The Southeastern Spine Institute

Keep your back exercises from introducing new back pain.

A regular exercise program provides many health benefits, including fit muscles, healthier organs and stronger bones. But while working with a personal trainer has distinct advantages, you should take the time to check into his background before doing any recommended back exercises. Unknowingly, your trainer can teach you exercises that can lead to back pain.

Not every fitness trainer has experience in and knowledge of proper back care, so if you have a pre-existing back condition or if you tweak your back while doing your back exercises, your trainer may not know the best way to protect your back. Luckily, there are some simple precautions to take to test a potential trainer.

Questions to Ask Your Trainer

To avoid back pain, interview a personal fitness trainer before you start working with him. The purpose is to discover how much he knows about preventing back pain and how to deal with it if you experience it. You want to be able to trust that your trainer will keep you healthy and look out for you. Ask the trainer several of these questions:

  • Question: Have you ever pulled a muscle? Do you know the different implications of a muscle strain and of back pain? Ideal Answer: The trainer understands the serious nature of back pain and what can help and hurt you. He provides examples of best-practices for back health.
  • Question: What kind of evaluation do you perform before designing a fitness routine? Ideal Answer: The trainer performs an in-depth evaluation and asks questions about past injuries, current limitations and current pains during your first meeting.
  • Question: How do you keep abreast of the current thinking regarding back care? Ideal Answer: The trainer tells you about workshops he attends, articles or books he reads and other practices he employs to stay up-to-date on back exercises and the latest accepted back care practices.
  • Question: Regarding my exercise regimen, what would you recommend if I experienced a twinge in my back? Ideal Answer: The trainer takes a more cautious approach. A twinge may be nothing or it may be a symptom of something more serious.
  • Question: Can you explain the differences between exercising on a treadmill versus on an elliptical machine? Ideal Answer: An elliptical workout avoids the jarring action of jogging on a treadmill, but it also doesn’t let your full weight rest on your legs, which is good for your bones.
  • Question: Have you designed a regimen for someone who has a physical limitation? Tell me about it. Ideal Answer: The trainer understands limitations, can design a workout regimen around them and provides specific examples of conditions he’s worked with.
  • Question: What kind of back care training have you taken? Do you understand how the spine works? Ideal Answer: You may not find any trainer with specific back care training, but if you do, stick with him.

Get a feeling for his level of responsibility and his knowledge about back care and back exercises with these pointed questions. Listen to the responses and judge for yourself.

Back Exercises to Avoid

Just because you’re suffering from mild back pain doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise. In many cases, the right exercises can strengthen your back and reduce your pain. And an experienced trainer knows this. But you should know which back exercises are good for you and which to avoid as well. If you haven’t exercised in a while, remember to start slowly and ease your way back to a rigorous practice. The best exercises support your back. Here are back exercises to avoid:

  • Jogging, because it’s very jarring
  • Sit-ups or crunches, especially with your legs straight out
  • Pushups because of the stress they put on your back
  • Touching your toes while standing
  • Torso twists, or any twisting exercises with weights
  • Trampoline exercises
  • Any lifting exercise in which you’re bent at the waist
  • Pulling weight down behind your head
  • Dead lifts
  • Squats, even though you lift with your legs
  • Plank pose, often done in yoga
  • Double-leg lifts, even though you do them on your back