One of the more common contraindications I run into with new clients is a history of non specific lower back pain. Usually this pain is not related to trauma and is typically undiagnosed on their medical history. It is just something that started one day and has plagued them intermittently since. Immediately my first concern with a client who has low back pain is to establish what seems to make it worse and what seems to make it better. This is important because pain directly affects how someone moves and can lead to further compensations that may cause more problems down the road. So the ultimate goal for me is to allow this person to exercise pain free all while working on trying to reduce the frequency and intensity of the pain through other modalities.
I have found that bilateral squatting is often one of those things that causes the person's back pain to get worse. Why this happens is a whole another topic it can vary from person to person and so does the solution. But this tells me that I need to eliminate any bilateral squatting from this clients programs until it doesn't produce pain.
Yet making this client's program absent of bilateral squatting I have created for myself another challenge because how else am I going to challenge this individual's anterior lower body musculature in a functional manner after having eliminated the basic squat as an option.
This is where this week's "Exercise of the Week" comes to the rescue which is the Bodyweight Split Squat. This exercise allows me to still challenge any individual's anterior lower body musculature without placing them in any more pain. Placing an individual in a split stance reduces the pressure on the spine as well as offers other means of loading the movement pattern other than a direct axial load. All of this allows the individual to train a squat pattern and develop adequate strength without injuring or aggravating the lower back.
Now I am not saying that this is an exercise for broken, injured, and weak people I am simply saying this exercise offers a great alternative to those suffering from lower back pain. For those that don't fall into that category I still feel that this particular movement pattern can be beneficial for a myriad of reasons. I recommend everyone incorporate some amount of single leg training and this exercise may be a great starting point for exactly that.
Give it a try and see what you think. If you find this particular variation not challenging enough try placing a heavy dumbbell in each hand. This should provide sufficient intensity.
How To Perform the Body-weight Split Squat
- Begin by assuming the proper starting position. This is similar to the bottom position of a lunge pattern. Your feet should be split forward and backward. One leg should be bent at 90 degrees forward of your body with this leg's foot flat on the floor. The other leg should be bent at 90 degrees with this knee directly under it's partner hip. This legs foot should be in line with the bent knee, toes flexed toward the shin, and toe in contact with the ground. Your torso should be vertical.
- To begin the movement drive through the heel of the front foot and extend the front leg. Simultaneously drive your back foot's toes into the ground and extend the rear leg.
- At the top of the movement your front leg should be completely extended and your rear leg should be close to terminal extension. Your torso should be directly between both legs with a slight lean forward.
- To return to the starting position drop your back knee straight down to the group allowing your front and back knee to bend. This should return you to your original start position. Be sure that you don't initiate the lowering phase of the movement by bending your front knee first. This is going to cause your knee to migrate forward and result in more acute angle in the front knee and a more obtuse angle in the rear knee.
- Repeat this motion for the prescribed repetitions.
Below is a video of me demonstrating the entire movement.
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