Lower back injuries consist of 36% of al injuries in CrossFit according to one study.
Considering that CrossFit spends a lot of there time doing deadlift related excercises its easy to imagine that the lower back sometimes gets injured in some people. Because of this a good lifting technique is emphasized in a lot of classes. But is a good technique really relevant to reduce the amount of injuries?
A recent studie has compared a non-safe lifting technique with a safe lifting technique by bending cadaveric spines up to 20.000 times or until it breaks. A good lifting technique was keeping the bar close to the body, a bad one keeping the bar far away from the body. With the bad lifting technique some damage in the vertebral discs was observed and in the safe technique this was observed after more reps.
So its good to note that it might be preferable to use a safe technique from an injury point of view. Its also important to realize that some damage is unavoidable and that this is also a normal part of life as disc “problems" are also found in a-symptomatic people!
The debate on whether or not to keep the spine extended during lifting is an ongoing discussion at the moment. No studies have showed that keeping your back slightly bended during deadlifting is always bad and leads to injury or pain.
So why would you want to keep the back extended during deadlifts?
In my opinion its good to do so because of how the hamstrings work. The hamstring contribute the most to extending the hip in the deadlift. But will not when the back is rounded. In order to understand this we should dive a little bit into the anatomy of the back, pelvis and hamstring.
The hamstring consists of 4 muscle groups that origins on the pelvis and upper leg inserts on the lower leg. It can produce hip extension, posterior pelvic tilt, knee flexion and knee extension depending on the position of the back, hip, thigh and knee.
When the lower back bends the pelvis the pelvis is not fixated, which moves into a posterior pelvic tilt (backward roll.) The hamstrings will then contribute to further bending of the back and posterior tilting of the pelvis. The torso wil get up but it will cost a lot more energy.
When the lower back extends, the pelvis is fixated and the hamstrings will contribute to extending the hip. Making for a more efficient way of lifting the weight up in the long run.
So you’ve noticed that your back is arching and you want to do something about it. Great, lets look at a couple solutions.
Its "just” the technique.
practice the dowel drill. (Hip hinge) Perfect the drill to practice good rhythm between lower back, hamstrings and pelvis.
deadlift of the blocks. Usually backs start to bend at the lower part. Sometimes training of the blocks can help us to learn to keep our back straight and acquire the strength while we lower before we reach to point where we start to bend our back.
Cue yourself to "look up” and push the butt “out of the window"
Hamstrings are to “tight" or “weak”, or both. And they cannot reach the optimal length for a extended low back and fixated pelvis.
do eccentric hamstring stretching/loading drills
do a regular stretch of the hamstrings.
Core strength is not good enough.
program basic/advanced core training
program front rack Romanian Deadlifts. This puts extra demand on “the core” during the RDL
The lower back is the weak link in the chain in terms of strength and gives out first.
tame your ego and reduce the weight ;-)
program Good Mornings, Back extensions, Reverse Hypers etc. to train your lower back extensors.
See what works for you! Its always recommended to consult a physio first when you are not sure or when you experience pain.
A physio can help you through your back pain, asses your technique and see what is “the weak link” to help you improve!
Feito Y, Burrows EK, Tabb LP. A 4-Year Analysis of the Incidence of Injuries Among CrossFit-Trained Participants. Orthop J Sports Med. 2018 Oct
Amin DB. Tavakoli, J. Mechanisms of Failure Following Simulated Repetitive Lifting: A Clinically Relevant Biomechanical Cadaveric Study. 2018 Oct.
Bosch, F. Krachttraining en coördinatie, een interactieve benadering. 2012