P90X and back pain: causes and solutions

P90X, or Power 90 Extreme, is a 13-week intense exercise program that is gaining popularity with those looking to get in shape quickly. Many people have excellent results with this exercise program, but it is important to be careful when starting any new physical activity. The strength and flexibility demands of P90X can result in back pain for those who are not yet at a high level of fitness when they start the program.

P90X comes with 12 DVDs that focus on strength training, cardio, and stretching. The program can be customized by selecting the DVD rotation that supports your training goals.

Internet forums are full of people asking for advice on how to avoid back pain during P90X. Many identify the following exercises as the main causes of back pain.

Ripper X

This 15 minute workout is done 3 times a week. It involves a series of exercises designed to rapidly develop abdominal muscles. Many exercises that target the abdominal muscles cause back pain by creating tension in the lower back.

One particular exercise performed during Ab Ripper X can create tremendous stress on the lower back and hips: the Fifer Scissors. The exercise consists of lying on the ground with your back slightly off the ground and your legs in the air doing a scissor kick. The weight of the legs creates resistance in the abdominal muscles, which increases strength. The abs are also working to keep the upper body off the floor.

When your legs are in the air, your hip flexor muscles and not just your abs are working hard to support them. The hip flexor muscles pull on the pelvis, forcing it to lean forward, increasing the arch in the lower back. This can cause significant strain on your lower back muscles.

Watch the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftk8ZtAcTsg for a tip on how to reduce pelvic tilt during the Fifer Scissors exercise. In general, it’s a good idea to tailor the Ab Ripper X to your individual needs, doing fewer reps at first, pausing the DVD when necessary, and eliminating pain-causing exercises.

Dreya roll

The Dreya Roll is an exercise at the end of the Core Synergistics segment of the P90X. You can see it done here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOb3RLgZOgc. This is a very high intensity workout that many critics say cannot be done at first. The force required to push your body from a sitting position to a standing position is supposed to come mainly from your core. This presupposes a lot of central force; When that strength is lacking, you will likely find yourself leaning in your lower back to push your upper body forward and get the momentum to push up. This tightens the lower back muscles.

Many people report stopping this exercise altogether until they have progressed through the program and developed significant core strength. If a lack of strength requires you to modify your form to perform an exercise, it is best to discontinue the exercise until it can be performed correctly.

Plow position

YogaX is part of the P90X program. While this may seem like an easy and relaxing component, it is full of poses that only advanced yoga practitioners can perform. One of them is the position of the plow. From a shoulder stand, lower your legs overhead to the floor until the top of your lower legs are on the floor and your knees are next to your head. This requires tremendous flexibility from the spine and the muscles and ligaments from the lower back to the neck and shoulders.

Trying to do the plow pose the first few times with YogaX can lead to muscle and ligament strains in the upper body due to overstretching. Many other yoga poses require strength that you may not have at first. Respect yoga as a form of exercise and do not practice it thinking that all poses are achievable at first.

Muscle tension is the main danger to the back during P90X. If you continually overexert yourself, you also risk damaging your spinal joints and discs. Tailor the training to your needs and don’t try to keep up with the instructor in the video at first. Take your time, pause when necessary, and eliminate workouts that create excess stress on your back.