Tagged as: stuart Mcgill

Clean up your back act. For free!

It’s been a hard back week at CrossFit London. Most of you use your backs well, moderate your loads and maintain a tight core when lifting, meaning deadlifting isn’t an issue.

If deadlifting is an issue, it’s normally traced down to a lack of what Stuart McGill calls ” back hygiene”.  Poor back hygiene means you use your back when lifting, all the time! You also abuse your back every day, by slumping and slouching ( or overextending). I t could also mean you are ok, but you cannot control yourself in a WOD. You’ll pile through in a workout no matter what your body is telling you ( it’s ok, I did this too, but,  it’s tough being an asshole isn’t it!)

I’m an expert in this area because, for years, this is what I did.  Zero back hygiene. My back took everything I  threw at it. Until it broke.

If you have back pain, there are 5 key mistakes you probably make. I made them all

1) Having a slumping place. That’s the place where you mold furniture to the worst position for your back, and you slump there for hours.

for the record, here is my slumping place

2) I went searching for physio’s,  therapists and experts to fix my back. The reality is that they all fixed it.  I just went right on home and screwed it up again

3) I failed to take responsibility: I blamed CrossFit for setting the deadlift, furniture manufacturers for making soft sofa’s, girlfriends for buying soft sofa’s, the door of our flat being wide enough to allow a soft sofa into my life. I also loaded stress, poor diet and worry into the mix, to get top quality pain, I certainly didn’t moderate my exercise: anger drove my deadlift up to levels that would guarantee to destroy it.

4) A refusal to do the “guaranteed to work” boring therapy exercises

5) A refusal to realise that I was a “backaholic”. That I loved slumping and  I liked that sickly sweet pain that comes with 8 hours of hanging in your back. I think I also liked the sympathy I got, but that’s awful to confess (in fact, I’m going to edit that confession out).

The good news is this: unless you have back plague, or a demon has possessed your spine,  you can fix your back. Back plague, demonic possession otherwise known as  Red Flags are here: if you have these symptoms, you do have a medical condition (or a demon)  and you need help fast.

But, unless you are in the tiny minority who has something really wrong with their back , your pain is down to you, and you can fix it if you want or can be bothered to.

If any of our members are remotely interested, we will  go through the skills and drills  you need to fix your back on Sunday 16th July at 10.30am in the back room at 9 Malcolm Place E2, for free. The class “back hygeine” is on the booking schedule. You should be able to book in and the system won’t charge you!

Don’t worry about me!  If no one shows, I’ll drink coffee! After all, I’ve decided to manage my back. I’m so over needing it to hurt



Preserving and improving your back

Crossfit London stands for many things: to some we were   the 1st ever British affiliate and led the way in the Uk, ,   others single us out due to  our excellent  coaching  and teaching structure  and standards. Some people fall in love with our  subsidiary programmes of Strongman, gymnastics and Olympic weightlifting. Others likes the fact that we are a contributing partner in the delivery of Skills Active endorsed masterclasses and instructor courses.

We also stand for something else. We have a commitment to preserving and improving your back health. From day one   with us, we emphasise holding a lordosis . We want you to lock your “core down” hold it tight and use it as a lever point for your hips and shoulders to work.

To get the Crossfit benefits  you must understand and implement this idea fully. It is not acceptable to lift with your lower back. Period. Not when going for a PB,  not because “well thats how I cycle” , not because  “well thats how I  sit” not  because ” well I feel comfortable stooped over”.  Lifting means lordosis, lifting means no movement in your back.

You may wish to twist your back for a stretch relief, you may have your back collapsed in a scrum, you may want to roll your back up to land a  dive forward roll, or tuck in the air. You may want a hunched back to pursue a  yogi lifestyle  ( the bendy religion, not the cartoon bear) or to be accepted by other Pilates practitioners as they imprint their spines on the floor.

All of this you can do.  Simply don’t delude yourself that its healthy or good for your back.

Our job is to make you focus on impeccable back  form during our skills and strength and then pressure test  it during the  workouts.

All the time we want to  add to your “Back Bank Balance”.  Every time you lift correctly and with good form you start saving up “Back Bucks”. Every time you  sit correctly  you add to your balance. Every time you slouch,  or use your back to lift, you spend your savings. Too much spending, with no saving, normally ends in tears!

So some  extra concepts.

Most people believe that backs have a set breaking point. I  had the privilege of listening to Stuart McGill who suggested that your back does not have a fixed breaking. The more you slouch, the more you lift that Deadlift with  L 2-5., the more you reduce the  capacity of your back to resist breaking. I think McGill prefers the term “failure tolerance”.

The back  switches everything on in a  natural  lordosis ( not jammed right to the extreme of lordosis). When you use a kyphotic posture to lift, you get  “Myoelectric  silence in the back extensors, strained posterior passive tissues, high shear force on the  lumbar spine. A neutral spine gets everything onboard working  for you. (Page 93 Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance)

The back has a super useful  muscle architecture; the iliocostalis lumborum and longissimus thoracis fibres when in lordosis  seem to run at  45 degrees  to the spine  which means they brace the back against shear ( about 70%). In kyphosis, its reduced to a measly 10%

To this  lordosis  you need to bring  the ability to engage all the core muscles. We don’t mean the obscure muscles that “guru’s” claim to super isolate like Mutifidus or the TVA. You need everything. Thats why God put them there.  The Lats, the “core” , the rectus abdominis, , the obliques, the fascia. You want it all.! To get this , you engage your lats…its easy, and you brace your core!  Your torso when lifting …. that doesn’t collapse or wiggle. The hips and  shoulders, they do the hinging!

Elsewhere we will talk about some additional super useful exercises we will set you to work on at home: the stuff that promotes a  protective lordosis and builds back endurance: But for now, when we say, get your lumbar curve in, seriously  dude, we mean it!