Weightlifting and powerlifting are great ways to build up strength in the body and increase overall health. However, some muscle-building exercises can have a negative impact on joints and the spine. While several powerlifting exercises can be harmful with improper form, others can result in back issues even with proper form. Let’s review some of these exercises that can lead to back pain and spinal damage.
Exercises and Good Form
Squats are a fundamental exercise for bodybuilders and weightlifters alike. This exercise can be harmful to the back as the weight from the bar is applied directly to the spine. Squats do cause disc compression, but the discs in the spine are designed to deal with this force, and in most cases return to their natural height shortly after performing the powerlifting exercise.
When squatting, it is important to use a slow and controlled motion, as bouncing or accelerated motions can cause damaging spinal disc compression. Leaning forward can cause the vertebrae in the spine to compress at an angle. This can cause vertebrae to rub against one another. If the muscles tire out or are not strong enough, the lifters can experience short term and chronic lower back pain.
“Bent-over rows”, with dumbbells or a bar, are a common exercise power lifters use build muscle mass on their back. This exercise, when done incorrectly, can cause spinal damage. It is critical to keep your back flat throughout the exercise to reduce strain on the spine. Jerking motions can cause the back to lose control and force the spine to try to catch the weight, so the weight should be kept under control for the duration of the exercise.
Exercises that can Cause Damage, Even with Correct Form
Power lifters often use Olympic lifts, such as the “snatch” and the “clean and jerk” to improve strength. These lifts can be difficult to perform with proper form, and can cause damage to the vertebrae of the spine and intercostal space between the discs. These lifts involve moving a high weight in quick motions. Motions force the body's joints to withstand the heavy loads in extreme positions.
The “deadlift” exercise utilizes the entire posterior chain in the body and is considered one of the most effective full-body muscle-building exercises. However, deadlifts can pose a risk of spinal damage.
Deadlifts place force on the spinal discs, especially when done with heavy weight. If you perform these exercises with a rounded or arched back, the amount of disc compression increases substantially and can result in bulged discs, pinched nerves, or other issues.
Protect Your Spine with Proper Form and the Right Exercises
Powerlifting and weightlifting are great ways to train the body, increase overall muscle mass, and keep your body healthy. When done right, these exercises will enhance mobility and quality of life. It is highly recommended to utilize certified trainers while lifting weights, to ensure proper form and minimize spinal damage.