. Socially, CrossFit brings fulfils the needs of those who are pushing their bodies, or believe they are. CrossFit is designed to offer a variety, bringing out the best out of you and doesn’t focus on workouts in which you excel.
If you are someone who loves strength and conditioning CrossFit is a great way to test it. Pushing yourself to the limit, bringing only your A game is the only way to truly prepare yourself for the CrossFit challenge. It may be daunting, it may be extreme but it will be worth every penny once you show the true grit and steel through the competition.

5 Must-Haves for Your Home Gym

Before you just start throwing exercise equipment into your garage and calling it a home gym, you need to assess what you have and what you need. For a home gym to be the most effective place to workout, you need equipment that you can use to work your entire body.Home gym

1. Cardio Equipment

To burn fat, you want exercise equipment that gives your cardiovascular system a workout. Choose your favorite means of increasing your heart rate for this. If you don’t like running, don’t put a treadmill in your home gym. Consider an elliptical trainer or stationary bike instead. Make sure that you have plenty of room to use your equipment without hitting anything. The amount of floor space will depend on what type of cardio machine you use. If you have a cross-country ski machine, you will use

2. Weights

Burning off fat with a treadmill or other cardio machine is not enough for a total body workout. Many people go to gyms to take advantage of the numerous weight machines, but home gyms or freeweights can get you a similar workout without leaving the house. Make sure that you have a variety of weights. This will give you enough equipment to slowly increase the weights you use as you get stronger. If you have a large, loud unit, you might consider placing it on the ground floor or in a basement where there is extra reinforcement of the flooring beneath. This will also reduce the noise other people hear from the machine during use.

3. Floor Mats

If you plan on doing yoga, pushups, situps or other floor exercises, you need comfortable mats on the floor. Some people prefer roll-up mats, but you can also opt to lay foam tiles on the floor of your home gym to reduce the impact on your joints, make it more comfortable for anything you do on the floor and reduce the sound from jumping around in your home gym.

4. Mirror

Mirrors in a home gym

A mirror is an essential part of any home gym but not for vanity purposes. If you choose to workout alone, you will need a mirror so you can watch your form. Improper form when lifting weights or using a cardio machine may lessen the effectiveness of the exercises or lead to injury. Find a mirror that is large enough to show your whole body as you workout.

5. TV

Commercial gyms have TVs to help keep your mind occupied as you exercise, so why not put one in your home gym? The television can also be used to follow along with workout DVDs. Mount it using specially designed wall brackets that will hold the TV in place even as the walls vibrate slightly from the use of the exercise equipment in the room.

If the only thing standing between you and a home gym is a plan, you now have no excuses left. Get started on creating the home gym of your dreams.

To find inspiration for your next home design project, visit Modernize.com.

Go heavy or go home

My approach to doing the bent-over barbell row

The key to train and make progress is to see what works for you, use it and discard what doesn’t. The barbell row is a good example of e putting this advice into practice as the conventional way never worked with me.

Go heavy or go home

How you do it

The conventional way of doing the bent-over barbell row is to grap a loaded barbell with a very wide grip, palms facing down. Then bend over deeply at the hips until your torso is parallel to the floor. Pull the bar up to your stomach while looking forward, keeping your back flat at all times. You will have to bend your knees to be able to bend so deeply and comfortably.

What I didn’t like

That didn’t work with me. I found the wide grip uncomfortable and lacked much strength in that position. The straight bar was also putting a lot of stress on my wrists. The deep bending position was too much for me and very tiring. I was ready to quit barbell rows until I read about how Dorian Yates did it. So I adapted the exercise to suit me.

How I do it

Now I bend at the hips just slightly, take a shoulder-width supinated grip of an EZ-bar and can pile up the weight. Am I doing it correctly? All I know is that I keep my back straight, feel no pain and my back is sore the next day, so that convinces me that despite bending just slightly, I am still targeting my back effectively. You’ll think that the upper traps will get involved but I never feel them; I probably bend over sufficiently far to involve the back more.

Why it works better for me

I wanted to develop my lats more and taking a narrow grip while keeping elbows close to the body allowed just that.

By bending over less, I am able to keep the bar very close to me and go very heavy.

