It’s one thing for someone who sits at a computer all day and never exercises to have back pain, but for a bodybuilder, someone who spends hours and hours each week pouring everything they’ve got into building muscle, it should be criminal!

If you are going to spend so much time, money, and energy trying to build the “perfect body,” you have to make sure that you not only look good, but also feel good. We’ve identified what we call “Bodybuilding Sins” that lead to back pain, sciatic pain, and other injuries… read ’em and take action now if you are serious about bodybuilding and are fed up with your back pain.

Choosing the WRONG exercises

Get ready, this is gonna hurt! The exercises most bodybuilders focus on the most are the ones that cause the most problems. Hopefully, you’re different.

But before we share with you what those exercises are, let’s talk really quickly about what bodybuilding is. The goal of bodybuilding isn’t to get as big as you can, or at least to us it isn’t and shouldn’t be. It's to build a balanced body that is as strong as possible in every way. For example, while being freakishly big may get people’s attention, it serves you no purpose at all. While on the other hand, what if you were not only big, but also extremely strong and powerful, lightning fast, flexible, and agile enough to kick butt if needed?

So many bodybuilders build massive amounts of muscle yet are so unbelievably weak and inflexible. For example, we know a guy who can bench press over 350 lbs but can’t do a measly 50 push-ups!

The point is, the exercises you choose and how you perform them not only determine how big, strong, and flexible you are, but also affect how your body functions and whether or not you suffer from aches, pains, and injuries like back pain and sciatic pain.

Okay, here they are — the exercises that create the most problems and are most likely to lead to back pain:

  1. Bench Press
  2. Leg Extension

While there are others, these are the two that cause the most damage. There are several reasons why these exercises made our list of the “worst bodybuilding exercises.”

1. Bench press

First, all of them target areas that already tend to get worked a lot in everyday life and oftentimes are overdeveloped. By focusing so much on these exercises you end up creating muscle imbalances, or worsening existing muscle imbalances, which pull your bones and joints out of their normal position.

This leads to uneven pressure and wear and tear on your muscle, ligaments, tendons, bones, and joints, and will sooner or later lead to a break down or injury.

For example, chronic overuse of the bench press, coupled with little or no exercises targeting the upper back, leads to an overdevelopment of the chest and a lack of strength and development in the upper back. This all too common combination leads to what we call “Turtle Back.” You know what we’re talking about, when the shoulders are pulled so far forward, lats are as wide as barn, and from behind, their back looks like a giant sea turtle shell! This “Turtle Back” posture can create neck, upper back, and shoulder pain and injuries faster than you can pop an Advil!

Plus, how many times during your day are you forced to lie on your back and push up a bar loaded with weights? There are so many better exercises for chest development that not only stimulate more muscle, but also build more usable strength.

2. Leg extension

Not only does it place an unbelievable amount of strain on the knee joint, but it also will quickly overdevelop the quads, which are already getting far more work than their counterpart, the hamstrings. An imbalance between the quadriceps and hamstrings, which is also extremely common in bodybuilders, is a key contributor to back pain. This imbalance is easily identifiable by what people often call “Bubble Butt.”

So hopefully you can see how important it is to choose your exercises wisely. We strongly recommend you cut out these exercises, or at least cut back on using them and add in targeted exercises for the opposing muscle groups and targeted stretches for those tight, overdeveloped muscles.

The key to eliminating back pain, or any other ache, pain or injury for that matter, is to bring your body closer to balance. What good is muscle if you can’t use it? How many more workouts are you going to miss because of back, neck, or shoulder pain? How much bigger and stronger could you be if back pain and other injuries weren’t ruining your training?

Just imagine how bad things will be 10, 20, or 30 years from now if you don’t make changes to your training now. But don’t take our word for it, ask some of the older bodybuilders who are paying the price now. You can spot them easily at the gym because they limp around trying to find something they CAN do.

Used with permission.



This article was written by: Jesse Cannone

Photo Credit: Nicolas Barbier Garreau