In part 1 of this series, we talked about imbalances around the shoulder that cause pain or hold you back from continued progress. This article is going to cover the lower back.
The lower back is the one area that if its causing pain or discomfort, it can affect nearly every movement in CrossFit, not to mention day to day life.
Making your lower back strong and protected is key to improving your squats, deadlifts, and any overhead work. You’ve probably heard it said before that in order to fix your lower back, you need to “work on your core”.
Side note: I hate when people call your abs the core, so I’ll quote John Wellbourn here: “Apples have cores, trees have trunks.” Anyways.
It is true that if your lower back is causing problems, you likely need to work on your trunk. There are a lot of muscles in the trunk, and working the wrong ones can actually cause more issues. The most neglected ones in CrossFit are the Lower Abs and Obliques. These are primarily an isometric muscle, meaning their main job is to stabilize the spine and hips when walking. So when working on them, it’s best to train them in their main function.
Carries are one the best way to do that, not the more commonly used Russian Twist.
I would suggest three types of carry, either the single arm farmers carry, the single arm front rack carry, or the cross-body carry. All of these exercises challenge the obliques, so also make sure to engage your Lower Abs by thinking “push your belly button out”. Getting these muscles strong can relieve a lot of tension in the lower back and really build bulletproof abs.
Single Arm Farmers Carry
Use kettlebells, dumbbells, or farmers handles if you have them. Choose a weight that is heavy enough to challenge your posture. When doing them, try to stay upright, do not lean to the side in either direction. I recommend 3-5 sets of 200ft per side, and if you are doing them as part of your gym’s programming, I would suggest using this in a partner workout paired with lunges.
Single Arm Front Rack Carry
Use kettlebells preferably, but dumbbells will work as well. Choose a weight that is heavy enough to challenge you but not break you. I should add, you also need to be able to clean the KB up to the shoulder. Once the KB is up there, tuck your elbow down and knuckles under the chin, and palms facing your chest. 3-5 sets of 100ft on each side is perfect.
Crossbody Front Rack Carry
This is the best of both worlds. Hold a heavy kettlebell or dumbbell at your side farmers carry style, and a slightly lighter KB on the front rack with the other arm. This is going to challenge the Abs in a whole new way. 3-5 sets of 50ft each side is best for this one.
Remember, for this to be effective do not arch your lower back, but brace out and around by pushing your lower stomach out. Imagine if you had a weight belt on and you were trying to brace into it.
Now, it’s important to understand that just doing exercises doesn’t fix your problems, but attention to detail in HOW you do them will. Doing carries are great, but if you do them wrong, you’ll get none of the benefits. It’s not WHAT you do, but HOW you do it that matters.
Try something in the article, want to learn more, or have questions I may be able to answer? Drop a comment below and I’ll get back to you ASAP!
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