Paddle Healthy: Bulletproof Back Part I

Photo: Eric Akiskalion/
Photo: Eric Akiskalion/

Lower back pain is one of the most common physical ailments, impacting 80% of people at some point in their lives. Unfortunately for those of us who love paddling, SUP can sometimes make the problem worse. If you currently have back issues, make sure that you visit a specialist that can diagnose and treat your issue. If you don’t, you should develop a strategy to keep your lower back healthy.

We hit up Brody Welte, SUP racer and founder of PaddleFit, to provide you with a three-part post on bulletproofing your lower back. Let’s dive into part one: preventative work. —Phil White

What is Pre-hab?

Pre-hab is a group of exercises that help prevent injuries, especially from overuse. The majority of lower back issues stem from lack of hip stability and/or mobility. This is due to us sitting a lot during the day with poor posture that allows some muscles to atrophy and other to work overtime. As we’ll see in Part 2, poor paddling technique can also contribute to back issues. If your hips are unstable or have lost range of motion, it will most likely show up in your lower back because your hips are the anchor point of the major back stabilizing muscles.

If you sit a lot at work, when you get home, and when you travel, you need to make sure that you are doing so with proper posture. Sitting with a bent, “C”-shaped spine is asking for trouble, and will not only lead to lower back issues, but also possibly upper back and neck problems and even headaches.

Here is what correct posture looks like when you are sitting:

When sitting make sure you allow your abdominal muscles to relax and stop sucking your gut in, your abs are designed as spine stabilizers and not to hide your stomach. If you want to tighten this area up, do it through diet and exercise!

It can seem awkward to reverse a lifetime of bad posture at first, and to sit correctly instead of slouching forward with a “C” spine but keep this in mind: the more you sit incorrectly, the closer you are to developing back issues. Or, looking at it the other way round, the more you sit correctly, the further you are from creating back problems.

Now, back to the Pre-hab. Once Brody was done putting Slater Trout through some insane intervals (think sand sprints, running stairs, generally busting lungs), he provided a few basic exercises designed specifically for hip stability/mobility:

Bird Dog: Perform 15 repetitions on both sides. Start on your hands and knees and extend your right arm and your left leg at the same time. You should be able to draw a straight line from your fingertips through your toes.

Getting on the Horse: Perform 15 repetitions with each leg. Start on your hands and knees and extend one leg back. While trying to find the range of motion of your hip, bend your knee, bring your leg forward and back down to the starting position.

Leg Extension: Perform 15 repetitions with each leg. Start on your hands and knees and extend one leg back. Keep your toe pointed straight down and lift your leg as high as you can behind you and back to the starting position.

Dirty Dog: Perform 15 repetitions with each leg. Start on your hands and knees. Keep your leg bent at a 90-degree angle, and then lift your leg to the side as high as you can and back to the starting position.

These four exercises are a great warm up for paddling and can be performed daily. They will help you build stable, mobile hips that will in turn help you prevent lower back issues.

Have any requests for future Paddle Healthy articles? Leave a comment and we’ll do what we can to hook you up!

For Bulletproof Back: Part II, click here.
For Bulletproof Back: Part III, click here.
Click here for more Paddle Healthy.

The article was originally published on Standup Paddling

For access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews, and more, subscribe on YouTube!