Tips to Protect Your Back During Weightlifting

Summit Orthopedics physician assistant — and dedicated weightlifter — Brendan Murphy, PA-C, shares his best tips for lifting weights safely.

Brendan Murphy, PA-C, one of Summit’s physician assistants, added weightlifting to his fitness regimen several years ago. “I was interested in studies I was reading about the mind-body connection and its effect on overall wellness, and one aspect these studies mentioned was the importance of strength training,” he said. “I started doing bodybuilding as a hobby a couple of years ago, and I have found that it gives me mental clarity on top of making me feel better. The benefits of weightlifting made sense.”

If you are interested in trying weightlifting and experiencing its benefits for yourself, here are Brendan’s top tips for weightlifting while protecting your back:

Tip 1: Focus on “spine-neutral” exercises

Incorporate both cardio and weight training exercises into your routine. The best exercises for people with low back pain are recumbent biking and aquatic physical therapy. Combine those with a spine conditioning program or physical therapy program for best results.

Tip 2: Don’t forget about your weightlifting diet

“With weightlifting, you get out what you put in,” Brendan said. To get the best performance, and best results, it means paying attention to what you’re eating. Brendan recommends a Mediterranean-style diet with plenty of lean protein.

Tip 3: Check with your doctor before taking supplements

When you begin to look into weightlifting, you’ll quickly find yourself inundated with ads for various supplements. Before you add any supplements to your diet, it’s important to talk with your healthcare provider. “If, for example, you have kidney disease, protein supplements may not be a good idea,” Brendan said.

Tip 4: Before weightlifting, stretch first

Before doing strength training on your back muscles, start with some warm-ups. Popular choices include cat/cow stretches, planking, and the swimmer position, in which you lie on your back and pedal kick with your legs.

Tip 5: Form, form, form

Proper technique and proper form are essential if you want to avoid injury during weightlifting. “Squats are common, but it’s often not the best exercise because a lot of people overdo it. Poor form can definitely lead to injury,” Brendan said. Exercises that are more spine neutral than squats include any variety of row movements, lat pulldowns, and reverse hyperextension exercises with proper form and weight. Using the right amount of weight and using proper form are the best ways to strengthen your back safely.

Summit Orthopedics offers comprehensive spine expertise

Summit’s spine care team is recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance for the comprehensive expertise of our patient-centered care. Our back specialists diagnose spine problems and design custom treatment plans built on a conservative, nonsurgical approach. Most patients find relief through treatments including guided injections, specialized physical therapy, biofeedback, exercise, activity modification, and medication. When conservative care does not relieve symptoms, our highly skilled surgeons offer proven, evidence-based surgical options. Together with you, we will determine the right course of action.

Start your journey to a healthy spine. Find your spine expert, request an appointment online, or call us at (651) 968–5201 to schedule a spine consultation.

Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MNPlymouth, MNVadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as additional community clinics throughout the metro and southern Minnesota.

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