View Full Version : Losing weight with a bad back

Please visit our sponsor:

08-05-2006, 05:35 PM
Okay, this isn't particularly aikido related, but I thought that some of u may have had similar issues... I'm keen to lose weight (and my belly) and am obviously doing the usual (watching diet, being more active, etc.).

My problem is that I tore a muscle in my back about a year ago and it still gives me some trouble. When I started kung-fu as a "tubby" 14 year old I just did a stupid amount of sit-ups twice a day and lost most of my belly pretty quickly. If I even think about doing a sit-up now, my back complains.

So, are there any particular exercises that you'd recommend that won't put too much pressure on the back?

08-05-2006, 08:45 PM
Walking, especially walking up and down steps. I try to regularly go to a near by stadium and walk up and down the steps of the stadium. It doesn't bother my back at all.

Just Jamey
08-05-2006, 11:36 PM
Look to your "sweat quotient", diet, water intake, bowel movements, stress level and sleep schedule for more ways to lower your weight.

1. The amount of activity I most commonly hear today is 30-45 minutes, 4 times a week. Build up to this; don't go bang-on-full-into-it. Make sure you work up a little sweat with the activities you choose. Walking is a great way to start.
2. Start a daily food diary, writing down what you are actually eating and drinking for a week (most people are surprised). Adjust your diet accordingly.
3. An easy rule of thumb for water intake is if your urine is yellow, then you aren't drinking enough water (disregard if taking multi-vitamin).
4. If you aren't having at least one bowel movement per day, you are probably full of... well, you know. Increase your natural fiber intake.
5. Stress makes the body hold on to FAT. Take 15 minutes out of your day to actually relax.
6. Do you feel rested in the mornings? If not, perhaps the amount or quality of your sleep isn't good. This will impact your energy-level, among other things.

08-06-2006, 10:25 AM
If you're looking to shed some fat, cardio is your best bet. You'll probably want something low-impact so you don't worsen your back. Jogging might work, but that can hurt some people's backs. Walking is always a good idea.
You might find it worthwhile to go see a physiotherapist or a kinesiologist for an appointment. They usually know a number of exercises that would help. Also, they may be able to recommend some at-home treatments to speed your recovery.

Tony Wagstaffe
08-06-2006, 11:48 AM
Cut down on carbs. Say once a week on Sunday with your roast dinner. Get plenty of oily fish, protein, yoghurt, loads of veg,
salad and fruit. Take up isometrics, cycling or walking and gentle stretching and I mean gentle stretching! It can take quite a bit of time till your back heals, I know I've been there!

08-06-2006, 04:27 PM
Hi Graham,

Sit-ups will strengthen your abs which will help support your back but they do not get rid of fat. Eat a balanced diet. Calories in - calories out needs to be a negative number for you to loose weight. Eating 4 - 6 small meals throughout the day is better than eating 2 or 3 big meals.

An exercise bike might be best for your cardio workout. Check with your doctor for the most suitable exercises and heart rate target.

Hey Tony, remember me? I used to visit you when I was at Worthy Down. I'm retired now and creating havoc in the US. Hope you are well.

Good luck Graham,


08-07-2006, 03:13 AM
Thanks, folks. Very helpful.

08-07-2006, 05:50 AM
Cardio and diet was key to my weight loss. I was 196 when I started walking at the mall, training in bjj (very cardio intensive), and shadow boxing/working the heavy bag. I'm now 163 (well I've been eating poorly this last week so I bet I'm a little higher). I cut out pepsi and started using suger substitute in my iced tea. I also switched from snickers bars to a bagel with fruit spread for breakfast. I still eat red meat 2 times a week, and have icecream on saturdays. But I've droped my red meat consumption down and added a lot more lean meats.

08-07-2006, 07:55 AM
If you have a bad back you should be exercising it regularly to protect it (there are many specialist back exercises to improve back strength). Although swimming can help to burn calories and support the back, it tends not to result in weight loss. I think it is difficult loosing weight if your back can't move well, so the first thing is to strengthen it over a long period by regular (daily) back exercises appropriate to your problem, and then do aerobic exercises which build up fitness.

Mark Freeman
08-07-2006, 08:01 AM
I also switched from snickers bars to a bagel with fruit spread for breakfast.

Blimey Don, snickers bars for breakfast! no wonder you had a pound or two to lose ;)

I'm glad you have discovered a healthier regime,



08-07-2006, 08:28 AM
Another good one is that each time you read something that annoys you on the internet to do X number of exercises.

