Plan Focus: Low Back Fitness Training Plan


By Rob Shaul

Lower backs are a mystery.

I’ve read every book I could find on low back injuries, their causes, and  possible fixes. I could find no consensus. Causes listed include too much sitting, to poor hip/hamstring/low back flexibility, “tight hip flexors” and overall job and family stress.

The only “easy” low back injuries to diagnose are those caused by trauma. But in my work, they are also the most rare. The athletes I have with fragile low backs have no violent individual accident or incident to point to.

Usually, something not especially out of the ordinary happens – a slip on ice, for example, and their low back “goes out.” It can be a traumatic experience – a couple days in bed, lost work, lost time on the snow, etc.

Once this occurs, the athlete is understandably very tentative moving forward – forever.

After working with athletes for years I learned the hard way preventing reoccurrences was nearly impossible. I’ve had a fragile back athlete squatting heavy, push pressing heavy, doing plyos, all types of core work, etc., only to have their back “go out” from a half day powder skiing, removing groceries from the car, and similar, random, low intensity activity.


I’m careful to tell recovering athletes our training plan won’t prevent future episodes. Rather, what we hope to do is rebuild the athlete’s mid section and movement slowly and steadily, and with it, their confidence and morale.

It’s important that the goal is half physical, half mental. I hope to teach the athlete they can recover from a low back episode, so the next time, if it does happen, they won’t be as traumatized by it.

This low back fitness plan is one which has endured over the years and been used by elite, professional athletes to recreational athletes, to “industrial” athletes like soldiers and firemen. Simple, solid and effective, it’s been very effective for many “fragile back” athletes.

The plan begins with light loading and easy sessions, and over the course of the 8 weeks, increases in volume, movement complexity, and intensity. We’ve had great luck with it.


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