What's wrong with rounding your back? What's wrong with rounding your back?

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Thread: What's wrong with rounding your back?

  1. #1
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    Default What's wrong with rounding your back?

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    I know this is a stupid question, for lots of reasons. But can anyone explain the biomechanics of it? How exactly does lower back injury occur when, say, deadlifting with a rounded lumbar spine?

    If the answer is: read the book, then please point out the page where it's explained in full. I have read the book several times now. But I am human, so I might have missed something. I just want to be able to explain the nuts and bolts of it to myself next time I'm pointing my chest up. Thanks

  2. #2
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    My experienced has been that pulling with a rounded lumbar spine does not typically lead to injury. What does lead to injury is setting your back in extension, and then for whatever reason, letting your back flex in the process of pulling the bar. That movement from a shortened muscle being ripped into elongation seems to cause injury that held flexion does not. Sometimes this happens because the lifter is jerking the bar off the floor. Sometimes it happens because the lifter has poor positioning (bar forward of the midfoot). Sometimes it happens because they lose focus on maintaining an extended lumbar.

    However, when your back is extended, it is incorporating your lumbar extensors (which really are postural muscles used in isometric contraction) which is stressing them, which allows them to adapt and get stronger, and then you don't get hurt playing with your kids or moving your lawnmower when it gets stuck in mud or picking up a couch.
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  3. #3
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    Thanks Andrew, that is interesting to know. So I guess the best response, if I feel the temptation to round out, would be to drop the weight before I lose extension. And then carefully return to standing before resetting. That's assuming I have the awareness and skill to pull all that off on the last rep of a heavy lift...

  4. #4
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    Technically yes, but it's a very common experience for you to feel like your back is rounding, but it is not. Every single time I rack pull heavy, I feel like my back goes into flexion and I feel like my back is going to break, and for the last five years of rack pulling, I review the video and my lumbar is flat, and I haven't gotten hurt. There's a weird, vague sense of "I'm going to snap my back" when people pull heavy despite the complete lack of personal evidence that anything bad will actually happen.

    So I would defer to a coach or video recording unless it's really obvious that your back is in horrible flexion after trying to keep it flat.
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrewLewis View Post
    That movement from a shortened muscle being ripped into elongation seems to cause injury that held flexion does not.
    My understanding is that most back injuries are joint injuries and not muscular; are you suggesting here that the mechanism is rapid manipulation/forceful manipulation of the joint(s) as a consequence of "being ripped into elongation" (or, I guess, alternatively "ripped into contraction"!)? The loading must contribute to how forceful this manipulation is which explains why (most) people can tolerate all sorts of nasty back positions if they're unloaded.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by zft View Post
    My understanding is that most back injuries are joint injuries and not muscular; are you suggesting here that the mechanism is rapid manipulation/forceful manipulation of the joint(s) as a consequence of "being ripped into elongation" (or, I guess, alternatively "ripped into contraction"!)? The loading must contribute to how forceful this manipulation is which explains why (most) people can tolerate all sorts of nasty back positions if they're unloaded.
    That's interesting. Where did your understanding of back injuries usually being joint injuries come from?
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