Put your back into your train­ing with­out putting it out by us­ing our ex­pert’s ad­vice to avoid th­ese com­mon in­juries

Men's Fitness - - Contents -

Avoid th­ese up­per-back in­juries

Kam Sow­man has worked with elite ath­letes in the UK, Australia and New Zealand and has played rugby and rowed at an elite level. He now works at West Lon­don Phys­io­ther­apy as a neu­ro­mus­cu­loskele­tal phys­io­ther­a­pist spe­cial­is­ing in neck and back in­juries (west­lon­don­

The ver­te­brae that run from the base of your neck (lower cer­vi­cal spine) to the mid­dle of your back (tho­racic spine) trans­fer power be­tween your core and up­per limbs, so this part of the back is cru­cial for up­per-body com­pound lifts and ro­ta­tional moves. The con­nec­tion be­tween the neck, shoul­der mus­cles, ribs and arms means each part of your up­per body is af­fected by the oth­ers.


‘Hy­per­ex­ten­sion or over­com­pen­sat­ing, such as curv­ing your back too far dur­ing squats, can dam­age the facet joints that in­ter­lock the ver­te­brae. But the main cause is bad pos­ture when sit­ting: the tho­racic spine bends too much, mak­ing it stiff.’ PRE­VENT IT ‘Don’t slouch over your desk, and use a back sup­port to en­gage the mus­cles around your spine. Keep the joints mo­bile at your desk by rolling up and down on a foam roller when your back feels tight. Be­fore over­head and ro­ta­tional ex­er­cises, work on shoul­der mo­bil­ity by ly­ing on your back with your spine flat and arms over­head. Then keep­ing them on the floor, palms up, arc them around un­til they’re by your side. Re­peat ten times.’


‘Mus­cles in your neck at­tach to the first and sec­ond ribs. Do­ing ex­er­cises with your neck in a vul­ner­a­ble po­si­tion – such as with your chin jut­ting for­ward – can dam­age the facet joint sur­faces. Over-ex­er­tion pulls the ribs up, caus­ing stiff­ness or even com­press­ing the nerves in the neck. Ro­ta­tional moves un­der load can also in­jure the rib joints.’ PRE­VENT IT ‘Do re­sisted ro­ta­tional moves such as ca­ble twists. Stand side-on to a ca­ble sta­tion, hold­ing the han­dle with straight arms, and ro­tate your trunk to pull the han­dle across you. Also, avoid bring­ing the bar be­hind your neck when do­ing lat pull-downs – this pushes your head for­wards.’


‘The erec­tor spinae mus­cles, which run up ei­ther side of the spine, are the most likely to be in­jured around the up­per back. Strains of­ten af­flict the up­per trapez­ius, le­v­a­tor scapu­lae and rhom­boids. This is com­mon when re­ly­ing on your up­per shoul­der mus­cles rather than lower ones when do­ing a seated row, or go­ing too heavy when bench press­ing.’ PRE­VENT IT ‘In­crease the blood flow to th­ese mus­cles with five min­utes of gen­tle row­ing be­fore a work­out. Then build up to your work­ing set with light weights. Af­ter a work­out, stretch each mus­cle group stat­i­cally twice for a minute. For ex­am­ple, to stretch your up­per traps, raise your shoul­der blades slightly and tilt your head to one side.’


‘The facet joints are vul­ner­a­ble to over­load. Poor neck po­si­tion­ing and tech­nique, typ­i­cally caused by lift­ing weights that are too heavy, can in­jure the discs, joints and mus­cles in your neck and this can be felt as pain in your up­per back.’ PRE­VENT IT ‘Fix your pos­ture by tuck­ing your chin in slightly un­til you have a bit of a dou­ble chin, and stretch your neck reg­u­larly by look­ing left and right as far as you can with­out turn­ing your body. Hold for five sec­onds.’

Matthias Steiner dropped 196kg on his cer­vi­cal spine at the 2012 Olympics

– and was fine

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