While we have had the luxury of getting our athletes in the building multiple times per week, many of these athletes are practicing the specific skills of their sport simultaneously in the same week or even in the same day. We generally see two types of back dysfunction that are exposed during movements performed in the weight room.
Extension-Based Back Pain
This is usually a result of an aggravated joint in the lower back. Where this pain is usually exposed is during a Squat or Deadlift where the athlete experiences discomfort while setting their back. These are athletes that we commonly see as slightly lordotic, and therefore when setting their back before a lift tend to overemphasize extension. The athlete experiences pain in this position due to extension sensitivity, yet interestingly enough, these athletes also lack adequate ranges of flexion. What I have found to be a fantastic training tool for athletes like this is utilizing flexion exercises like a segmented rounding over to touch the toes (even with a light load in some of the stronger high level athletes), reverse hyper, or even many of our quadruped crawling drills that emphasize a global rounded position of the spine.
Flexion-Based Back Pain
This is much less common in many of our athletes as it is usually associated with a disk issue. Simply enough, these athletes usually lack sufficient extension capacity. These are athletes that a coach would see having the opposite problem as stated above. They would have difficulty even expressing any form of extension when setting themselves up for a lift. These athletes tend to benefit from extension based exercises. Movements like an active cobra pose, supermans, bird dogs, or even just a straight up back extension.
Some athletes come out of a long season with mild discomfort in the lower back. It’s important for us as the coach, and often times the first point of contact in identifying an athletes pain, to understand when an athlete must be referred out to see a specialist. Overall, I have found this to be a great guideline to prescribe proper exercise that avoids exacerbating dysfunction, and can even help an athlete build strength and range of motion in areas that they may be deficient.