Monday, April 26, 2010

low back training

Here is an interesting study - particularly in the light of the stuff I posted from Doug the other day:

The abstract is here

Here is the report:

"If you want to bring about physiological change to help the development and endurance of back muscles, you must focus your training on those specific muscles and not other muscular groups such as hip extensors," says Christian Larivière, a professor at the Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST), who conducted the study with Université de Montréal researchers Bertrand Arsenault, Rubens A. Da Silva, Sylvie Nadeau, André Plamondon et Roger Vadeboncoeur.

The investigation requested that subjects aged 18 to 65 – some healthy and others with low back pain – complete various exercises. Electromyography (EMG) sensors were used to measure the level of activity and fatigue in various muscles during the routine. "Thanks to this technique, we can target tired muscles which aren't yet showing a decrease in strength," says Larivière.

Test subjects also used a machine designed for back exercises in a semi-sitting position. Results clearly showed that using this machine was beneficial. Using a cushion to stabilize the pelvis brought about a better response from the back muscles. In addition, extending the legs strengthened muscles. "Therefore, we can decrease the use of hip muscles and in turn increase the use of the back muscles," says Larivière.

Such exercises can only help reduce pain and disabilities caused by back pain, says Larivière. He recommends those who suffer severe hurt begin with stretches on the ground with low to medium effort. "Progressively, the individual will gain confidence and can use machines that require superior strength," he says.

Larivière highlights the fact that six out of 10 Quebecers will suffer from back pain in their lifetime. "Musculoskeletal disorders are a serious public health issue," says Larivière. "They're also an economic problem. In 2007, back pain cost Quebec's Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail $516 million in worker compensations."


williebr said...

Training the body to use the back more and the hips less and to rely on external stabilization of the pelvis sounds like the sort of thing that would make back pain much more likely. Living bodies don't function like cadavers.

Steven Rice said...

I am concerned about any
approach that involves isolating particular muscles. Developing exercises that engage the entire body, while perhaps focusing on one area, will be more functional once you walk away from the exercise machine. I do acknowledge that in dealing with injuries isolation may be necessary, at least to start. To paraphrase Wille, external stabilization is not functional for a living body.

This is just research, and I hope it will lead to practical application and not just encourage the use of single-purpose machinery.
Positive Massage Therapy

Todd Hargrove said...

The study does not seem to measure whether anyone had less pain as a result of the exercises. Of course that's the real issue. There is considerable evidence that interventions to strengthen core musculature do not reduce back pain.

jon w said...

the human body was designed to use muscle groups together to get various tasks done in a huge array of angles, settings, difficulties and intensities, not to sit on an isolating machine and do reps.

Anonymous said...

I call the focus on isolation moves the intellectualization of fitness. The brain and body do not work this way. Chris, you have published the refutation of this kind of thinking just recently with your post on Sunday, April 18th. Look again at the picture labeled "An unreal lower back". That's the kind of back that serious powerlifters get. It's the hypertrophy of the thoracic (not lumbar) region, specifically the iliocostalis and longissimus muscles. The tendons of these muscles do span the lumbar spine. Those focused on isolation moves for the low back would do well to ponder this.

Anonymous said...

What the other commenters fail to realize is that while the human body functions as one piece, a weak link holds the entire machine back. Isolation exercises are completely appropriate in a prehab/rehab setting. They're also appropriate if there is a significant imbalance in strength, flexibility, mobility etc. I would never advocate a long term approach built on isolation, but there's nothing wrong with a short term plan to balance the entire structure.

Chris said...

Very good point from Anonymous above.

I do a number of rehab / prehab stretches / moves to sort out particularly tight muscles - e.g. psoas, glutes.

Anonymous said...

Prehab/rehab in regards to low back pain, strictly speaking, involves inner unit muscle isolation . The protocol involved in the study which is the subject of this post would not be considered inner unit oriented. For a better understanding see here:

Ron said...

I can totally support this study from my work in Physical Therapy. I save hands on work for joints in the lower back never muscles. The muscles require strength in order to stop dysfunction. It all boils down to biomechanics. If the transverse abdominus and multifidus (not just any "core" muscle) are firing appropriately then the biomechanics will be sound.