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Why is a back injury so potentially devastating? It can be summed up in a single word: PAIN! This pain usually begins as a sharp, intense twinge in your lower back and if you’re lucky, it will be only momentary, then immediately disappear without any residual effects. If you’re unlucky, the pain will be sharp, intense (like a twisting knife) and lasting. Sometimes the pain will sneak up on you, and you may not even notice it at first, until it becomes too great to ignore.

The high incidence of back pain and injury is due in large part to the complexity of muscles that are individually incapable of handling the stresses that are transmitted through the back. The forces and torques are transmitted to other tissue (intervertebral discs), which are incapable of handling the stress, and pain results. Although back injury can occur anywhere along the vertebral (spinal) column, sports and training injuries are most frequent in the lower back and the neck (cervical column). These two regions of the spine are the most mobile, and to allow a high degree of movement, they must sacrifice stability. The configuration of one vertebra on the other allows a great deal of forward and backward bending (anterior flexion and posterior extension).

Back Basics

The intervertebral disc sits between adjacent vertebrae and gets squeezed when the spine is flexed or extended. It’s attached to the vertebrae both superior and inferior to it. It bears and distributes excessive motion and is of great mechanical and functional importance. It is well suited for both these roles because of its location between the vertebrae and the unique composition of its inner and outer materials. The intervertebral disc provides a strong attachment between the vertebrae. In fact, much of the movement between adjacent vertebrae takes place over the resilient nucleolus pulposus, the jelly-like inner material of the intervertebral disc that dissipates the forces transmitted to it by expanding. In this way, it acts like a shock absorber in an attempt to minimize impact. The nucleus pulposus is directly in the center of all discs except the lumbar segments, where it is slightly posterior to the center.

A tough outer covering, the annulus fibrosus, surrounds the nucleus pulposus and is made of a tough fibrous cartilage created to form a strong matrix to withstand bending and twisting. The trouble begins when the annulus fibrosus receives a small tear; this allows the nucleus pulposus to leak or protrude from the tear in the disc. This may not be a large problem at first, and you may not even notice anything except for the occasional twinge of pain when the nucleus pulposus touches a nerve exiting from the spinal cord. However, if the disc tear is large, and a higher degree of inner nucleolus pulposus projects from the disc and contacts the nerves, the pain will be intense and severe. Usually rest, traction and/or anti-inflammatory treatments are administered to encourage the leaking nucleus pulposus to return to the center of the disc and stop contact with the nerves. In cases were the nucleus pulposus refuses to cooperate, surgery may be performed to remove the nucleus pulposus from the center of the affected disc by a long needle-like tool.

The lower back (lumbar column) is very susceptible to injury because it’s moveable and has a poor mechanical advantage. This means anytime you bend over from your waist to lift an object, much of the torque caused by the weight of your upper body compounds with the resistance of the weight and sends shearing forces through only two or three vertebrae in the lumbar column (and their corresponding discs). Thus, poor exercise techniques, (jerking, bending over too far during squats, etc.) will only invite injury sooner or later, rather than prevent it. While weak abdominals can contribute to lower back injury largely because they are unable to maintain a strong intra-abdominal pressure to hold the spine in its place, strong abdominals will not be sufficient to counteract weak spinal muscles. Lower back injury can be avoided by improving the flexibility of the hamstring muscles – because tight hamstrings will pull on the pelvis and increase the risk of injury when lifting – and increasing the mass and strength of the muscles that surround the weak links in the lower back.

Lower Back Muscles

The lower back primarily consists of the erector spinae muscles. The thoracolumbar fascia covers these muscles with a tough sheet of string-like connective tissue (fascia) that blends with the origins of the latissimus dorsi muscle. Since this fascia does not have the flexibility of muscle, it’s more prone to injuries from extreme stretching or jerking. The erector spinae lie just deep to this fascial covering.

The erector spinae muscle group is constructed from three muscles. The iliocostalis muscle is the most lateral of the group. It arises from the iliac crest (part of the hip bone), runs superiorly (toward the head) and inserts into the ribs. Some of its fibers will insert into the vertebrae of the neck. The intermediate muscle of the erector spinae group is the longissimus muscle. It runs almost the entire length of the back. Its fibers arise from the lateral bony projections of the vertebrae called transverse processes and insert on more superior transverse processes of the vertebrae. The spinalis muscle is the most medial column of the erector spinae and essentially runs up the center of the back. Specifically, it arises from the spinous processes (small projections in the center of the vertebrae) in the lumbar and lower thoracic regions and insert into the spinous process of the superior portion of the thoracic and neck (cervical) regions.

