In today’s episode of the PT on ICE Daily Show, Fitness Athlete faculty member Zach Long. In today’s episode, Zach shares his favorite exercises for low back strengthening, including the reverse hyperextension, heavy horizontal rowing, and Jefferson curls.
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What’s up everybody? Before we get rolling, I’d love to share a bit about Jane, the practice management software that we love and use here at ICE who are also our show sponsor. Jane knows that collecting new patient info, their consent, and signatures can be a time consuming process, but with their automated forms, it does not have to be. With Jane, you can assign intake forms to specific treatments or practitioners, and Jane takes care of sending the correct form out to your patients. Save even more time by requesting a credit card on file through your intake forms with the help of Jane Payments, their integrated PCI compliant payment solution. Conveniently, Jane will actually prompt your patients to fill out their intake form 24 hours before their appointment if they have not done so already. If you’re looking to streamline your intake form collection, head over to jane.app slash physical therapy, book a one-on-one demo with a member of the Jane team. They’ll be able to show you the features I just mentioned and answer any other questions you may have. Don’t forget, if you do sign up, use the code ICEPT1MO for a one month grace period applied to your new account. Thanks everybody, enjoy the show.
01:25 ZACH LONG
Welcome to the PT on ICE Daily Show here on the Best Day of the Week on the podcast. It is Fitness Athlete Friday. I’m excited to be with you here today. I’m Zach Long. I’m one of the lead faculty members inside of our fitness athlete division. And today we’re going to talk about a few of my favorite exercises for low back strength. Before we do that, two pieces to get out of the way. Number one, congratulations Joe Hanisko, one of our faculty members here inside the fitness athlete division. He and his wife Aubrey just had their first child, so congrats Joe. Second, upcoming courses we have inside the fitness athlete division. Advanced Concepts, eight weeks online, starts up September 17th. That always sells out, so if you’ve already taken essentials and you want to move on and take advance, you need to go sign up for that really soon because it will sell out several weeks in advance. Upcoming live courses we have September, we’re in Bismarck, North Dakota, as well as Newark, California. October, just outside of Seattle. In November, we’re in Hoover, so look forward to seeing you on the road. Or in Advanced Concepts. So let’s jump into today’s topic and that’s bulletproof back exercises. So one thing that we talk about a lot in so many of our courses, but especially in Fitness Athlete Live, is that there’s just this principle of rehabilitation. Like when a tissue is injured, what do we strengthen? We strengthen that tissue, right? If you’re dealing with Achilles tendinopathy, we’re doing Achilles tendon loading. If you’re dealing with patellofemoral pain, we’re getting your quads and your glutes really strong. We strengthen the tissues around what is injured. That’s a principle of rehab. But all of a sudden when we start talking about low back pain, that principle like goes out of the window. And so much of our profession then says, no, we’re not going to get the back strong. Instead, we’re going to worry about the glutes not activating. We’re going to worry about psoas tightness. We’re going to worry about transversus abdominis activation. And while I’m not saying any of that is not completely irrelevant, I’m just saying that a principle of rehab is that we strengthen the area that is injured. So when somebody has back pain, we should probably make that back a little bit stronger. And so I want to share five of my favorite exercises for doing that today. And number one for back strength is going to be the reverse hyperextension. So this is a piece of equipment that you don’t see a lot of physical therapy clinics. So I’m going to describe it for those of you that aren’t familiar. Imagine you have a high-low table that goes up about five feet off the ground. And it’s got this nice cushiony pad on top of the table. And you lay your torso on that with your legs hanging vertically off of that. And then you lift your legs up. So it’s essentially just doing like a Romanian deadlift, except your upper body’s horizontal to the ground and locked in place, and you’re lifting your legs up. So there’s reverse hyper machines, but this can also be done a number of different ways. I have patients doing it off of beds, off of incline benches, over exercise balls, over a barbell in J-cups on a rack, over a glute ham developer. A lot of different ways to do reverse hypers. But they are a phenomenal exercise for building a little bit of low back strength and endurance. And I’d say this is probably one of my most frequently prescribed low back exercises, because it works so well, even on your highly irritable patients, so frequently they can do this and get a huge pump into those muscles around their lower back, which of course is going to help tremendously out with pain and with working through a little bit of inflammation and getting fluids moving a little bit. So really make sure you check out reverse hypers. If you’ve never done those before, I would highly encourage you to take a look at different reverse hyper variations. You can find some videos of that on my YouTube or my Instagram if you need some ideas on how to do that, or you can just shoot me a message and I’ll send you that video. But it is a great exercise to start with. Exercise number two, any form of heavy rows. I think we very frequently think of bent over rows and other movements like that as an upper back or mid back exercise, but they’re so underrated in terms of what the low back has to do in terms of holding an isometric contraction. So I love really heavy rows. So bent over rows or