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  • Low Back Frustration

    Hello. I've been using BBM programming templates for about a year now with great results, especially increasing e1rm with higher @8 singles. I'm also very familiar with the BBM materials on pain science. Virtually 100% pain free (meaning no setbacks to training--plenty of annoying days!) until now.

    Just over a month ago, I "tweaked" my low back/glute area during an @9 deadlift during day 3, week 1 of the Bridge 3.0 (my first time doing this template). I was able to complete the workout without too much discomfort. On the following Monday (previous was Friday), squats on day 1, week 2 were extraordinarily uncomfortable and seemed to exacerbate (or "piss off") whatever was going on. I went ahead and completed the squats conservatively, BP as prescribed, and also went conservative while loading the paused deadlift. I then completed week 2 with moderate discomfort during conservative loading on squat variations and minimal discomfort on bench/press/DL variations.

    So that brings us to about 3 weeks ago--I was playing kickball with my son, and as I got up to a sprint to tag him out, the same area got really "pissed off." Even air squats were uncomfortable, and air deadlifts a little "tight." On the next training day I decided to go off the Bridge 3.0 and experimented with "rehab mode" according to Dr. Baraki's principles of loading, ROM, and exercise selection. I found that RDLs with reps of 10 + maxing out at heavy warmup ([email protected]) were fine, as were OHP in the 5 rep @8 range (so basically no real change to OHP programming). Incline bench and bench were a little more tender given the lumbar arch, so I passed on those.

    On the second workout, I added squats to begin. Every warm up through 135 lb had only mild discomfort--completely workable--but I got the same activity-stopping tightness that I got with the kickball incident at 165, which was still well within the conservative warm-up range I was anticipating. Moved around a bit and completed the session with OHP. So the next session I went back to focusing on RDL and OHP, while adding squats in the next session.

    Since then, however, I've painfully "tweaked" the same area two more times doing innocuous everyday tasks when I'm not even thinking about my back--reaching under the kitchen table to grab something my toddler dropped and getting out of the car awkwardly. In the gym, however, I'm able to make decent progress/reassurance on moderate RDLs for 10 reps and even very low-weight squats for 5 reps on the day after a tweak (e.g., 115 lb.). I call that a win after painful air squats.

    Sorry for the long background--now my question: s there anything I can do on my days off to help inoculate myself against these silly out-of-gym tweaks as I get back to normal weight ranges in the gym? I feel like trying to be more vigilant about how I'm moving through space to "protect" my back would just have a nocebo effect. But maybe some isometric or bodyweight exercises you've found to be especially useful that wouldn't add too much stress? Maybe these seeming setbacks are just part of the process, yet they are happening frequently enough to start being annoying with two kids who love to play hard.

    I'm open to purchasing the new low back template, but in general I feel relatively confident that I'm applying BBM principles fairly well. My approach to training has felt solid because I'm happy with (A) the holding pattern I've been able to maintain with OHP and IBP. and (B) the general progress I can make in a couple of sessions with squatting and RDL. Two steps forward + one step back is the right direction, but the backward steps really suck.

    Thanks an advance for any ideas you may have! Or if you need more info, happy to provide.

    -- Doug

  • #2
    Doug,
    Sorry to hear about your back issue. First and foremost I want to say you're more the norm than the exception with your experience thus far and it can be frustrating as hell. The background actually helps a lot in being able to offer assurance that what you are feeling is normal. While we do name your symptoms nonspecific low back pain, the symptoms do tend to behave like a strain. By that I mean that they start feeling better then something that seems subthreshold (picking up something your toddler dropped, squatting 165#) can set it off. Like a strain also, at 4 weeks things normally are trending positive, but not fine. Typically I frame this as a problem of working through vs working around symptoms. In instances where there is an increased probability of symptoms with squatting/deadlifting I will often program things like lunges, leg press, and some machines to satiate your desire for a workout while you get back to 100%. Sometimes, trying to straight squat through symptoms makes you want to push more as you have a lot of gas left in the tank squatting so light. You can use some other exercises to satiate your desire for a workout while squatting at what is comfortable. While normally a 135# to 165# jump is still warm up weight, it is a 22% increase in weight. There is almost always a ceiling effect to what you can tolerate coming back from a setback and the goal is to slowly raise the ceiling without exceeding threshold. This is where some variability in exercises can come in handy.

    It honestly sounds like you have an excellent plan in place and understanding of what you need to do. You may just benefit from some different lower extremity exercises for the next few weeks to get some volume in while you're playing with your kids and getting back to squatting the weight you want to.

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    • #3
      Wow, thank you so much, Doc. These are great tips. I'll keep at it and look forward to a positive follow up in a few weeks.

      Comment


      • #4
        Following up here to say that I re-started week 1 of The Bridge 3.0 on Monday and have progressed 100% pain free to 65% of e1RM prior to the training cycle where I started feeling pain initially in all squat and DL variations. Bench and OHP variations are still happy in the 80%-90% with no real method during the rehab period other than varying volume week to week. Had to run this week without the prescribed RPE because I can still definitely lift more than I'm comfortable trying. But next week I'll be able to target some mid-range RPE levels with more confidence.

        Thanks again, Derek, for talking me through this. I think the best lesson for next time--if there is a next time--is that I'll know I'll come out of it with time and effort.

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        • #5
          Hey Doug,
          I'm glad to hear things are working out. It's hard as hell to be patient and embrace the process but we often come out the other side better for it when we can. Doesn't make it any less frustrating while we're going through it though.

          Comment


          • #6
            Following up just over a month later to say that I've returned to my previous e1rm on squat/deadlift and have *increased* press/bench e1rm through week 5 of Bridge 3.0, completely pain free--posting for the benefit of anyone who reads through this thread feeling down and out.

            Comment


            • Leah Lutz
              Leah Lutz commented
              Editing a comment
              That's pretty awesome! Glad you came back and posted the update!
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