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Friday, October 10, 2014

Dan Wirth - Lower Back Pain and the Standing Military Press



 
Dan wrote this advice in response to a Fitrex member's question. It has been edited for use as an article.
The problem of having lower back pain or stress while lifting weights, particularly with exercises such as the standing military press, can be fairly common. This is generally caused by hyperextending or "over-arching" your back when you are pressing the weight overhead. Actually, this particular lift (standing military press) was used in Olympic weight lifting competitions in the 1950's. The competitors would arch or lean back so far that their torso's were almost parallel to the ground!!! You can imagine the back stress those poor guys felt.
Ideally, you would want to perform this free weight exercise in a standing position. Why do I say ideally you may ask? This is because the standing position allows your body to benefit by enhancing balance, coordination, and stabalization as well as the synergistic involvement of the smaller muscle groups surrounding the shoulder joint. However, you should not do this lift if it hurts! Here are four things to do:
  • First Thing: Perform the exercise seated or switch to dumbbell military presses. The dumbbells can help keep the weight in a better plane of movement (positioned above your center of mass). With a barbell you have to move the weight around your head and if you don't have the proper flexibility in your shoulders you will compensate with movement in your back. Or, use a machine shoulder press instead, and start implementing these next three things!
  • Second Thing: Use perfect technique. Look at the videos and read the extensive explanations on the exercises in your program. Watch yourself in the mirror when you perform these exercises. This will help keep you in the right "groove"
  • Third Thing: Lower the weight. More weight is not always better. It might be more fun, but it magnifies any smaller problems! :-) I have found that for many people simply lowering the weight is all it takes to be able to perform the exercises correctly and without pain. And, the best thing about it is many of the free weight exercises are very positive to do even with no weight, just an empty bar or a broomstick, etc. Then it's simple, as your body gets stronger, you can slowly increase the weights and still keep perfect technique so that injury and pain are a thing of the past.
  • Fourth Thing: Continue to work on your abdominal and lower back strength. If you are relatively new to free weight training, you are probably lacking in the areas of balance, coordination and stabilization that I mentioned earlier. You may also have some flexibility problems in your shoulders. All of my programs have exercises for your abs and for your back muscles. And you can check out a ton of flexibility exercises and videos.
Military Press View Video
Exercise Description:

Grasp the barbell with both hands and hold it in front of you just above your shoulders. Your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Stand up straight, place your feet shoulder width apart, and bend your knees slightly. Keep your feet flat on the floor. Keep your back tight and your chest out throughout the entire exercise. Keep your head and neck in line with your torso so that you are looking forward. Press the barbell up toward the ceiling, extending your arms. Breathe out during this phase of the exercise. Press the barbell up until your arms are straight, but do not lock your elbows. Now, in a controlled fashion, lower the barbell down toward your shoulders, bending your arms, until you have returned to the starting position. Breathe in during this phase of the exercise. 

It just takes a little time and consistent training but your body will develop and you will be able to perform more of the advanced exercises without pain.
Always Stay Positive!
Dan Wirth M.A., C.S.C.S.
Fitness Director (Fitrex.com)
Director of Strength and Conditioning
The University of Arizona
Personal Trainers Wanted

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