Certain exercises can cause back pain, back injuries, and can make back pain worse. Below are exercises to avoid and why, and which exercises you can do instead, that will increase strength and should not cause back pain.
Always check with your doctor and physical therapist to confirm which exercises you should not do, and for how long you should avoid them. Doctors tell their patients not to lift weights or do squats, which many patients believe to mean that they cannot do squats or weight lifting ever again; Doctors are neglecting to explain that those exercises need to be avoided for only six months (or, for however long).
Heavy weights are not for everyone, but most people can exercise safely with light to medium weights, with correct form. Having an experienced, qualified fitness coach who will spot you is a good investment, so consider hiring a trainer to prevent future injuries.
If you’re cleared to exercise, keep reading so you know which exercises you should avoid, and which ones you can do, that shouldn’t bother your back.
Exercises that target the quadriceps (muscles on the front of the legs) and the glutes (hips and butt), that can cause back pain, injuries & make back pain worse include:
- Back squats. Even with proper form, added weight compresses the spine. When people lower too fast into a squat, they don’t have proper control, and cannot keep their abs engaged, moving the low back into an anterior tilt position, which increases the chances of injury. Going too low in a squat causes the ugly butt-wink, where the low back rounds and tailbone curves under, which is unhealthy for the lower back. Holding the bar unevenly, from having varying mobility in one shoulder compared to another, can cause twisting of the spine and misalignment.
- Leg press. In this seated position, the low back is rounded, and the added weight stresses the spine.
- Pistol squats. Just like a squat that’s lower than 90 degrees, the lowest part of the squat, where the tailbone is tucked under and rounded, can injure the lower spine.
- Machines like the hack squat place weight and pressure down the shoulders and onto the vertebrae. This extra weight compresses the spine. This is one reason why it’s a good idea to hang from a bar to decompress the spinal column after weighted leg exercises.
- Box squats (or chair squats)
- Step-ups (don’t let your leg raise above 90 degrees to prevent your tailbone from rounding)
- Wall-sits (wall-sit variations video is below)
- Heel-elevated goblet squats
- Single-leg squats
Exercises that target the hamstrings (the muscles on the back of the legs) and lower back that can cause back pain, injuries & make back pain worse include:
- Conventional deadlifts
- Straight leg deadlifts
- Sumo deadlifts
While all deadlifts include a hip-hinge variation, when both feet are firmly planted onto the floor, the low back does the majority of the lifting. The above three deadlifts are not worth the risk since there are deadlift variations that can strengthen the low back, hamstrings, and the glutes, that are easier and less risky.
- Double leg kettlebell deadlifts (don’t go too low, and don’t go too heavy)
- Single leg deadlifts
- Kickstand variation, where the heel is raised on one leg (make sure to switch with each side).
- Balance with one leg
- Hold onto a sturdy object with one hand
Exercises that target the latissimus dorsi aka lats (the largest back muscle) that can cause back pain, injuries and can make back pain worse include:
- Bent-over dumbbell rows
- Bent-over barbell rows
When performing a bent-over row, you have to master the hip-hinge, and keep the abs engaged the entire time. Not only is this tricky, but it puts extra pressure on the low back.
- Seated rows
- Seated lat pull-downs
- Standing dumbbell rows in a lunge position, with one hand on a counter or raised bench
Whenever you are lifting weights, control and proper form should be the top priority. When people swing and jerk weights they cannot control, this is not only cheating, but swinging and jerking weights can lead to pulling and/or tearing a muscle or a tendon, cause a bulging disk, or “throwing your back out.”
Abdominal exercises that can cause back pain, injuries, and can make back pain worse include:
- Crunches compress the spine and only work the upper ab muscles.
- Any ab exercise where you are leaning back or lying on the floor, can cause pain in the tailbone area, and when the abs get tired, the back typically goes into an anterior pelvic tilt position, which can aggravate and injure the spine.
- Front planks. Planks should not hurt your low back if you perform them correctly. The key to prevent low back pain when performing planks, is to make sure to squeeze your butt the entire time: this will prevent your low back from arching and will keep your abs engaged.
- Side planks. Keep your shoulder active, your elbow at 90 degrees, and push your forearm into the matt, with your shoulder back and down (don’t let your shoulder rotate inward to prevent shoulder pain).
I created a video, below, to showcase all of these exercises, so you can see how to perform box squats, step-ups, wall-sits, heel elevated goblet squats, single leg squats, double-leg kettlebell deadlifts, three different single leg deadlifts variations, rows in a lunge position, and elbow planks.
