Avoiding Back and Neck Injuries
Back and neck injuries are among the most common ailments that trouble weight lifters. A major cause of back and neck injuries in the gym is staying in a rounded position too long beforehand. So if you work in a role that means you’re sitting down all day before heading to exercise, this may contribute to any issues you’ve been having.
Much of this problem comes from the misalignment of your neck and attempting to compensate for your rounded back. You then arch your lower back in an attempt to straighten, so if you have excess weight over your head your lower back will spasm because of the stress. A foremost solution to this is to stay mobile as much as possible throughout the day so that you don’t remain in one position for too long. By keeping active your muscles will be used rather than left to diminish and adopt bad posture.
The next obvious fix, which you’ll already know but have probably avoided, is to stretch before you begin to lift. Along with stretches that specifically target the muscles you’re about to work on, you could perform balancing and corrective stretches and positions to align your neck and back.
Try the following:
✓ Front and side planks.
✓ Roman chair extensions.
✓ Hyper-extensions of your lower back and hamstrings
Make sure that your lower back and neck are correctly supported when they ought to be. If you feel any tightness or weakness in your back and neck before lifting, consider alternatives. For example, some exercises that will affect your neck and back include overhead weight lifting and the likes of lateral raises. For lateral raises you could straddle an uprighted bench and sit with your forehead against the bench while lifting, taking some of the strain off your neck.
Shoulder pressing and overhead tricep extensions will surely make problems if you’re suffering an injury, but the answer may be to find alternative solutions to work those muscles. For example, a smith machine or supported lift will resolve the potential imbalance of using dumbbells, and cable work can be used to isolate muscles when heavy lifting isn’t an option.
Avoid jerking your neck and shoulders when you lift. A common mistake is to compensate when you find a weight too heavy by making a movement that isn’t part of the exercise. Lifts should be done with purposeful movements contracting the intended muscles. If your muscles are taut under heavy weight and you flinch or attempt to hoist the weight with the momentum of other muscles, this could cause the strain on your neck to be imbalanced.
If your back and core muscles are weak from too much sitting or injury, try the following to strengthen them:
✓ Squats: 3 sets of 10 to 15.
✓ Deadlifts: 3 sets of 8 to 12.
✓ Ab crunches and floor leg raises: 3 sets each of 25 to 30.
Some more common faux pas that you should avoid when exercising include the following:
Do not perform sit-ups or crunches with your hands behind your head. This will place unnecessary strain on your vertebrae.
Bringing the bar down behind your neck on lateral pulldowns and military presses cause too much flexion of your cervical vertebrae.
Increasing too much weight at once will surely put excessive strain on your muscles, back and neck. Don’t be hasty; make sure you’re performing exercises smoothly and increasing volume gradually.