Collectively, the erector spinae group is the strongest extenders of the vertebral column. Acting on one side of the body at a time, each of these muscles can bend the vertebral column laterally (e.g., in side bends). The three erector spinae muscles can also act to rotate the vertebral column in a twisting action. The iliocostalis is the best rotator of the vertebral column. The remaining two muscles will, however, invoke some rotation along the spine.

Hyperextensions (Lying Back Extensions)

In most back exercises, the axis of rotation involves the hip joint, although there is certainly movement at each of the vertebrae. However, muscles that cross the hip joint, including the powerful gluteal and hamstring muscles, can also affect the movement at this joint and are active during back extension. Still, the erector spinae group acts as the primary movers, extending the back at the hip, causing the torso to be moved upward and controlling its downward movement.

The lower back can achieve a limited amount of hyperextension of the vertebrae. Such hyperextension occurs when the extension movement goes backward beyond the point where the spine is in a straight line. This is recognized as an “arch” in the lower back. Generally, the “hyper” in back extension exercises should be replaced by only extensions to the point where the lower and upper back makes a straight line. An excessive (hyper) back extension can result in the vertebral discs becoming compressed and the nerves that exit between the vertebrae will achieve the same undesired fate.

Correct Exercise Form

1. Lie facedown on a back extension bench (which might be called the hyperextension bench in your gym). Position yourself with your knees almost (but not quite) straight. The bench pad should be comfortably placed across your pelvis, not on your thighs or abdomen. On most benches, you can place your lower leg under pads or rollers that will anchor you. The pads should be placed between mid-calf and ankle.

2. Lower your upper body toward the floor by bending (flexing) at the waist/hip. Cross your arms and lay them across your chest.

3. Begin with a 90-degree angle between your upper and lower body, then extend your back by lifting the torso until your back is parallel to the floor and there’s a straight line through your back, hips and lower legs. Do not lift higher than this to hyperextend your back. The force should come smoothly (no jerking or fast movements should occur) from your erector spinae muscles.

4. After the extension is complete, slowly reverse your direction and control the descent of the weight of your upper body until it’s just short of the starting position. Repeat. This will maintain tension on the muscles throughout the effort.

Training Tips

If you have a stronger and injury-free lower back, you can place your hands behind your head rather than on your chest. For additional resistance, you can hold a weight in your hands, either across your chest or behind your head. If you put the weight behind your head (the most difficult version), be careful during the placement of the weight so you don’t hit your neck or head. Also, do not pull down on your neck with your hands.

You can induce a little more effort from the erector spinae if you hold your upper body at the top position for two to three seconds in each repetition. Don’t swing your torso upward. Both the up and down phases of each repetition should be slow and controlled.

It’s possible to include a slight twist on the upward movement, as long as the twist is not large and you alternate the twist toward the left foot and the right foot. The twist to the right will tend to cause a greater shortening and contraction of the muscles on the right half of the back, but this will slightly unload the left half of the back. Thus, it’s important that your next twist is to the left on the following repetition for equal development in the back.

Proper breathing will help you during the exercise and will also reduce the potential for risk. Simply inhale before beginning the backward push movement, and hold your breath until you reach the top (full back extension). You may then exhale on the return to the starting position. The full breath on the upward extension will increase the pressure in your rib cage and create a rigid thoracic column. This tends to prevent movement between the vertebrae and thereby, protect the intervertebral discs from compression injuries. However, if you have cardiovascular disease, diabetes or high blood pressure, do not hold your breath during exercise. Simply inhale when going up, and exhale as you lower your body.

Minimize Back Injury

Be aware that the erector muscles of the vertebral column are active in many other exercises. As a result, you should plan your exercise routine very carefully, so the lower back is stressed appropriately and not over-stressed. Also, the erector spinae muscles will only develop the strength needed to minimize back injury if the muscles have been developed with sufficient resistance during both the flexion and extension portions of the movement. However, the serious effort associated with this type of training is far better than the disabling pain that accompanies a neglect-induced injury of the lower back.



Cholewicki J, Juluru K, Radebold A, Panjabi MM and McGill SM. Lumbar spine stability can be augmented with an abdominal belt and/or increased intra-abdominal pressure. Eur Spine J 8: 388-395, 1999.

