Training smarter, harder and without pain: Lower body | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Training smarter, harder and without pain: Lower body

Adam Spindler

Adam Spindler

A frequently asked question in my office is: Why do I experience low back and/or knee pain whenever I up the intensity of my lower body workouts?

There are many reasons why you might experience pain or discomfort while exercising. You may have pre-existing complications such as degenerative disc disease, a disc herniation or arthritic disorders affecting the knees or hips.

Other issues that can cause you pain while training include misalignments of the spine and hips, adhesions within your muscle fibers or foot dysfunction.

All of the above mentioned disorders will lead to poor symmetry of motion, loss of range of motion, bad balance, loss of proprioception (your body's knowledge of where it is in space), slower reaction time, poor athletic performance, weakness and of course … pain.

Luckily, the solutions are fairly simple and can get you on a track of better quality workouts with less pain and more gain.

First, you need a system to analyze what's causing your pain. Here are three easy step-by-step "at home" tests to help you figure out what may be causing or contributing to your pain-related issues.

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Test #1: Stand upright and march in place with your eyes shut for about 10 to 20 seconds. Then stop with your eyes still closed. Don't move your feet and open your eyes. Now look down at your feet and notice their position. If one foot is turned in toward the other, you very likely have a weakness of the muscles of external rotation on that hip. If your foot is flaring outward it is likely that you're experiencing a weakness of the muscles of internal rotation on that hip.

Test #2: Stand in position to squat with both arms out in front. Now squat down slowly with feet parallel and make sure that your knees don't extend beyond your toes. Notice your feet. If they roll in, out or one of your heels rises up in the squatting position, you may have a mobility restriction or weakness within the foot or ankle muscles.

Test #3: Perform the same test as above but this time interlace your fingers behind your head and spread your elbows wide and backward. Squat down slowly again. Notice if either heel rises off of the floor or if the same heel that lifted in Test #2 lifts even higher. Also take notice and see if you have trouble squatting as deeply or maintaining your balance throughout the squat. A positive test may indicate significant loss of range of motion throughout your thoracic spine and ribcage.

Loss of motion or poor symmetry of motion throughout your hips, ankles or mid-back, make you a solid candidate for a low back or knee injury. At the very least you will experience pain or discomfort while training.

Now that you've figured out where you have loss of motion or reduction of motion symmetry, you can go back to the gym and add corrective strengthening exercises, stretching exercises or simple modifications to your routine.

For example: If you have a loss of internal hip rotation add one or two exercises that will specifically train and stretch those muscles. YouTube can be a great resource.

Here's another simple example: If you can't do squats without raising a heel, place a thin board (1/4"-3/8") under both heels. Also add calf stretching and strengthening exercises to your routine.

Simple solutions like these can make a tremendous difference in the quality and outcome of your workout. The freedom to train intensely without pain will improve your overall training consistency — which means bigger gains.

If you suspect or know that you have a more severe complication such as a disc herniation, you should seek out the assistance of a chiropractor, MD or physical therapist that is familiar and seasoned in managing sport related injuries such as myself.

This Saturday, Jan. 12, I'll be teaching the first of a series of upper and lower body sculpt and stretch classes. Please join me at 10 a.m. sharp in my SpineFit training studio located upstairs inside of Fit Republic at 2565 Lake Tahoe Blvd. This class is free to the public, you do not need to be a member to attend.

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About the Author

Dr. Spindler is a practicing chiropractor with 18 years experience specializing in chronic conditions and sports injuries. He has also been a personal trainer and strength coach for over 40 years with a certification as a strength and conditioning specialist. Through college and beyond he competed in bodybuilding shows, and powerlifting competitions throughout the New England circuit. He can be reached at 530-544-4400.