Sweat was beading down my forehead as I stood over the bar loaded with 315lbs.
I was feeling very confident and incredibly energetic and was certain I could deadlift 315 for several reps without a belt. I am a 34-year-old ex-athlete who still believes he has the body of a 25-year-old. At least that’s what I think when the cute girl from across the gym is staring at me. My ego is further inflated when she smiles at me. I think it’s because she wants to get a protein shake afterwards, but in reality my zipper is down and I have no clue.
With the boost of energy, I reached down to rep my 315lbs deadlift so I could continue flirting with my new friend. “One rep down Miller you got this, “ I thought to myself. The upstroke on rep two went smoothly, but when I began my decent everything fell apart…literally.
Snap. A pop in my back sent me to the floor screaming in pain. I lay there in a pool of my own sweat hoping the girl did not just see that. I tried to get up to shake off the pain and fell right back to my knees. It was then I also noticed my fly was down. Possibly the biggest gym fail of my life and it definitely could have been avoided.
For the next two days I hobbled around my house trying to survive. Things that came naturally to me like sleeping, eating, and going to the bathroom were now incredibly difficult. I purchased a Life Alert system to ensure that if I really went down, I would not die on the floor of dehydration. That’s a joke, but that’s how I felt.
So if you injure your back working out how do you make it feel better without going to a doctor or a chiropractor? NOTE: if you get seriously injured go to the hospital. We are not physicians. For this article we consulted with a physical therapist, but in the event that you are seriously injured seek medical attention ASAP.
Whatever your fitness goals, getting injured surely isn’t one of them. But according to a study from the University of Arkansas, there has been a 35 percent increase in gym injuries in recent years.
Personal trainer Justin Price, M.A., who owns The BioMechanics, a corrective exercise and functional fitness facility in San Diego, says there are two main reasons for workout-related injuries. The first is poor posture during the day, which eventually weakens your entire musculoskeletal structure. To combat this, make sure your computer screen is positioned in a way that you’re not straining or hunching to see it.
The other mistake is trying to do too much too fast, in both reps and weight. “The problem that got you into the gym didn’t happen overnight, so you can’t undo it overnight,” says Price, who co-authored the book The Idiots’ Guide to Functional Training.
In other words, those 50 pounds can’t be erased in one mega-marathon treadmill session. And popping blood vessels by overweighting the bench press isn’t going to take you from Christian Bale in The Machinist to Christian Bale in Batman in one hard-core workout.
To get started, find a certified personal trainer (Price recommends one with the PTA Global, NSCA or NASM certifications) to make sure you’re using the right technique and try to think of yourself as your own trainer by not making your goals too personal. “Think of working on your body as a third party. If you remove your ego from the situation you can be realistic about your goals,” says Price. You’ll be able to prevent injuries like the ones below, which Price says he sees most often.
If your going to dead lift or use your back in anyway make sure you are wearing a weight belt. I don’t care how awesoe you think you are. Because you know what is not awesome? Having a friend come over to help you wipe cause you can twist your back.
Most people think that weight belts support the back and can help prevent injury. That’s generally true, but a better understanding of the mechanics will change how many people use their equipment. Even some weight belt manufacturers don’t understand how a belt is supposed to work, which is revealed when they make the back of the belt wider than the front.
To talk about belts, we first have to talk about breathing. Most people are taught to inhale on the eccentric (negative) part of an exercise and to exhale during the concentric (positive). While you should definitely breathe, this isn’t the method that works best when you need to produce a large amount of force. In the everyday world when you need to move something heavy—a couch or an Atlas stone—you take a big breath, push or pull while holding your breath, and only exhale after completing the movement.
We use this technique—known as the Valsalva Maneuver—when we’re performing certain exercises at near-maximal effort. Holding your breath against a closed glottis while increasing you thoracic abdominal pressure braces you, and allows you to lift more weight. You’d never see a powerlifter squatting 600 pounds while slowly breathing out.
When you inhale, pressure increases in your thoracic cavity; this pressure is further increased when you flex your abs. In this regard, the muscles of your abdomen serve chiefly to apply pressure to the anterior side of your spine, attempting to balance the forces produced by the extensors on the backside. In other words, this pressure keeps you from being crushed by the weight when you squat.
The back muscles apply force, position and support to the spine from the back while the abdominal wall and increased abdominal pressure from a deep breath support it from the front. A weight belt’s main function is to add support from the front by increasing abdominal pressure.
BELT IT REAL GOOD
In a nutshell, a lifting belt provides a wall for your abs to push against. The added force with limited space means increased anterior pressure for the spine, helping to stabilize it. This gives you a more rigid torso with better transmission of force from the hips to the bar, plus a more stable foundation for overhead lifts. The width in the back of the belt has absolutely nothing to do with a belt’s function, as many people think.
Ideally, a belt between three-and-four-inches wide, all the way around, is sufficient. If it’s much smaller than that, it won’t provide much support. If it’s much larger than that, it may not fit well between your ribs and hips. The material should be firm, typically leather/suede or something that won’t stretch.
TO BELT OR NOT TO BELT
There is no need to wear a belt all the time. There is a lot of discussion in the fitness community about whether you should wear a belt at all. Some people believe you should only rely on your own abilities to stabilize heavy loads. I don’t intend to delve into that debate here, but I will say two things: first, under a heavy load, a belt can help reduce your odds of getting an orthopedic injury. Second, a belt will definitely aid in lifting performance.
In my opinion, a weight belt is only necessary during near the max attempts on compound lifts, definitely not when you’re on a bicycle. You shouldn’t wear a belt with loads that you can easily support—below 90% of your one rep max on big, barbell lifts.
Okay so you did not go out and get a belt or follow proper techniques, or you did and still got hurt and now your best friend is on speed dial because you need a personal assistant.
What are some techniques to use to stretch out and heal your back?
One of the consequences of being sedentary, and also being incredibly active, is back pain. About 31 million Americans experience lower back pain at any given moment. It’s a common affliction and one that takes care and diligence to eliminate.
Whether you experience stiffness, aches, or spasms, the following stretches will help keep your back fit and strong.