The weight will just drop off! :)

08-07-2006, 08:50 AM
Changing the body's metabolism is key. The naturopaths recommend a ketogenic diet, i.e., not going into ketoacidosis like some have recommended via all protein, but to set the body up to burn fat. Basically, protein and fruits and vegetables. Very low carbs and no sugars or sodas. I have been following this diet since last week. I did not lose anything for a few days then from Thursday last week until this morning I dropped 10 lbs. Stopping sodas (diet Dr. Pepper was my nemesis) was a big deal for me. My joints stopped hurting within a few days of doing so.

Aerobic exercise-walking, biking, treadmill, exercise bike, running/jogging will all ramp your metabolism to burn fat after you stop.

If you cannot do situps, try crunches. Full sit ups kill my back and always have, but crunches are ok.

08-07-2006, 11:39 AM
Blimey Don, snickers bars for breakfast! no wonder you had a pound or two to lose ;)

I'm glad you have discovered a healthier regime,



What can I say, you are at work, programming, hungry, and there is a vending machine....

Mark Freeman
08-08-2006, 07:48 AM
What can I say, you are at work, programming, hungry, and there is a vending machine....

Ah.. vending machines evileyes , the pied pipers of the perpetually podgy ;)

08-08-2006, 02:12 PM
Try GI (glicemic index) based methods. Montignac method (http://www.montignac.com/en/la_methode.php) makes wonders, and not too restrictive, but you have to have a substantial control on what you eat.

08-11-2006, 10:11 AM
Yes, having strong abs will take the tension off of your lower back, People with a bad back cannot do traditional sit ups. However, there are excercises for people with a back probelm. I suggest you visit your physician to seek further advice.

08-11-2006, 01:14 PM
No offense meant but half the suggestions here are off. You need to seek some input from qualified professionals, in person, to get assessment of your posture and nutritional needs.

1. Doing sit-ups isn't what makes your belly smaller, you cannot target the fat you want to reduce. Your body has a genetic map of where it will store fats and it will, generally, burn that fat in a 'last in first out' progression. The first place you start storing fat is probably going to be the last place it comes off.

2. Traditional sit-ups strain the lower back, do crunches. Seek a trainers help on proper technique and poster. Doing stupid amounts of sit-ups may have actually contributed to the injury you suffer from even if it was a long time ago.

3. Resistance training is generally better for fat burning, the caloric expenditure during can be just as great as cardio, and you will keep burning more calories during the recovery period which is much longer than that of a cardio workout. If your resistance training leads to an increase in lean mass, then your calorie expenditure will rise to support the increase of mass. A combination of cardio, resistance training, and a balanced diet is your best bet.

4. Ignore the anti carb talk. Talk to your doctor, or a nutritionist, to find out what kind of diet works best for your metabolism. Low carb/ high protein does not work universally for everyone. Some metabolisms can actually work better with a higher carb percentage than protein. Reducing saturated fat intake is a safe step. 4-6 meals per day to keep the metabolism moving, and take in less calories than you are using.

5. Get an assessment from a physical therapist about your back and any other issues you have. If you are still having pain from an old injury, it could be from scaring in the connective tissues, a joint problem, pinched nerve, sever imbalances in your muscles structure wich lead to continued re-injury, something else, or a combination.

6. Consider a deep tissue massage. Not a Sweedish Ďrelaxationí massage, but a good deep tissue body worker. It can be painful but rewarding.

7. Once youíve been cleared by a physical therapist, get 2-3 sessions with a personal trainer (more if you like, less probably wonít do you much good). They will assess your posture and get you started on a corrective exercise program. If you have significant imbalances and donít have the education on how to address them, you can just exacerbate them.

8. Almost forgot...drink lots of water....plain old H2O

Iím not pulling this out of my ass, Iím studying for Fitness and Wellness Masters as well as certifications under NASMÖ.nasm.org... Transitioning from a boring engineering career in hopes of opening my own MA and Fitness training studio in a few years.

I would recommend you get to the qualified people who can set you strait. It may cost a bit, especially if you donít have medical insurance, but in the long run you will pay a lot more from the injuries you could and probably will sustain.

Lyle Bogin
08-18-2006, 07:10 AM
Walk on, brother! It's the safest of all exercises and arguably the most effective.

Berney Fulcher
08-18-2006, 09:25 AM

Kevin Wilbanks
08-18-2006, 09:58 AM
Bryan has some good suggestions, but some could use improvement.

