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Weight lifters ask their muscles to perform super-human feats, but there’s no way to train your body to super-heal. So while it’s natural—even a badge of honor—to feel sore after a workout, some aches are the precursors to injury. Try these tips on reducing back pain while weight lifting so that it doesn’t develop into something worse.

Build Strength Slowly

You’re probably impatient to see the results of all the hard work you’ve been doing, but taking on more weight before you’re ready will give you the wrong kind of pain. Even picking up something too heavy can injure you. There are no shortcuts, so put in the time to build steadily toward the big plates.

Use the Right Fuel

Food directly affects your muscle development, so you should spend as much time planning your meals as you do planning your workouts. For instance, consuming 10 grams of whey protein before a lifting session and 10 grams after can help delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). If you feel as though you’ve had enough water, drink a little more; you should be drinking at least half your body weight in ounces of water every day. There are also products on the market that might help your performance—studies even tout tart cherry juice as an enhancer—but check the label for added sugar or other ingredients you don’t necessarily want.

See a Chiropractor

Most of the time, we don’t go to see a specialist until we’re hurt. But weight lifting is all about form, and a chiropractor can make sure your spine has the correct alignment before there’s a problem. Even non-athletes make it a habit to visit a chiropractor regularly. Take advantage of different massage techniques to relieve muscle pain, and ask an expert for more ideas for protecting your back. They often have advice you won’t get at the gym.

Use Your Core

Those abs aren’t just for show. One of the key tips on reducing back pain while weight lifting is that your “guns” can’t do it alone. Whatever you’re lifting or strengthening, keep your abdominal muscles engaged and that core tight. Your spine needs protection, or it won’t just be “the burn” you’re feeling—it’ll be something more permanent.

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