Are you tired of worrying about tweaking your back when you are working out? When I was going through school we were always taught about the dangers of rounding your back and how you want to keep a “neutral spine”. I was taught that rounding the back would lead to injury and that if my form broke down on deadlifts that meant that I needed to lower the weight. This led to a lot of overthinking while I was lifting,and fear. Ultimately it stopped me from lifting more weight and hitting my goals. In order for me to break past my plateaus, I needed to get over the fear of rounding my back.
In order to do that I needed to:
- Critically assess what I was being taught
- Challenge my beliefs with examples
- Update my view of how resilient the human body is
- And prove to myself that MY body was resilient
If you want to break through plateaus and build a resilient back, I’ll save you some time by outlining how I did it.
I needed to critically assess what I was being taught
All of the advice from professors in school was to keep a “neutral spine” when doing lifts to be safe, and if I didn’t then I would be sure to hurt my back.
Apparently this was backed up by multiple studies, and it made sense because the message was everywhere from safe lifting at work posters, in the gym, and from lifters on youtube. One day I decided to stop blindly following the advice and actually read the evidence that this recommendation was based on. To my surprise, this fear of rounding the back was based on dead pig spine studies where they bent the segments back and forth for up to 24 hours and up to 4 times their normal range of motion. I thought "how is this being extrapolated to humans in normal conditions?"
It seemed like there was a big leap from the evidence to the advice that was being given
I needed to challenge my beliefs
Now that I had seen the flaws with the information that I had believed for so long, it was time for me to seek out more information to challenge my old beliefs.
This started off with me looking at high level deadlifters and strongmen/women to see them lift extreme weights and more often than not with a rounded back. I had to ask myself how they were able to handle that if there were so many forces going through their back? This is when I finally was able to see past the fear mongering that I had been taught and really apply my knowledge to get a better understanding.
Forces going through the back isn’t bad like the dogma in the studies would have you believe… it just shows that there are forces going through the back which is a neutral concept. That is actually the whole basis of muscle hypertrophy and how bones, ligaments, and even discs adapt! A force is applied to an area and if it is within the capacity of the tissues being stressed, then those tissues adapt.
I needed to update my view of resilience
With my beliefs challenged, it was time for me to accept this new information and update my views about movement.
I now started to understand that progressive loading can be applied to any movement, and that certain movements aren’t the problem, it was more about doing that movement when you don’t have the capacity for it. Applying my previous knowledge about how the body adapts to training, I now understood that it was important to first find the appropriate starting point and then build the capacity up from there for any movement.
I needed to prove to myself how resilient I am
Now that I had a better mindset, I needed to take action and walk the walk in order to truly believe it.
So I started to do everything that I was told not to do. I did jefferson curls and increased the weight to 120kg/264lbs, I did heavy side bends eventually working up to a max weight of 122.5kg/275lbs, and I would do heavy russian twists to the point where I could only get 5 or 6 reps in each direction before failing. My body got STRONG! I noticed that I wasn’t as beat up after training, and I could do any task in my daily life without a second thought - this was extremely helpful over the years as I moved multiple times mostly by myself! However, I was still at a plateau with my deadlift and every once in a while I would still be unsure about my back.
There was one missing puzzle piece.
That one missing piece was the zercher deadlift. This movement really helped me prove to myself that my body can do ANYTHING. It put me in ranges way beyond that of a jefferson curl, made my back feel amazing, and most importantly it gave me the mental resilience that I needed to have full confidence in my body. Having worked up to a max of 180kg/396lbs on the movement, I now have no worries about my back while training, or while lifting anything outside of the gym. It has also helped me to push my training harder, and now I can confidently deadlift 600lbs on a weekly basis.
These 4 steps allowed me to let go of fear and build an indestructible back
What I learned from these 4 steps is that the mentality and understanding that the body is resilient is the most important thing. Without first taking the time to critique the information that I had been learning and then gain the understanding that the body is resilient and not fragile, I never would have explored the movements that are dogmatically exclaimed to be dangerous. I would not have actually applied my knowledge and assessed the hypocrisy that was present in my old beliefs. Ultimately this mindset allowed me to push my body to new limits, build an indestructible back, and break through plateaus that I had been stuck at for years.
If this article has insipired you to build an indestructible back then I have a program that will help you integrate zerchers into your workouts!
*This is an informational resource and not medical advice, please consult your healthcare practitioner for diagnosis, treatment, and guidance.