I’ve been working with a few clients recently who live with chronic back issues. Since roughly 75% of people experience low back pain in their lifetimes (source), I wanted to give some tips on how to continue exercising around those conditions. Consult your doctor before starting any exercise routines, especially in the case of serious existing injury.

Update: For more info on fixing back pain issues through strength training, check out this other post from me. (Link)

Core
Exercising your core muscles (abdominal region) can help minimize chronic back pain, so I recommend starting there. The key lesson in all of these movements: keep your back straight or otherwise supported when doing any load-bearing movements.
Iso-ab planks
Reverse crunch
Stability ball crunch

Arms
Arm workouts can be generally safe, so long as you keep your core engaged and back straightened. Standing cable machines like this one provide lots of movement options and can be found in most gyms. Aside from these standing machines, arm exercises should often be done from a sitting position to reduce strain on the back.
Cable tricep pushdown
Cable bicep curl
Seated bicep curls
Push-ups from knees

Back
Back workouts can be safe and effective, provided you keep weight off of your spine. These seated movements help you target large muscle groups in your back, which helps to burn additional calories throughout the day. Again, a straight back is vital for this approach.
Lat pulldowns
Seated cable rows
TRX back rows

Legs
Leg exercises can really reinforce the mind-body connection to push with our feet, not lift with our backs. Elliptical machines and treadmills provide excellent cardio options with low impact on the spine. Be sure to work on flexibility in your hamstrings to maximize performance here.
Air squats
Lunges, various

Remember: an injury shouldn’t prevent you from exercising forever. I’ve used each of these movements with clients living with spinal challenges. These workout tips can help you get started. Message me direct if you have any questions.

 

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