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Hurt lower back bench pressing

gotblues66gotblues66 Posts: 58Member Member Posts: 58Member Member
I vary between bench pressing with feet up and feet on the floor. I'm an older guy (50) and short (not easy to plant feet flatly on the ground) with arthritis in my SI joint and a history of back pain. Spasms. Sciatica. When I plant my feet my back arches and doesn't feel comfortable. But I see the legs up method dissed by most experienced and qualified lifters. Yesterday I was on my 1st working set with feet planted and suddenly felt a bad pain in the lower spine. I have been lifting for a couple years and studied good form. But I'll be the first to admit I don't always execute correctly. By morning I was in so much agony I could barely get out of bed. I'm thinking I triggered spasms and not much I can do but rest and pain killers. But any advice on benching with these issues? Fwiw legs up makes my back flat and feels much better.
edited February 14

Replies

  • JB035JB035 Posts: 366Member, Premium Member Posts: 366Member, Premium Member
    Just a thought. If your feet can't plant firmly you could always put some 45's under them or maybe those stackable step up things that most gyms seem to have laying around.
    edited February 15
  • gotblues66gotblues66 Posts: 58Member Member Posts: 58Member Member
    Thanks, as humiliating as that may feel, like requesting a booster chair at a restaurant, it's worth a try. :p
  • JB035JB035 Posts: 366Member, Premium Member Posts: 366Member, Premium Member
  • AnnPT77AnnPT77 Posts: 4,490Member Member Posts: 4,490Member Member
    Meanwhile, good massage therapist or osteopath/chiro? Sympathies - been in that neighborhood.
  • iofrediofred Posts: 465Member Member Posts: 465Member Member
    If looking for good form, then lifting the legs is putting all effort on the chest. You might not be able to press that much, but there is no strain on the back. It just depends on what you want to achieve, max weights or focus. Only problem with legs up might be the balance :) ... used to do this when at sea, and remember some very precarious instances :)
  • gotblues66gotblues66 Posts: 58Member Member Posts: 58Member Member
    Thanks all for the feedback. @sijomial my main goal is to build muscle for strength and my own personal satisfaction. If I could do that without ever increasing weight I probably would. I think you are on to something with the core strength. @iofred Yes when I lift with my feet on the bench I have to keep the weight lower, and balance becomes another part of the lift, but the back feels better. So if boosting the feet off the floor doesn't work or is just too embarassing, I'll just go back to feet on the bench. I'm not trying to be a powerlifter, so I really only want to focus on the chest anyway, taking my trunk out of the equation.
  • Spliner1969Spliner1969 Posts: 2,457Member Member Posts: 2,457Member Member
    I have multiple lumbar injuries under my belt, one surgery, and the injuries were all herniated/bulging discs so I'm completely aware of the pain you describe. I'll be honest, I had to give up most lifting. Even laying flat on a bench I would put enough strain on my lower back at times to cause injury. I switched though to dumbells/free weights, and now simply use those laying flat on the bench a couple of times a week, but everything else I gave up and replaced with body weight training.

    I've been injury free since I stopped doing preacher curls, curls of any type sitting up, and bench presses. The only presses I do now are with 25-30lb barbells in each hand along with some flys. If the pain continues to be a problem, especially the sciatica, see a doctor if you can. There are also some yoga moves/poses/stretches that can help that sort of pain, just google "yoga stretches for lower back pain" you'll come across a bunch of them. They helped me a lot recover from herniated discs. So much so that I do the stretches now before and after my workouts every day, and even on rest days as preventative maintenance. Keeps the discs and spine in the right position and keeps it flexible, and has kept me out of new injury and pain for almost a year now. I also took up planking to help strengthen the core about six months ago and it's helped stabilize my lower back a bunch.
  • TR0bertsTR0berts Posts: 7,412Member Member Posts: 7,412Member Member
    Unless you're competing in USAPL (and maybe some other feds, but not RPS), you don't need to have your feet flat on the ground. You can use the balls of your feet. I, too, feel a little extra ache when I try to go flat-foot. But on the balls of my feet? No issues.
  • powerathlete013powerathlete013 Posts: 7Member Member Posts: 7Member Member
    It's best to have your feet firmly planted on the floor. If your injuring your lower back from bench pursuing however the issue is not your feet position. You need to spend some serious quality time fixing your trunk (Abdomen, posterior chain).
  • powerathlete013powerathlete013 Posts: 7Member Member Posts: 7Member Member
    Bench pressing not pursuing.
  • ncahill77ncahill77 Posts: 500Member Member Posts: 500Member Member
    I stopped flat benching and do only incline now as it's much easier to plant my feet and not put my back in a bad position. If you don't mind the numbers not being as high it's a much easier lift on the back.
  • AliceDarkAliceDark Posts: 3,202Member, MFP Moderator, Greeter, Premium MFP Moderator Posts: 3,202Member, MFP Moderator, Greeter, Premium MFP Moderator
    dsydorko wrote: »
    Thanks all for the feedback. @sijomial my main goal is to build muscle for strength and my own personal satisfaction. If I could do that without ever increasing weight I probably would. I think you are on to something with the core strength. @iofred Yes when I lift with my feet on the bench I have to keep the weight lower, and balance becomes another part of the lift, but the back feels better. So if boosting the feet off the floor doesn't work or is just too embarassing, I'll just go back to feet on the bench. I'm not trying to be a powerlifter, so I really only want to focus on the chest anyway, taking my trunk out of the equation.