By using a supinated grip, I involve the biceps less, so they don’t become the weakest link in the chain and get tired first. Again, that allows me to go heavier.

I use an EZ-bar because the supinated grip feels more comfortable on it. There is just too much rotational stress on my wrists when using a straight bar.

I don’t use straps for my wrists in any exercise because I don’t work out my forearm muscles separately. Any pulling exercise is therefore training for my forearms. If my body can’t grip it, there’s no point having muscles that can pull it!

So don’t be scared to try new exercises but don’t give up too soon if they don’t work. Try to adapt them to what feels right to you. If something works for someone, it doesn’t mean it’ll work for you too.

My favourite exercises

I’m sure you have a few favourite exercises that you do very often. I have mine too and let me share them with you, one per muscle group.

Chest dumbell press

Better than the benchpress, I find that the dumbell version gives you a better stretch and an even more natural motion. Of course, it’s harder to stabilise each dumbbell independently. But that’s an added benefit as it makes you work the stabilising muscles too.

See how to do the chest dumbell press.

Heavy chest dumbell press

Picture credit: Elitefts

Dumbell shoulder press

Still sticking with the dumbell version. The problem with tha barbell version is where do you press the bar? In front of you or behind the neck? Either way is not comfortable for me. The natural movement is with your arms to the side of your head. That’s after all where your shoulders are from.

There’s the extra stretch that comes with using dumbells too. Read more on how to do the shoulder dumbell press.

Bent-over barbell row

It’s hard for me to choose a favourite exercise when it comes to the back muscles. There are different sections of the back along with a variety of exercises for each. But the barbell row allows me to go very heavy in what feels like a very natural and powerful movement. I don’t do it the conventional way. I use an EZ-bar for a more comfortable supinated grip (palms up) shoulder width apart and bend over slightly, Dorian Yates-style.

Each gym has what seems like its own individual, unique machine to target the back. Some feel better than others and I quite enjoy using these machines when they feel right. The lats pulldown is not one of them though.

Hyperextensions

I had to add this one targeting the lower back. Rather than the very powerful deadlift, I prefer hyperextensions simply because of the stretch it gives me. I don’t go heavy – not recommended – but go for volume instead.

Here are 2 great lower back exercises, one of which is hyperextensions.

Seated dumbell curls

Dumbells are way better when it comes to working out your biceps because of the additional rotation movement of the wrists it allows you. You miss out on this when you use barbells and one of the 2 functions of the biceps is to rotate your wrists. Also I find the seated version much more strict as it doesn’t allow me to lean back excessively or use momentum to cheat.

Close-grip benchpress

I’ll admit that although it is now my favourite exericise, it wasn’t so in the past. I used to do a lot of heavy lying triceps extensions, AKA skullcrushers until I found out that my elbows started feeling sore afterwards. So now I much prefer the close-grip benchpress which is much easier on the elbows whilst allowing me to go very heavy. I also like the pulldown when I want to work my triceps quickly and don’t want to waste time setting up the bar or if there is no bench available during busy hours.

The good, the bad and the ugly of triceps exercises.

Leg press

Squats may well be the king of exercises but that doesn’t make them my favourite. I don’t appreciate the balancing act. With the leg press exercise, you can really concentrate on going as heavy as you can and even cheat a little during sticking points by pushing your knees with your arms. You don’t need to worry about losing your balance or whether you’ll be able to get up or not. With leg presses, it’s raw leg power.

Why you should do the leg press.

Straight-leg deadlift

I wasn’t working my hamstrings for a long time in the beginning when I started lifting weights – I couldn’t see them so why bother? Then I developed a pain in one of my legs. It turned out to be a muscular imbalance as I was working my quads very hard while ignoring completely my hamstrings. So since then I’ve had to keep working my hamstrings and I’ve most enjoyed doing the straight-leg deadlifts, you may have guessed it, because of the stretch it gives me. It’s not an easy exercise to do as it’s too easy to lift from the waist, thus using the lower back instead of the the hamstrings. So concentration is essential to work the right muscle group here.

2 great lower back exercises.

