Strength training can do a number on our lower backs. When we’re lifting heavy weights, we all too often dump the pressure right there, letting it take over when our muscles get tired.
So how can we keep our backs happy? By warming up our core (so it can kick in and do its job!) and practicing good form, says corrective exercise specialist Tatiana Lampa, founder of Training with T. By ensuring you have a good foundation, you can reap all of the benefits of lifting while preventing injury. In this new episode of Well+Good’s Trainer of the Month Club, Lampa takes us through a 20-minute strength workout that’s full of tips to make sure each move is not only safe, but effective.
One exercise that she swears by for building power is bent-over rows. The exercise involves standing, leaning forward, pushing your hips back, and bringing the weights up and back by bending the elbows. However, if your form’s off, that leaning can quickly leave your back screaming. The key is to keep the spine in a neutral position. “Notice that I’m looking at the top of my mat. I’m not craning my neck here, so maintaining that neutral spine the entire time,” Lampa says.
During any standing strength moves, Lampa recommends shifting your body forward a little bit further over your toes than you usually would. Your muscles will engage and, Lampa says, you’ll “instantly feel that change.”
To take the pressure off during dead bugs—an abdominal exercise that involves moving your opposite arm and leg away from each other while lying on your back—keep your core super still and press your spine down into the mat. If it starts to lift up, instead of sending your leg out, modify the move and tap your heel down onto the floor with a bent knee instead, she explains.
The workout gets juicier and builds with squats to overhead presses, deadlifts, and pushups. While these exercises sound tough, Lampa offers variations you can take to maintain good form and keep that low back—and the rest of your body—safe. Don’t be shy to modify: It will help you build the strength you need to push heavier weights, and ace your next workout. Watch the video to get started.