Doing this exercise could actually be increasing your risk for back injury

Over the past few months I’ve been talking about back injuries in firefighters. First I cleared up a few myths about back injuries (see myths). Now I’m outlining the exercises that firefighters should AVOID.

Over the past few weeks I’ve explained that some exercises we do in our workouts, while they may not hurt at the time, place a great deal of stress on the vertebrae and actually cause more damage than good. One such exercise involves extension of the lumbar spine, or more accurately, hyperextension (because the lumbar spine is slightly extended when it’s in a neutral position like standing).hyperextension exercise

The exercise pictured above puts the spine in a hyperextended position which is very problematic for the vertebrae – the bones of the spine. The friction developed as parts of the vertebrae rub against one another during this motion can eventually result in back spasms and debilitating pain.

Now don’t get me wrong – firefighters should definitely do exercises to improve back strength – they just shouldn’t be doing this exercise or the one I discussed last week. Later on in this series I’ll demonstrate the exercises that improve the muscular strength and endurance of the back and are also safe for the vertebrae.

Furthermore, this is really not a functional motion anyhow. Meaning, it doesn’t mimic any activity that we regularly encounter in real life. So it’s just not advantageous in any way.

In a prior post I explained that firefighters should avoid stretches that involve lumbar hyperextension. While the exercise pictured here is even worse because it involves damaging muscular contraction (as opposed to a stretch in which the muscles are relaxed), having a lot of flexibility in lumbar extension is not of benefit for your spine and can actually put firefighters at greater risk of back injury. So be sure you’ve read that post too.

Have you ever experienced back pain or an injury and found that an exercise you were doing was actually causing the problem rather than helping it? Let me know in the comments below.

Other exercises in this series:


back extension machine

calf raise machine


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By | 2018-06-01T07:15:51+00:00 May 7th, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Doing this exercise could actually be increasing your risk for back injury

About the Author:

Dr. Karlie Moore has a PhD in Exercise Science and Nutrition and specializes in firefighter health. She has conducted fitness testing on hundreds of firefighters and has created the most comprehensive online wellness program for fire departments called the FitCulture program. Dr. Moore is also married to a firefighter and so understands their lifestyle and the health challenges associated with it.