The SECRET to Bulletproofing Your Back… And Increasing Your Deadlift 20-30 pounds

As a CrossFit coach, strength and conditioning specialist, and sports physical therapist, I have worked with thousands of CrossFit athletes and patients who have a history of low back pain. Their stories usually begin with… “So I was going for a PR”, or “It started with a slight pain while pulling the weight up and with every rep the pain got stronger and lifts got weaker.”

What’s more disheartening as a fellow fitness enthusiast is when I hear these same athletes and patients finish their statements with… “Now I’m afraid to deadlift and squat heavy in fear of feeling that same pain again” or “the doctor said to not lift anything and just rest and take pain pills.” I hear these stories far too often. What makes matters worse is when they come into the clinic after weeks and months of pain and frustration.

The good news is, there are answers. The problem is you don’t have enough time to read all the solutions to all the problems in one blog post. Let’s start with understanding one of the most simple and common, yet most misunderstood movement dysfunction I see with my athletes and patients in the clinic; the toe touch.

Toe-Touch

When people have generalized stiffness and an inability to clearly touch their toes, we should be identifying that as a movement dysfunction.

Think of it as when you watch someone back squat and they lean over to one side at the bottom. You say to yourself, “that’s not right!  They’re going to hurt themselves!”  As a movement specialist, that’s how I analyze people’s movements every day…whether they are injured or not.   I can spot the red flags before they happen.    A dysfunctional toe touch is no different!

No matter if you are feeling back pain in your deadlift, kettlebell swing or squat, it’s important to normalize the toe touch before teaching a hip hinge.  Once the touch is normalized, the hip hinge is taught automatically, ultimately sparing the spine and loading the hips so the hips do most of the dynamic work and produce power appropriately and efficiently.

But first, let’s make sure we make something very clear. There is no danger in rounding your spine with a simple toe touch. There is a problem with rounding the spine in a deadlift. Not rounding your spine in a toe touch is a demonstration of significant dysfunction, because normal weight shifting, body mechanics and alignment have been distorted.  But, by restoring this, we reset the toe touch to create a better environment to teach the deadlift and all other exercises which require us to squat. Until you can touch your toes efficiently, I would then recommend performing deadlifts from a raised surface or by using a “hex/trap bar” .   Click on the video below for a demonstration.

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Yes, there will be some haters out there that will say “B.S.!”, you don’t need a toe touch to do deadlifts, but that’s only because they don’t understand the concept.  They forget that the purpose of a corrective strategy is to get back to performance and fitness training to ultimately make us healthier and more resilient.  Wouldn’t you rather want to move as safe and as efficient as possible – especially when your back is involved?  Not having mechanically sound movement is like running a marathon with bricks in your pockets or racing your sports car with the emergency break on.  It’s just not the best way to do it!

Here are two corrective strategies to gain hamstring flexibility I tend to use with many of my athletes and patients to achieve a normal toe touch and it doesn’t take a lot of time to do if done correctly.  Click on the videos below for a demonstration.

Now that your hamstrings are warmed up, the third exercise is a toe-touch series that simply gives the brain permission to subconsciously adopt a more efficient pattern. At times, I have seen athletes who have never been able to touch their toes in their life, to being able to in a matter of minutes.   Click on the video below for a demonstration.

Click On This Link For More Information About Keeping You Healthy For CrossFit

Click On This Link For More Information About Keeping You Healthy For CrossFit

If these exercises don’t help you in a matter of minutes, then there could be other variables involved and I would highly suggest you seek out help from our CrossFit trained and sports performance physical therapist at Level4 Physical Therapy & Performance for a full body assessment to keep you crushing the WOD and performing at your best!

Dedicated to your health,

Dr. Oscar Andalon

Oscar Andalon, DPT, STC, MTC, CSCS, CF-L1, MWOD, USAW, FMS/SFMA

Oscar Andalon, DPT, STC, MTC, CSCS, CF-L1, MWOD, USAW, FMS/SFMA

Dr. Oscar Andalon is a leading and trusted sports physical therapist, strength coach, performance enhancement specialist, educator, author, and Co-Founder of Level4 Physical Therapy, Wellness & Performance – San Diego’s Leading Specialty Private Physical Therapy and Human Performance Practice for People in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and beyond, who value their health and want to restore or maximize their active and healthy lifestyle.

For more than 16 years, thousands of athletes, fitness enthusiasts and active people of all ages, levels and sports including Olympic medalists, professional, collegiate and recreational athletes have consulted Oscar; looking for answers to concerning questions about a fast end to their pain and best ways to improving performance.

Prior to living in Carlsbad, CA, he worked as Clinic Director for a 20,000 sq.ft. sports physical therapy and performance center. He became known as the “athlete whisperer” in the Pacific Northwest by becoming the leading sports performance enhancement physical therapist and CrossFit injury rehab and performance specialist. He also was known as a consultant to the Nike WHQ in Portland, OR.

Oscar’s passion for excelling in sports earned him the opportunity to compete in soccer both at the Division 1 collegiate level at University of San Francisco and at the professional level playing for the California Jaguars; giving him the understanding and experience of knowing what it takes to perform and excel at the highest level of competition. Oscar is an orthopedic and sports performance specialist with a true passion in helping athletes and fitness fanatics of all ages and divisions, serving as an educator to bridge the gap between rehab and strength and conditioning.
Oscar Andalon, DPT, STC, MTC, CSCS, CF-L1, MWOD, USAW, FMS/SFMA

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