Ask the Coach” is the column in which Wolfgang Unsöld answers your questions. The book of the same name was published by Riva Verlag and Available right here on Amazon.
Question: My physio said that a hollow back should always be avoided, regardless of whether it's deadlifts, squats or bench presses. I wanted to know your opinion on this. Benjamin E
WU: First of all, the anatomy of the human spine: The physiologically normal basic position of a spine includes a so-called double S oscillation. The thoracic spine and coccyx are curved backwards (dorsally), the cervical and lumbar spine (LWS) are curved forwards (ventrally). The lumbar lordosis, a slight hollow back, is our natural posture. A hollow back (hyperlordosis) is defined as a pelvis that is clearly tilted forward when standing, which increases the protrusion of the lumbar spine. The most common reasons for this are overly tight hip flexors and weak abdominal muscles that are inhibited by tight back muscles. If high forces act on the spine in this position, wear and tear or injury to the intervertebral discs and other structures of the back can occur.
It should be noted, however, that the discs in the lumbar region have a wedge shape that gets thicker towards the front. If a trainee can no longer maintain the natural lumbar lordosis during a squat or deadlift - which is usually due to weak core muscles - he rounds the back, which leads to an uneven distribution of the weight on the ventral part of the intervertebral discs. This can be observed much more frequently under load than a hollow back that is too strong. So when doing squats and deadlifts, make sure you always maintain a slight hollow back by pushing your chest out and engaging your core.
Many of my customers have also heard the advice from their physiotherapist not to hollow their back when bench pressing. It is based on an incorrect idea of movement and stress, which also indicates a lack of training experience on the part of the physio. In general, you should not give any advice in an area in which you have no idea or experience.
When you lie down on a bench and lift a weight with your arms from your chest up over your shoulders, there is a completely different load on your spine than when the load is vertical from your head/back to your feet, like in the squat or the squat deadlift. Instead, the highest force on the bench press is in the thoracic spine. But there are no major forces on the LWS. On the contrary, no good powerlifter will bench their lower back; on the contrary, they will actually arch their back actively in order to be able to press their feet into the floor better and their upper back into the bench more, thus providing more stability on the bench and have a better upper body position. As well as shortening the path of the barbell from straight elbows to chest. The power transmission runs through the legs into the dumbbell. So, lifting your feet off the bench to keep your lower back flat is also utter nonsense that puts the trainee in a weak and unstable position that puts them at risk of injury from falling off the bench (especially with dumbbells ) elevated.
Good luck with training with the natural lumbar lordosis !
Image: The spine.