Squatting is not bad for your back (or your knees). Deadlifting is not dangerous either. You don’t get injured doing these exercises. You only get hurt doing them incorrectly. The bottom line is, these are absolutely necessary exercises you should be doing for your back. A terrible myth surrounding back pain is that you should avoid lifting heavy objects and that performing strenuous or challenging exercises is back for your back. On the contrary…
Lifting heavy is essential for keeping a strong & healthy back.
We have a very reactive healthcare model in our country. We don’t see the value in being proactive for our mechanical issues (or at least most insurance companies don’t support being proactive…yea I said it, and I mean it). Preventative strategies for injury mitigation will always be superior to the reactionary approach. In fact, a study from 2014 showed that adequate strength training reduced sports injuries by 30%, and almost 50% of overuse injuries could be mitigated with adequate resistance training. Your back is no different.
The key here is adequate. You can’t mail this in. Your strength training can’t be half-assed. And the fact is most people don’t lift heavy enough to strengthen their back. Plenty of individuals claim to be doing “core” training (whatever that means) but rarely are they doing the proper exercises or training loads necessary to truly strengthen the muscles of the spine.
Want to strengthen your back and take a solid approach to mitigate your risk of back pain? Get comfortable going heavy. The three “main” complex lifts you will often see are the front squat, the back squat, and the deadlift. Each of these loads up your body and spine, and, if heavy enough, will require significant contributions from your spinal musculature.
Out of the three, the front squat has the most as it requires a more upright torso than seen with the back squat or deadlift. It is a lift that packs a mean punch yet is rarely seen in the gym. Two of the more common front-loaded variations we prescribe are goblet squats and a true barbell front squat. The goblet squat is an excellent introduction to this type of movement and it doesn’t require much equipment, but it also allows for a heavier load than most people will choose.
The deadlift is also an excellent move as it can teach us how to both lower and lift our bodies with external load. This is an important training tool as it is often these motions that result in injury or increased stress to the lower back. If you are unfamiliar or inexperienced at this lift then you can start with a kettlebell variation and still choose a heavy weight. Don’t be intimidated by all of the heavy barbell deadlifts you see and hear banging around the floor. If you choose a heavy enough kettlebell and forget about your high-rep sets, then you’ll be well on your way to getting a much stronger back and lower body. In terms of the “complexity” of the setup, sometimes less can definitely be more.
Start moving some heavy weights, and don’t let anyone tell you it’s unnecessary. Simply, they don’t know what they’re talking about.