Below is a video of seven wall-sit variations:
Below is a plank workout, that you can watch and follow-along to.
Let me know if you have any questions and add your experience with back pain and/or the exercises I mentioned in this post, in the comments below.
If you’re diagnosed as a diabetic, testing blood sugar is a must, especially for Type-1 diabetics because very low blood sugar, which is what Type-1 diabetics deal with frequently, can cause falls, blackouts, a coma, and even death.
There’s several continuous glucose monitoring devices (aka CGM) and systems that test blood sugar around the clock. How it works, is that a sensor is applied to the upper back of the arm, after cleaning that area. The “gun” shoots the sensor into the arm. The sensor stays put with an adhesive glue. The way the sensor is able to give readings is through a needle in the middle of the sensor.
I did research on YouTube and watched many videos on CGMs, and people really seemed to like the convenience of the being able to test their blood sugar by swiping their phone or the reader, which looks like a small phone, near the sensor to get a reading right away.
My doctor recommended a CGM from FreeStyle Libre and called in the prescription to a pharmacy closest to me. After I picked up the two-pack of sensors and the reader, I followed the directions and was surprised by how much putting the sensor on, hurt. It felt like someone punched me in the arm with a thick needle. It stung. Literally. It felt like a bee sting, even several minutes after the sensor was applied. That was a definite negative.
A plus to continuous glucose monitoring, is how easy it is to test blood sugar, but testing became a new obsessive-compulsive habit. I wanted to know how much my blood sugar went up after a meal, how much it went down after a workout, what made it stabilize, what the numbers looked like at night, and what the numbers were, pretty much, every hour of the day.
My husband also decided he wanted to check my blood sugar without telling me. He would grab the reader and swipe it by my arm and would read the results to me. For all of you that have a loved one that wears a CGM, don’t check someone’s blood sugar without permission, it’s invasive and personal; you’re looking at the readings of someone’s fluid inside their body. If the person’s blood sugar is high, you’re going to upset them, and they will think you are blaming them for having high blood sugar.
Everyone’s blood sugar rises during exercise, and after eating food, so higher blood sugar readings are normal. It takes a diabetic’s blood sugar longer to go down and stabilize because Type-1 diabetics have to use synthetic insulin in doses estimated by calculating carbs, looking at portion sizes, and based on how we feel. A healthy pancreas spits out insulin in spurts, but synthetic insulin in given in one large dose, when needed, so it’s impossible to always have healthy blood sugar numbers.
Diabetics use glucose readings to determine if there is a need to take more insulin, to eat more carbs, or to see if we can resume going about our day. It’s really important to have accurate blood sugar readings because excess insulin can cause falls, concussions, stays in the hospital, and even death. Having blood sugar in healthy ranges is crucial because it’s the difference between life, death, and medical problems in the future.
Having accurate blood sugar readings is vital. To verify the reader’s accuracy, the instruction booklet advises to do finger sticks. A finger stick is where you test your blood sugar by inserting a needle into a finger to draw out blood. That blood is then placed, in a droplet, onto a strip. The blood on the strip gets sucked into meter to provide a number, displayed on the meter. Every time I compared the finger stick reading to the CGM reading, the numbers were never the same. Sometimes they were sort of close, ten points off, but sometimes they were extremely far off, by as much as forty-three points.
Under limitations from the company’s website, it says: “Check sensor glucose readings with a blood glucose meter when Check Blood Glucose symbol appears, when symptoms do not match system readings, or when readings are suspected to be inaccurate“ (1).
The entire point of purchasing a CGM is to get accurate readings without having to fingerstick.
What I also didn’t like, was having to wear a medical device, in plain sight, for everyone to see. The sensor looks like a shiny white, flat button. I don’t know why the sensor is not available in shades of tans and browns to make them less obvious.
The sensor is not supposed to get in the way of activities, but I banged it against the wall a few times, and I’m not a clumsy person. Having an object protruding from my body is bound to get hit by a wall. It also hurt a lot more when I hit my arm, with the sensor in it.
The burning that I mentioned subsided, but not altogether. The area under and around the sensor stung and itched. I started to panic, wondering if the skin was dying under the sensor since it didn’t have access to free flowing air and could be undergoing necrosis.
After three days of use with the CGM, I wanted the sensor off my body, but it wouldn’t come off. My husband had to take tweezers to get underneath the sensor and pull it off my arm (the video of this is included below).
