My Back Injury – Leave A Little In The Tank

My Back Injury – Leave A Little In The Tank

If you have or have ever had Lower Back Pain this blog post will help you tremendously.

If you never had any back pain consider yourself very lucky, and you should read and implement everything in this blog post to PREVENT lower back pain.

If you have ever had a lower back issue you know how debilitating it can be.  It is not something to be taken lightly, ever.

This weekend I was able to attend a Lower Back seminar with the #1 expert in the world Dr. Stuart McGill. The one big thing I learned from this seminar is how after almost 20 years in the fitness field how little I know.  I was amazed at how much Dr. McGill knew, and how much he could assess, and help people so quickly.  The man has forgotten more about Lower Back Pain than most back experts will ever know.

I am very grateful for this experience and it’s my mission to share and help as many people as I can with what I have learned.

But first a quick story that will shed some light on why lower back issues are so important to me.

About 10 years ago I was in my prime for training.  I couldn’t wait to attack the next session of heavy training.  All day I would just think about my workouts, how much I was going to train harder, lift more, and smash through the weights.  I was an animal in the gym and I loved it.

All this changed one day, during one set, doing ONE REP.

I was going for a personal best in the deadlift of 585.  My training partner at the time was 6 5″ and about 270 lbs.  He was a big dude….all around big dude.  I went first, got set, got my mind set, focused, sumo stance, feet set, hips ready, drop and go, start pulling…the bar starts moving….1/3 up…yes….1/2 way….BOOM dropped it.

I had it….damn it…

Next up was my training partner……585 lb.  He pulled it…he nailed it..  That only meant one thing to me, I had to do it, I had to get it…HAD TO.

585 lb again, approach…go through my routine…get everything ready to attach the bar……chalk….feet set…..clearing my mind…over and over….strong pull….strong pull…..strong pull…..

I started to Pull… came up fast…same as before….. 1/3 done…moving up….1/2 way……started to stick.  Instead of letting go (which I should have done) I kept pulling…kept fighting….585 lb just below the knees…I can get it…keep pulling…….then it happened….I heard a pop.  I dropped the weight and it felt like someone had stabbed me in my back.

The pain was incredible, unbearable. I lost motor control, I could barely walk.  I lived across the street from the gym at the time and it might as well have been 1000 miles away.  Every step was sharp stabbing pain, every step was agony, everything hurt, it felt like I had been shot and I was just trying to get home, the pain was vicious.

I had had many injuries in my training, but nothing like this, nothing came close.

That was the rep that changed my life, my training, and everything about how I trained. I would never be able to train the same way again.

“Leave A Little In The Tank” – Bill Kazmier

Bill Kazmier

Years later the sentence above would make more sense to me than it did at the time.

Leave a little in the tank.

The meaning of this is don’t always push to failure.  Don’t always push to kill yourself in the gym.  Don’t always be pushing your limits.

Yes we all want to get stronger, it’s what drives us. But not every workout, not ever rep, not every set.  Leave a little in the tank. Come back stronger to fight another day.

I loved deadlifts, I think they are one of the best exercises you can do, but they can also be one of the most dangerous.  If there was ever an exercise to “Leave a little in the tank” it’s deadlifts.

How can you benefit from me getting a herniated disc?  I look at it this way, If I didn’t get injured and go through this I wouldn’t have the same desire to be a SMART trainer as I am now.  It’s not all about going harder, it’s not about just lifting more, it’s about being SMART, making steady progress, and KNOWING when is enough.

Herniated Disc Waiting To Happen

Here are some tips that can help you never have to go through what I did.  I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

– Leave a little in the tank.  Can you pull that deadlift for 5 reps? Back it off at 4.  Is that extra rep worth it?

– Warm Up.  Never neglect your warm up.  If you don’t know how to warm up properly LEARN NOW.

Do Soft Tissue Work.  It’s not the most exciting thing in the world, but it will pay dividends in the end for keeping your body healthy and mobile.

– Improve Hip Mobility.  Your lower back isn’t meant to be STRONG.  It’s meant to be STABLE.  Your Hips & LEGS are meant to be STRONG.  Learn to lift with your HIPS & LEGS. 

– Don’t Deadlift every week.  Pull for 3-6 weeks, then stop deaflifting for a bit.

– Pay attention to mobility.  This gets even more important as you age.  Don’t neglect mobility exercises for your hips and shoulders and T-Spine.

– Find your right height for deadlifting.  Deads from the floor not feel right?  Then maybe they are NOT right for your body.  Who ever said that the size of 45 lb plates was perfect?  Dead off blocks, improve your mobility, find your grove and stick with it. Don’t push when it doesn’t feel right.

My Back 10 years later with no deadlifting


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I hope my story and my tips help you.  If I can save one person a back injury then this blog post was worth it.

If you have any questions post them below.  Maybe I can help you with your back pain and your training. I am here to help you.

Some Resources That Can Help You :

Lower Back Disorders (Stuart McGill

Ultimate Back Fitness & Performance (Stuart McGill Gill

Bullet Proof Back – Eric Wong







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  • dark

    This article is excellent! I have too many friends (including myself) who have been injured deadlifting. These days, I don’t deadlift heavy as often but when I do I always do all of the above except I also wear a belt just in case and if I ever feel the bar stall or begin lowering in the middle of the movement, I just drop it. The gym staff may not like it but I’d rather keep my lower back healthy.