First of all, forget situps AND crunches. Neither one is a particularly useful exercise. Situps mostly train hip flexor endurance and crunches are for bodybuilders who want to make their ab muscles bigger. As he said, training the belly muscles has little to do with losing fat there. The best way to train the abs is to train the entire trunk with a big, functional exercise like Squats. Aikido ukemi actually trains them quite well on its own.

As far as losing fat, all the suggestions are missing the simple facts you need to concentrate on. Losing fat is about burning more calories than you eat on a long-term basis. Period. You need to run a continuous calorie defecit and not cheat. The reason exercise is important is that without it, dieting alone will cause your metabolism to slow down to compensate and conserve fat, and if you choose the right exercise, it will speed it up and increase the defecit. Make no mistake though, dieting is the most important factor in losing weight. This means systematically reducing how much you eat and being hungry a lot of the time for a long time.

As far as exercise goes, the best fat-burner by far is High Intensity Interval Training: HIIT. It is a type of workout originally conceived based on speed skater training. Comparitively, if your purpose is strict fat burning, anything else is a waste of time and energy. I consider resistance training also a basic necessary supplement to Aikido, but for different reasons. You can read more about HIIT by finding my posts from a couple years ago. Plug "HIIT" into the forum search. Here's a little flyer I printed up on it: HIIT (http://http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=83)

I agree about the deep tissue massage for the effected area, but not so much about the precautionary medical stuff. In my state, physical therapists don't even make assessments, doctors do. Unless you go to a really good sports med doctor that has world class PT's, your money is likely to be wasted for a problem as minor as a torn muscle. Personal trainers are taugt to always recommend this to protect themselves from lawsuits. If you already do Aikido without crippling pain or cardiac/pulmonary incidents, you probably don't really need to be checked out by a doctor.

As for getting a personal trainer, this would be great in theory, but most of them are worthless and expensive. I got one of the least prestigious credentials before I knew squat without even studying. I also got one of the best, later, and it was hard, but it was all theoretical, with no hands-on. The only credentials that include real, useful hands-on are from USA Weightlifting, one of which I also have, but this is limited mostly ot Olympic Weightlifting training and technique. If all you end up doing is adding some simple HIIT to your training, you should be able to figure out how to do a few adequate activities on your own: jumping rope, stationary biking, and rowing machines are among the safest.

Mark Freeman
08-18-2006, 10:08 AM
Graham, it's been 5 or so weeks since you posted the thread header. Plenty of good advice, how is your progress?



08-18-2006, 03:47 PM
Thanks for the counter points Kevin.

I deffinately agree with the HIIT comment, but I find that a lot of people have difficulty committing to the intensity, especially if they are already active in other physical activities such as MA.

As for the PT and Doctors...my state allows PT's to do assessments but they are also required to have a PHD to get thier license.

Regarding trainers, like any field there are good and bad. Kinda like martial arts schools. Some have good things to teach while others took a test and got piece of paper. I would expect a good trainer to have more than a cert to back them up. Like most things, experinence is a critical factor in someones qualifications.

An injury is one thing, a long standing injury that has never been evaluated by a medical professional is another. If you have insurance, it's usually cheaper to be safe than sorry later on.

good luck on whatever path you use

08-18-2006, 04:20 PM
Good counter points Bryan. While I would recommend HIIT for people already at a good standard of fitness, jogging, cycling and even walking at steady pace should not be discounted as viable exercises for reducing fat and improving health and cardio fitness.

08-18-2006, 04:51 PM
Walking, especially walking up and down steps. I try to regularly go to a near by stadium and walk up and down the steps of the stadium. It doesn't bother my back at all.
David Graham you have received a wide range of excellent advice. It appears to me what you do will be determined by how much time and energy you have left after the demands of work and family.
After reading all the posts I would like to add to my advice of walking ,especially walking up and down stairs, is to watch what you eat. Kevin is right you need to burn more calories than what you eat.
Your back problem will probably be better once you have lost some weight, especially the belly.

Kevin Wilbanks
08-18-2006, 06:12 PM

I was thinking this was an older person and the injury was also old, for some reason. After rereading it more carefully, I guess I agree about some medical assessment - in my state it would be a Sports Medicine doctor. I have no idea in the UK. Although I'd still say it is borderline "subclinical" if there are no Aikido-related pains, and only problems with situps.

What I used to tell people is to call or show up at the offices of local college football or other sports teams, or even high school if it's a high level program. Talk to the coaches and trainers to try to find out who they bring in or send their athletes to. This might be more likely to produce a doctor who understands the aims and needs of someone enthusiastic to get back in action. Many doctors and even PTs are nearly useless for athletic purposes - I have heard some of the dumbest, least useful assessments from them.