After removing the sensor, I saw, under the sensor and on my arm, was a decent amount of dried blood. On July 10, 2020, I called the manufacturer, told them about the inaccurate readings and itching and burning around the application site, I was told that the sensor might have been faulty, and I might be allergic to the latex glue they use. I’ve known for years, that I am allergic to latex, but I didn’t know the product contained latex. It doesn’t have a latex warning on the box, and it’s not listed on the website either.
Online, I found that a lot of people are having skin irritations from the sensor’s adhesive too. The company would not reveal what the needle was made of when I called them.
The system is also expensive. My co-pay was $64.99 and the two sensors cost me $59.97, out of my own pocket. My insurance didn’t cover the cost of the meter, or the sensors. Each sensor only lasts fourteen days, so you have to buy a new set every two weeks, so it’s three pennies under $60 a month, for just the sensors.
In conclusion, a CGM is not a good, or even a viable option for me, and for many people who are sensitive to the adhesive, but, there are lots of people who love their CGM and swear by it.
I created the short video below, if you’d rather hear the details instead of reading them, and to show you how to apply the sensor, how red my arm looked right after the initial application and before removing it, how my husband removed the sensor, what the needle looks like, and how much blood was under the sensor and on my arm after he removed the sensor.
If you have any questions, comments or would like to share your experience with CGM, please write to me below.
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Low back pain is excruciating and can be debilitating. Using proper form when lifting, such as using your legs instead of your back to pick up children or objects, will help alleviate strain on your back. Performing ab exercises can cause back pain if your abs get tired and your back takes over; and twisting can cause your back to “go out.”
To prevent, or reduce, the chances of back pain, it’s essential to strengthen the entire core, not just the abs. Below I’ve outlined exercises specifically to strengthen the lower back.
- Double leg kettlebell deadlifts
- Single leg kettlebell deadlifts
- Bodyweight single leg deadlifts
- Prone single leg lifts
- Prone double leg lifts
- Prone Swiss ball leg lifts
- Elbow planks
I also created a video for you to watch how these exercises are done with correct form so you don’t injury yourself.
Try a few of these exercises once or twice a week to keep your lower back strong. For abdominal, oblique and additional low back exercises, watch these planks variations in the video here.
(includes push-up tutorial)
One of the most common questions women ask me is how to get rid of arm fat, arm flab, and how to tone and tighten the back of the arms (the triceps). While losing excess fat is part of the solution, you can strengthen the back of the arms, which will give it sexy, curvy, muscle definition, and reduce that flab.
You don’t need a gym membership or need expensive exercise equipment; you can gain strength with:
- triceps kickbacks
- overhead triceps extensions
- dumbbell or kettlebell floor presses
- bodyweight push-ups
Out of those four exercises, push-ups would be the superior exercise in terms of calorie burn and strength. Everyone should be able to do push-ups with modifications. For instance, you can start with push-ups on the kitchen counter, then progress to the back of the couch. After a while, you’ll be able to do push-ups on a bench, and then be able to do push-ups on the floor.
New clients have told me they cannot do push-ups because it hurts their shoulders, but that’s because their hands are too high, too wide, and their elbows are flaring out to the sides. You want to keep your hands down and close to your ribs, with your elbows tucked to your side.
You want to start your push up in a plank position. The same rules apply for elevated push-ups where you are not on the floor: squeeze your butt and have your hands in line with your shoulders.
The bottom of the push-up is where you want to go as low as you can. The goal is to touch your chest to the floor without arching your back.
To make it easier to visualize, I created a video of these exercises with detailed explanations, along with variations. Just click play on the YouTube video below.
Like all exercises, the one-and-done expression does not produce results. To gain strength, you want to work those muscles twice a week. Give yourself two full days off to rest. To track your progress, order Weightlifting Record book from the Amazon link below, to record your exercises, reps, sets and days you exercised https://www.amazon.com/dp/0997665432?ref_=pe_3052080_397514860
If you are short on time, this eight minute plyometric cardio workout gets the heart rate up, burns calories, increases strength, and makes your cardiovascular system stronger. If you have any knee issues, don’t jump, keep the feet on the floor, and have a chair available to hold onto if you need it for balance.
If your goal is weight loss, you’ll need to reduce calories in addition to exercising.
For anyone who has trouble getting up and down, and on and off the floor safely. Watch this video, or share it with that person. I’ve outlined the steps below also.
