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How Our Physical Therapists Coach Squats for People with Low Back Pain

Did you know that experts estimate up to 80% of the population will experience back pain at some time in their lives.

The sports physical therapy patients that we often assume that they no longer can perform common weight training exercises like squats.

However this is not the case. People experiencing lower back can continue to perform these exercises however may require the help of a performance physical therapist to learn how to most effectively do so.

Check out the video below to see how I coach squats for our physical therapy patients experiencing lower back pain.


Why Powerlifters Don’t Move Laterally

As most physical therapists will tell you, powerlifters typically do not demonstrate great multidirectional movement skills. Why would they?

Training for any sport is all about specificity.

The goal of a powerlifter is to squat, deadlift or bench press more weight. Their training reflects this and as a result, they become better at those lifts. Any movement qualities that do not contribute to helping perform in these lifts are likely to suffer because they are not useful to the sport.

In fact, any unnecessary movement may be detrimental to their sport because it takes energy away from what is most important.

One way to prevent unnecessary movements from occurring is to reduce the capability of doing so in the first place!

Elite level powerlifters often do not even possess the prerequisite movement capabilities to efficiently move laterally.  That wouldn’t be helpful to their performance!

The highest level of performance in any sport often requires physiological adaptations that set the body up for the greatest level of success in that specific activity. Many times, this means that unrelated movement capabilities will diminish.

While this is helpful for short term performance, when taken too far, a reduction in movement options can increase the risk for injury. A lack of movement capabilities results in a limited number of ways the body can minimize physical stress.

How do we know that the body has lost too many movement options? Overuse injuries begin to accumulate, and signs of discomfort start to present themselves.

The best solution for any athlete looking to improve their performance in particular sport is to visit a professional that can assess their capabilities and personal risk profile. Our team of Doctors of Physical Therapy at Cohen Health and Performance specializes in just that.

Contact us today to learn more!

Training with back pain may only require a simple modification

Back pain remains as one of the leading causes of disability worldwide and according to research, over 70% of people will experience back pain at some point in their lives.

When back pain is measured among such a large number of people, it is impossible for each person to specify the different ways in which their back pain presents.

When treating physical therapy patients with back pain, we see this pain present in many different ways. Since we treat such active people, our patients are very aware of the different movements that elicit their symptoms.

Many times, picking objects off the floor, aka deadlifts, produce their back pain. During these movements, the body bends over by folding at the hips. This moves the spine into a position that is horizontal relative to the ground, resulting in more shearing forces within the spine. Shearing force is the force of one vertebra wanting to move forward or backward relative to the one above or below it.

For many others, squatting movements are problematic, specifically when squatting with resistance (such as when lifting weights). When squatting the spine is vertically oriented (compared to a deadlift) resulting in more vertical compression against gravity.

Do you have back pain? If so, is it worse when picking things up off the ground or when squatting with resistance?

If it is worse when picking things up off the floor, aka deadlifting, you may want to consider replacing deadlift exercises with squatting variations within your training program. While this should not be a permanent solution, it can help you get out of pain while addressing the root causes of the issue.

If your pain worsens when squatting with resistance, you may want to consider switching to more single leg squatting variations in place of double leg squats. Once again, this should not be a permanent solution (although single leg exercises are awesome!), however it can help you get out of pain while addressing the root cause of your pain.

For help addressing the root cause of your pain, simply contact us!