NFPA talks about low back health

Figure 1: Isometric Back Extension Endurance Test: In this study, 83 percent of firefighters had isometric back extension muscle endurance times below the recommended target time.

B.7 Healthy Back Exercise Program. 
B.7.1 Significance. 


Approximately 5 million Americans suffer from acute or chronic back pain, which 
accounts for over 90 million lost production days annually. The physical demands placed on fire fighters puts them at great risk 

especially if they are not adequately conditioned. 

The following are common causes of lower back pain and injury: 

(1) Weak abdominal and/or lower back muscles 

(2) Inflexible lower back, hamstrings, and hip flexor 

(3) Improper posture and body mechanics 

NFPA Journal found that lower back sprains and strains were the most common

B.7.2 Mode. 


Strengthening and stretching exercises, and exercises that improve aerobic fitness to 
lessen or prevent fatigue, are general prescriptions in a healthy back exercise program. 

Specific exercises to strengthen the lower back, abdominal region, and the muscles in the 

trunk region are essential. The trunk region is often the weakest link in the body. It is 

responsible for transferring muscle forces from upper body to lower body, and vice versa, 

as well as for stabilizing and controlling movements of the spinal column. If lower back 

pain is consistent or severe, exercising should be discontinued, and the member should be 

examined by a physician. 

I agree with the NFPA’s assessment here so I quoted it, the only thing I think they missed is the hip extensors or glutes. Outside of pro athletes, the glutes are chronically underdeveloped and unrecognized as a vital muscle group for both performance and longevity. I dedicate 10-15 minutes at the beginning of every training session to glute activation work and I think it makes a huge difference. Check out Bret Contreras for more info, he has done more legitimate glute activation studies than anyone alive. 

My take on low back strength: 

1 – the muscles in the back are designed to work in concert with the abdominal muscles to stabilize the spinal column and transfer force from the ground through the legs and hips to the upper body. 

2 – the best way to strengthen any muscle group is to use it for its designed purpose, in this case stabilization. 


 – Deadlift 

 – Front squat 

 – Low bar back squat 

 – Planking / Bridging 

 – Toe-to-bar or hanging leg raise 

 – Overhead Squat 

 – Unilateral overhead movements i.e. one arm dumbbell standing press (military press) 

– Glute Ham Developer (GHD) extensions and reverse hyperextentions 

Try finishing one training session a week with 30-60 second plank holds 1:1 or 2:1 work:rest ratio…   








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