really, really, really love pin lay rows. So if you’re not familiar with pin lay rows, here’s another great exercise for you to go train and explore within your own personal fitness journey. So barbells on the ground with bumper plates on it, you hinge over quite a bit to grab the bar and you’re doing a row with every time the bar goes all the way back down to the ground. And what I really focus on with my pin lay rows is that my lumbar spine stays locked in place. I let my thoracic spine round and extend a little bit as I row. And that’s just a phenomenal exercise to build total spine strength. So really for sure, check out pin lay rows if you’ve never done those before. Next movement is a series of movements actually. So that’s anything off of a glute ham developer. Not very many physical therapy clinics have a glute ham developer, but a lot of gyms do. And so a glute ham developer is an exercise, a piece of exercise equipment that has a lot of different potential variations that you can do. But really I like to do tons of isometric holds off of the glute ham developer. So the glute ham developer has this little foot plate. So you lock your feet in place and then your thighs into this other pad. And then your upper body is free hanging out here. So you can hold your upper body parallel to the ground and you’re now going to do a really good isometric of your low back, your glutes, your hamstrings to hold that global extension position. But you can then do different things like hold some light dumbbells and do rows to make that a little bit more challenging. You could turn it into a hinge movement by doing back or hip extensions, either loaded or unloaded, but so many different variations of exercises that can be done off a glute ham developer to load the post of your chain and the back specifically that you really want to make sure you check those things out. Up next, Jefferson curls. So Jefferson curls tend to get physical therapists a little bit fired up because everybody seems to be on one side of the equation or the other. So Jefferson curls, where we work on segmentally flexing the spine and taking the spine from an upright position, going into global flexion with light load behind it. I love Jefferson curls because so frequently in our culture, people are absolutely terrified of flexing their spine, especially with any load. And so the lightly load that and make people feel more confident that their back can get out of neutral position and not explode. Like we see Instagram infographics happen all the time by unfortunate influencers. The Jefferson curl is a great way to build confidence that the spine can be flexed. I love this to build a little bit of submaximal strength out of positioning. I love it also for my athletes that have some neural tension. We’ve worked through so much of that neural tension, but I know they’re going back to a sport like CrossFit where they’re going to be doing a ton of hinging motion. I like to use the Jefferson curl as the in range, make sure we completely clear out any of that stiffness that might be remaining. So that’s exercise number four. And you all know exercise number five, last exercise. If you’ve been to an ice course, whether this is total spine thrust, modern management of older adult, lumbar spine management, or fitness athlete, you know what the next exercise is. And that is the freaking dead left because that is the best exercise that has ever been invented to build low back strength as well as human’s confidence in their body. It is shocking and amazing how often somebody pulls a weight off the ground that they didn’t know that they could do. They didn’t know that they were strong enough to do it, or they didn’t know that their back wasn’t so fragile that they couldn’t pick up that 95 pound bar, that 125 pound bar, that 225 pound bar. They pick it up and all of a sudden, their chest pops up a little bit. They walk out of the clinic a couple inches taller because they’re so much more confident in their body when they learn how to pull a heavy weight off the ground. And it’s something that they weren’t expecting. Dead lifts can be conventional dead lifts, sumo dead lifts. They can be kettlebell dead lifts, so many different options for it, but get your people pulling heavy weights off the ground because that builds a lot of confidence in the human body. One of our favorite research articles from that comes out from Taglia Theory and colleagues in 2020. So they looked at individuals doing low load motor control exercises and manual therapy compared to a group that did heavy loading. So they’re doing squats and dead lifts and a ton of other exercises that load the spine heavy. And what they actually found was that the heavy group, the group that were getting after it lifting heavy loads, had significantly reduced levels of kinesiophobia, which when it comes to low back pain, we all know that’s the key. Our patients, after they’ve had an experience of low back pain, are terrified of their backs. And anything we can do that reduces kinesiophobia and makes them feel more confident is really important. And in that Taglia Theory and colleagues article in 2020, low load motor control exercises, your bird dogs, your clam shells, those sorts of movements, they don’t make people less fearful of their back, although they do help with their pain. Heavy loading helps with pain and makes people more confident in their body. And that’s what it’s all about. So five different exercises there. We’ve got reverse hypers, we’ve got heavy rows, we’ve got glute ham developer work, Jefferson curls, and the greatest exercise of all, the dead lift to make your patients stronger in their low back, more confident in their low back, and getting back to doing the things that they love. So I hope you enjoy this episode. As always, reach out to us if you have ideas for future topics you’d love to hear of, and we look forward to seeing you on the road. Have a great weekend, everybody.
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