The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Leg Exercise That Helps Your Back - Why The Lunge?

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I receive the question often, "What exercises should I do to stop my back pain?" I stress that that the exercises you need to do are to simply change away from all the injurious movements that are causing all the pain in the first place (left drawing) and use good movement instead (right drawing). Then your back can heal. The pain will stop.

I see patients all the time who come to me after going through back pain exercise programs. They went through their eight or ten week program, then their pain came back. Every day they did their exercises, then bent over wrong to put down their weights (left drawing), bend over wrong to pick up their gym bag (same left), sat badly on the way home, then hunched over their computer to record their exercise session. It is no mystery.

The post Disc Pain - Not a Mystery, Easy to Fix shows the mechanism of how bad bending and sitting damages the spine and discs. It is a simple injury, not a disease or condition. You can easily stop the process yourself.

A lot of dollars are spent on the common assumption that you need to strengthen or stabilize the back or exercise a particular muscle set, for example the multifidus. That does not fix the source of the damage. At the gym I see trainers, students, and yoga and Pilates teachers doing their exercise classes week after week, saying they come because they have to because of their back pain. Even the exercises they are doing were contributing to the problem. Many things that are bad for you feel good at the time. The post Common Exercises Teach Bad Bending gives examples so that you can avoid this pitfall. The post Sitting Badly Isn't Magically Healthy by Calling It a Hamstring Stretch shows how the most common stretches done, even in back pain programs are contributing to the problem, and what to do instead.

The answer is easy. The post Bending Right is Fitness as a Lifestyle showed one of the most important exercises you need to do to stop back pain. It introduced the squat, which is not an exercise to do for 10 repetitions, but to use instead of bad bending for the hundreds of times every day you bend for things. Instead of hurting your back hundreds of times every day, you prevent hurting your back hundreds of times a day. Instead of hurting your back hundreds of times every day, you strengthen your legs hundreds of times a day. It is not the exercise of squatting that fixes your pain by strengthening, but by preventing the damage in the first place.

This post introduces the lunge as a second wonderful "exercise" to stop back pain. It is not something you do as an exercise for a number of repetitions. Instead, you use it, along with the squat, for the many times a day you need to bend for all the daily things around the house and workplace - the laundry, the pets, the things on the floor, the kids, the dishwasher and refrigerator, and everything else, all day, every day:

  1. Stand upright with one foot far in front of the other (right drawing).
  2. Feet apart comfortably, both facing ahead, not turned outward (right drawing).
  3. Bend both knees
  4. Don't let your front knee come forward. Keep it over the front ankle (right drawing).
  5. Lower straight down.
  6. Your back heel comes up. Keep the front heel down for better knee health. It's a free, built-in Achilles stretch too.
  7. Don't touch your back knee to the floor.
  8. Don't hold your hands on your front knee. Although common, you get better balance and strength without it.

Done properly, the lunge should not hurt your knees. If you are too weak to lower enough to pick up the mail on the floor and get back up, that is serious weakness. You need functional strength to do ordinary daily life. This isn't walking miles over rocks to the river and returning with heavy water jugs over your back just to cook with. This is getting the mail.

Bending right with the lunge burns more calories than bending over wrong. Good bending helps a weight loss program.

Click the labels under this post to see more on these topics. The next post Strengthen and Retrain Function With The Lunge shows a reader making good use of the lunge. Posts to come will cover more about how wonderful the lunge is to transform your life from weakness and pain into easy function. This is fitness as a lifestyle.


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Drawing of Backman!™ © copyright Dr. Jolie Bookspan from the book, Fix Your Own Pain
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About the Author


M.Ed, PhD, FAWM

Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.

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