Clemente CD. Anatomy, A regional atlas of the human body. Second edition, Baltimore, Urban & Schwarzenberg Pub. Co. 1981, pp. 33-75.

Kumar S and Narayan Y. Spectral parameters of trunk muscles during fatiguing isometric axial rotation in neutral posture. J Electromyogr Kinesiol 8: 257-267, 1998.

Kumar S, Narayan Y and Garand D. Isometric axial rotation of the trunk in the neutral posture. Eur J Appl Physiol 86: 53-61, 2001.

McGill SM, Hughson RL and Parks K. Lumbar erector spinae oxygenation during prolonged contractions: implications for prolonged work. Ergonomics 43: 486-493, 2000.

Norkin CC and PK Levangie. Joint Structure and Function. A  Comprehensive Analysis FA Davis Co., Philadelphia, Chpt. 4 Vertebral Column, 1992, pp. 125-169

Plamondon A, Marceau C, Stainton S and Desjardins P. Toward a better prescription of the prone back extension exercise to strengthen the back muscles. Scand J Med Sci Sports 9: 226-232, 1999.

Rasch PJ Kinesiology and Applied Anatomy, Seventh edition. Philadelphia, London. Lea & Febiger, 1989, pp. 117-120.

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Failures in Business: The Unseen Stepping Stones to Success

Equally significant is the need for businesses to remain vigilant about broader shifts in both domestic and global markets. Macro factors, whether they’re economic trends, geopolitical events, or emerging global challenges, can have profound ripple effects, impacting even the most niche industries. By staying abreast of these larger market dynamics, businesses can better anticipate risks, adapt to challenges, and capitalize on new opportunities. In an ever-globalizing world, the ability to navigate both the nuances of one’s immediate market and the broader global shifts is what separates thriving enterprises from those that falter.

TACTICAL Takeaway: Stay sharp and monitor your industry’s trends. When things shift, being ahead in understanding consumer habits offers you the flexibility to adjust and succeed. Things can change rapidly and the sooner you have insight into consumer behavior changes, the more opportunities you have to pivot.


Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

The sports nutrition industry is an interesting, fast-paced vertical where what’s old can quickly become new again but also what worked yesterday likely won’t work tomorrow.

It might seem counterintuitive, but it’s spot-on. Take creatine as an example. It hit the shelves in the early 1990s and quickly became a hit. Yet, a decade later, its demand had waned. Jump another decade to today, and it’s back more popular than ever.

TACTICAL Takeaway: The key for businesses is knowing when to go all-in on a product and when to ease off, as it’s the ever-changing consumer market that truly drives demand.

Never Rest On Your Laurels

Just because something “has always worked” doesn’t mean it’s going to continue to work (or continue to work as efficiently).

In the dynamic world of business, the saying “never rest on your laurels” holds more truth than ever. What propelled a company to success yesterday might not necessarily be the formula for its tomorrow’s success. Market demands, technological innovations, and consumer preferences are in a perpetual state of evolution. While a particular strategy or product might have been a game-changer at one point, there’s no guarantee that it will remain relevant or effective in the future. This inherent unpredictability underscores the need for adaptability and forward-thinking in any business endeavor.

This reality pushes companies to be proactive, always forecasting and adjusting to the next potential shift. Relying solely on past successes can lull businesses into complacency, risking obsolescence in the face of changing tides.

TACTICAL Takeaway: To remain competitive and relevant, businesses need to cultivate a culture of continuous learning, innovation, and agility. In essence, the past can inform and guide, but it’s the vision and readiness for the future that will determine enduring success.

Embracing The Journey

To any entrepreneur reading this: the road to success is rarely a straight one. At times, it may seem like every decision leads to a dead end. But remember, every misstep is an opportunity to learn, grow, and pivot.

The trials you face in business are not meant to discourage you. Instead, they are meant to shape you, refine your vision, and improve your strategy. As the age-old adage goes, “smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.” It’s the challenges that will arm you with the experience and resilience necessary for long-term success.

So, the next time you face a setback, remember that your next big success could be just around the corner. Embrace failure as a part of the process, learn from your mistakes, and continue pushing forward with a renewed sense of purpose and determination.

Lastly, don’t forget to enjoy the journey. With so much time spent working and navigating challenges, it’s essential to find joy and have fun along the way.