Leg/knee raises

I see too few people doing exercises that target the lower abs. In addition, these exercises are usually much harder and people tend to have weaker lower abs as a result. This is why I choose to do a lower ab exercise first or if I do any ab exercise. The leg raise is also a tough exercise to do; there are many ways of doing it that increase or decrease the difficulty of the exercise, so anyone can do it. I prefer doing it lying down, bending the knees and bringing my legs all the way back past the vertical while curling up my hips.

What about forearms, traps and calves?

I don’t work my forearms individually, never did, as I believe they get a sufficient workout during biceps training.

There is not a lot of choice when it comes to working the upper trapezius muscle: it’s all about shrugging movements. The traps get stimulated to a certain extent during deltoid training anyway. However when I do train them specifically, I’ll do the dumbell shrugs for the freedom of movement it gives me.

As for calves, I don’t work them out at all. I believe they get a good workout during running, which I do as cardio.

So that’s it, you know all about my favourite exercises.

What are your favourite exercises?

Go heavy or go home

Mind your lower back

Lower back pain is a common occurrence among many people. While physical exercises can help sooth or get rid of this pain in some situations, they can also be the cause or aggravate it. Here are the most popular exercises that can place undue stress on the lower back if not performed properly.

The correct way of doing bent-over barbell rows with your back not rounded

The Squat

An excellent all-round exercise, the squat can also be a killer for the lower back if done incorrectly. Ensure you keep your back flat at all times throughout the exercise and not rounded, making you crouch excessively forward.

The back’s function during the squat is to transmit the power from the legs to the bar. If your back is rounded, it’s not going to do that efficiently. Imagine a twig breaking under a load and imagine a rigid rod not bending. Hopefully, you get the picture.

More on how to do the squats.

Leg press

Another lower back killer if you don’t know how to do it. Many people assume the leg press is safer than the squat to do because it is a machine exercise. You need to keep your back flat against the backrest at all times during the exercise. Don’t round your lower back, especially at the bottom of the exercise. If you feel your lower back lifting off the backrest, you shouldn’t lower the platform any lower. If your range of motion becomes limited as a result, try some stretching exercises to become more supple, especially with regards to your hamstrings.

More on how to do the leg press.

Hack squats

The same can be said for the hack squat – keep your back flat against the back rest as you lower yourself and especially at the bottom of the exercise.

Read more about the benefits of doing the hack squat exercise.

The Deadlift

This is an exercise that actually targets the back, with particular emphasis on the lower back. When straightening up, don’t bend backwards excessively, thus putting excessive stress on the spine. Only pull up until you are vertically straight. If fact, you want to stop just short of that because you reduce the involvement of the back if you are standing up straight.

Barbell curls

What do the biceps have to do with the back? It’s the posture of the exercise that involves the back, at least if you do it incorrectly. Never bend over backwards just to cheat and curl a weight that’s too heavy for you. The spine is not designed to take bend backwards with this sort of load. Sometimes though, the temptation to bend back just to finish that last curl is just too great. What I do is perform this exercise with my back against a pillar so I have no room to bend back.

Cheating in this way is also counterproductive as your powerful hips do all the lifting, followed by gravity once your lower arms go past the vertical; your biceps do little work.

See how you can benefit from barbell curls.

The Benchpress

It’s hard to damage your back during the benchpress. You’ll have to be in all sort of positions to do that. But some people do that and do end up with an injured back. The most likely position is when you raise your hips off the bench. This in itself is not too dangerous but when your body is under tension, when your back is acting as stabilisers to the pectorals and when you are pushing a heavy load tryingto just complete that very last rep, you are asking for trouble. So again, keep your back flat on the bench at all times.

Here’s a summary of the correct benchpress technique, something many of us get wrong from time to time.

What about back exercises?

It goes without saying that all back exercises could pose a greater risk of injury to the lower back due to the posture of the exercises and the load the back muscles are under. Always keep the proper posture, in particular a natural arch in the back and never round it up. I see way too many beginners doing the bent-over barbell row like a hunchback. Even the front lat pulldown, what could be the safest of all exercises, becomes a health hazard when people lean far back to pull down the load with momentum. I just avert my eyes in this case and mutter a short prayer for the fool doing this.

If you want to strengthen your lower back a little, you should read about these 2 great exercises I recommend.

 

Picture credit from Flickr.