P90X and back pain: causes and solutions

P90X, or Power 90 Extreme, is a 13-week intense exercise program that is gaining popularity among those looking to get in shape fast. Many people experience great results with this exercise program, but it’s important to be careful when starting any new physical activity. The strength and flexibility demands of P90X can lead to 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 individualized 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.

Ab X Ripper

This 15 minute workout is done 3 times a week. It involves a series of exercises designed to build abdominal muscles quickly. Many exercises that target the abdominal muscles cause back pain by creating stress 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 floor with your back slightly off the ground and your legs in the air doing a scissor kick. The weight of your legs creates resistance in your abdominal muscles, building strength. The abs are also working to keep the upper body off the floor.

When your legs are in the air, your hip flexors and not just your abs are working hard to support them. The hip flexor muscles pull on the pelvis and force it to lean forward, which increases 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 tips on how to reduce pelvic tilt during the Fifer Scissors exercise. In general, it’s a good idea to tailor Ab Ripper X to your individual needs, performing fewer repetitions at first, pausing the DVD when necessary, and eliminating exercises that cause pain.

Dreya roll

The Dreya Roll is an exercise at the end of the Core Synergistics segment of P90X. You can see it interpreted here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOb3RLgZOgc. This is a very high-intensity workout that many reviewers say can’t be done at first. The force required to push your body from a sitting to a standing position is supposed to come primarily from your core. This presupposes a lot of core strength; when that strength is lacking, you’ll likely find yourself curling your lower back to push your upper body forward for momentum to push up. This strains the muscles of the lower back.

Many people report leaving this exercise entirely until they have progressed through the program and have developed significant core strength. If lack of strength requires you to alter your form to perform an exercise, it is best to leave the exercise out 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 could pull off. One of them is the plow position. From a shoulder stand, lower your legs overhead to the floor until the tops of your lower legs are on the floor and your knees are next to your head. This requires great flexibility from the spine and the muscles and ligaments from the lower back to the neck and shoulders.

Attempting to do 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 don’t do it thinking that all poses are possible at first.

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