Follow the 10 steps below to get off the floor safely:
1. from a sitting position, shift both legs to one side
2. with your hands flat on the floor, shift the hip that is on the ground, upwards
3. pull your knees center, in line with your torso, to be on all fours
4. bring your stronger leg in front of your, in a lunge position, with that foot flat on the floor
5. flex the back foot, the one that is behind you, so the toes are pressing into the floor
6. place the hand that is closing to the leg in front of your, on the middle of that leg
7. bring your torso upwards, with a slight lean forwards
8. bring the opposite arm out to the side, the one that is not holding the front of the leg
9. stand up by pushing through the back toes and the front heel
10. push off that back foot with those toes to stand up
The video above shows a few different options on how to get off the floor without falling and using your legs instead of your arms. I also go in detail on how to lower safely, and how to get up after doing ab exercises easily.
Let me know if you liked this post and add any comments below.
Ball-walkouts are phenomenal at getting your whole core (and abs) strong. It’s also a great exercise for frozen shoulder rehabilitation. The first thing, before you begin, is to make sure you have the right size ball. Since I’m short, I have to use a smaller ball. You also want to make sure the ball is not over-inflated, otherwise it will hurt to lay on, and be extremely difficult to balance on.
When I was teaching my clients at the gym how to perform ball walk-outs, most of them wanted to rush through it, by walking out too fast, but that’s a recipe for a fall. To start, squat low, drape your belly over the ball, place your hands on the ground, shoulder-width apart. Walk forward, slowly with your hands, squeeze your butt to work the abs, and to prevent your low back from creating a painful bow-shape. Walk forwards, in a straight line, as far as you feel comfortable. When you become more proficient at ball walk-outs, you can extend out as far as the top of your laces on your shoes, and you can do a pike (photo) below.
If you fear falling, try this on carpet, and bring one leg out to the side (see video below), if you lose your balance. You can also ask a family member or friend (who has excellent balance and is stronger than you) to walk along side you, during the walkouts, and have their hands near your waist. If you wobble, that person just (gently) straightens your waist so that you’re in a straight line. The end-goal is to do three sets of ten ball-walkouts. If you’re up for more of a challenge, you can add a pike, tucks, and/or a pike press
I never cared about how many carbohydrates, or what types of carbs I ate until after I was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes. As a type-1 diabetic, I have to count carbs, and/or measure carbs, in order to use that information to determine how much insulin to take. I became obsessed with all carbs, because more carbs, means more insulin injections, so I limit all carbs as much as tolerable. While I am not on a low-carb diet, I try to limit my carbs to no more than 45 grams of carbs per meal, or snack. Most people eat a lot more than 45 grams of carbs at a time; for comparison, one regular slice of pizza is 35 grams of carbs (source USDA). I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that eats just one slice of pizza and calls it quits. California Pizza Kitchen’s Mac and Cheese is 62 grams of carbs, their spinach artichoke dip is 87 grams of carbs, their Chinese chicken salad is 96 grams of carbs, and their hummus with pita is a whopping 145 grams of carbs (1). Most restaurant portions are much too large, and contain way too many carbs and calories for a normal-sized human being.
If you cut out excess carbs, it’s no wonder people lose weight, because extra carbs equal extra calories. The problem with this thinking, is that people believe that carbs are the problem, they are not. It’s the large portions that’s the main problem.
The issue with carbs, that I have, is that I’m not eating enough carbs since I’m 95% vegan, and only eat four times a day. My 45 grams of carbs x 4 meals = 180 grams of carbs (720 calories). Since my protein is coming mostly from vegan carbs like beans and grains, this is not enough fuel to sustain me, so I’m hungry, but I don’t want to eat more carbs. Instead of adding more carbs, I gravite towards fat, so I eat nuts and seeds, and there is nothing wrong with nuts and seeds, except that they contain a lot of calories.
Fats from nuts and seeds (and avocados) are good fats, and we want those in our diets, but if the goal is weight loss, it’s better to eat more carbs than fat, because fat contains more than twice the calories than carbs. All carbs contain 4 calories per gram, whereas fats contain 9 calories per gram. So, to lose those last few pounds, I’m going to have to change my mindset about carbs, and eat more of them, which should increase my satiety so I’m not grabbing handfuls of nuts.
If your goal is weight loss, try adding more healthy “good” carbs, like fruit, beans and vegetables; cutting out the “bad” processed carbs like bread, sugar, and crackers; and limiting oils and fatty foods to see if that will help you lose weight (especially belly fat), instead of limiting carbohydrates.