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Negativity Is a Losing Mindset

By Marc Lobliner


‘A good coach can change a game. A great coach can change a life.’

I coach my son’s U11 football team. I am just the line coach, but the dudes who coach with me are also in the same mindset as I am.

Positivity wins.

Let’s start off with last weekend’s game.

It’s 0-0, the opening kickoff is a short one and we fall on it.

You can hear our coaches getting our kids fired up and getting the offense ready for play. POSITIVE statements. A lot of “Let’s Go!” and energy.

On the other sideline, you hear the coaches angrily yelling at their players for the execution of the kick.

First play from scrimmage, our line makes every block and opens the outside for our running back to score.

You hear their coaches furiously yelling as we celebrate.

We celebrated and our fullback punched in the extra point.

After the kickoff, our defense held them to four and out. We got the ball again, touchdown. Extra point good.

14-0 in two offensive plays.s

Their coaches were still mad. Angry. Yelling.

We smiled, encouraged our kids, and ended up with a 42-0 mercy-rule win.

Our players are awesome, but not the biggest, not the fastest, not the strongest.

It’s all about culture and what you’re playing for.

We demand a lot of our athletes. Learn your plays, DO YOUR JOB, and we will win.

Every Tuesday after we win, I buy my linemen doughnuts and give them to everyone, telling them that a random lineman (changes weekly) said everyone deserves doughnuts. We don’t punish every mistake with extra running and up-downs. We focus on what we do RIGHT, and not what we do wrong.

The other game one of my linemen got called for a hold. He came off the field expecting to be scolded. I put my arm around him and said, “What happened?” He explained it and then I said, “You’re better than that guy, you don’t need to hold. Show the world how dominant you are!” He didn’t get one call the rest of the game and crushed it.

This is also my management style at work. Managers are usually garbage. You can do 1,000 things right and you mess up once and your manager attacks you.

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Employees typically respond better to positivity, and numerous studies have found that positive reinforcement and a positive work environment can significantly improve employee motivation, performance, and well-being. Here are some reasons why, supported by various studies:

Increased Productivity: According to a study conducted by the University of Warwick, happiness led to a 12% spike in productivity, while unhappy workers were 10% less productive. The research shows that human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity.

Better Decision-Making Abilities: Research from the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center found that individuals who were induced to feel positive emotions were better at problem-solving and making decisions than those in a neutral state.

Boosts Creativity: Positive emotions widen attention and allow people to think more broadly and openly. This is discussed in the “broaden-and-build theory” by Barbara Fredrickson, which suggests that positive emotions broaden an individual’s momentary thought-action repertoires.

Enhanced Team Collaboration: A study from MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory found that teams that communicate effectively, with members actively reaching out and connecting with all other team members, were more successful. Positive interactions contribute to this dynamic.

Reduced Employee Turnover: According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), a positive work environment and culture encourages employees to stay longer in their jobs, thus reducing turnover rates. This is KEY at where our staff has mostly been there for 5+ years!

Better Health & Well-being: A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that positive work environments and low job stress are linked to better health outcomes for employees, which in turn can lead to reduced absenteeism and increased productivity.

Increased Engagement: According to Gallup, workers who are engaged and have high well-being are more likely to be attached to their organizations and are more productive.

Enhanced Learning & Flexibility: Research in the field of positive psychology has shown that positive emotions can facilitate adaptive thinking and flexibility in cognitive processing. This helps employees adapt to new situations and learn more effectively.

Higher Levels of Satisfaction: A study by BrightHR found that happiness is a key indicator of job satisfaction. Happy employees are more likely to report high levels of satisfaction with their jobs than those who report low levels of happiness.

Creates a Positive Feedback Loop: A study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology found that experiencing positive emotions leads to higher levels of resilience, which in turn leads to increased positive emotions. This positive feedback loop has a myriad of beneficial effects in the workplace.

How about parenting?

Same thing. PRAISE YOUR CHILD! Make sure they know you love them. While bad behavior should be addressed, be sure to also reward good behavior. Kid had a good day at school? Get him ice cream! Tell him you love him. Say you’re proud of him.

As my mother said, “You catch more flies with honey than with crap.”

And one can’t deny the lifelong impact of a good coach. As the sign in the office says, “A good coach can change a game. A great coach can change a life.”

Be positive and be a winner!

556494785 img 1682 2

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Panatta Super Rowing Page 1

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