    Why in the world would placing your feet on some 45# plates be embarrassing? It's just adjusting the generic setup to fit your body; I wouldn't think of it any differently than changing the angle on an adjustable bench or changing the height of the pins on a squat rack. Everyone has to make some tweaks to gym equipment to make sure it works the best for them; nobody's body is exactly the "standard."
  • gotblues66gotblues66 Posts: 58Member Member Posts: 58Member Member
    You need to spend some serious quality time fixing your trunk (Abdomen, posterior chain).

    Yes I'm with you on that. Will be working my core more for sure
    AliceDark wrote: »
    Why in the world would placing your feet on some 45# plates be embarrassing?

    I know it's a silly thing to even consider, and I'd get over it soon enough, but I'd surely get razzed by some of the guys at the gym I go to. It's like a short guy wearing high heels to compensate.
    If the pain continues to be a problem, especially the sciatica, see a doctor if you can. There are also some yoga moves/poses/stretches that can help that sort of pain, just google "yoga stretches for lower back pain" you'll come across a bunch of them.

    Thanks, yes I took a weekly yoga for backs class and did not have any back problems during that time. I'll get back into it. I've seen the doctor, showing arthritis in my SI joint. Also seen physiotherapist, chiropractor, acupuncturist, and massage therapist. All helped but only temporarily and we're expensive without insurance.

    Thanks all for the great information!
  • blackcomaroblackcomaro Posts: 764Member Member Posts: 764Member Member
    What was your head doing while benching... i see guys all the time with there head forward and shoulders raised ! This causes back problems and decreased lifting potential.
  • JoRockaJoRocka Posts: 17,044Member Member Posts: 17,044Member Member
    dsydorko wrote: »
    You need to spend some serious quality time fixing your trunk (Abdomen, posterior chain).

    Yes I'm with you on that. Will be working my core more for sure
    AliceDark wrote: »
    Why in the world would placing your feet on some 45# plates be embarrassing?

    I know it's a silly thing to even consider, and I'd get over it soon enough, but I'd surely get razzed by some of the guys at the gym I go to. It's like a short guy wearing high heels to compensate.
    If the pain continues to be a problem, especially the sciatica, see a doctor if you can. There are also some yoga moves/poses/stretches that can help that sort of pain, just google "yoga stretches for lower back pain" you'll come across a bunch of them.

    Thanks, yes I took a weekly yoga for backs class and did not have any back problems during that time. I'll get back into it. I've seen the doctor, showing arthritis in my SI joint. Also seen physiotherapist, chiropractor, acupuncturist, and massage therapist. All helped but only temporarily and we're expensive without insurance.

    Thanks all for the great information!

    Meh- half the guys razz me asking me when I'm going to start actually lifting. (I'm the only woman who lifts for power at my gym)- the other half tell me I'm stronger than they are. (my gym is full of absurdly strong men).

    You'll get over it.

    When you realize your training goals eclipse anyone's public opinion you'll be able to truly train.
  • Spliner1969Spliner1969 Posts: 2,457Member Member Posts: 2,457Member Member
    dsydorko wrote: »
    Thanks, yes I took a weekly yoga for backs class and did not have any back problems during that time. I'll get back into it. I've seen the doctor, showing arthritis in my SI joint. Also seen physiotherapist, chiropractor, acupuncturist, and massage therapist. All helped but only temporarily and we're expensive without insurance.

    I have really good insurance by most standards and they were still expensive, so I completely understand. Do get back into the yoga (it's been the best ongoing treatment for me), it's kept me from having to spend any more money on the blood suckers. Good luck!

  • gotblues66gotblues66 Posts: 58Member Member Posts: 58Member Member
    What was your head doing while benching... i see guys all the time with there head forward and shoulders raised ! This causes back problems and decreased lifting potential.

    Good points. I try to keep my head on the bench, and I recall having the ceiling lights glaring down on me that day on the bench I was using, staring up at the ceiling. I do try to keep my shoulder blades squeezed in to pull my shoulders back. I feel like it takes my shoulders out of the equation more.
  • gotblues66gotblues66 Posts: 58Member Member Posts: 58Member Member
    After reading an interesting book about the effects of stress on back pain, by Dr. John Sarno, and now more recently discovering Sue Hitzmann's MELT Method through a Ben Greenfield podcast, all in addition to feedback here, I'm starting to see effective ways to prevent pain from interfering with my routine. It's like connecting the dots. Thanks all!
  • AbelMendozaAbelMendoza Posts: 11Member Member Posts: 11Member Member
    Your back actually should be a bit arched on bench. If it's more comfortable for you flat, then bench flat, but as long as you can keep a strong base while you arch, and scapula retracted, you should be fine. I'm a powerlifter and I deal with back problems myself but only have back pain here and there on bench but only when my back is tight.
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