Stop back pain from compromising your triathlon performance with this 4-week training plan from expert Emma Deakin.

A strong, well-conditioned spine is a priority for any athlete looking to avoid back pain. But it’s especially important for triathletes in order to cope with the volume and diversity of demands placed upon them by training and racing. As a physiotherapist working with triathletes, I’ve noticed many common problems with specific muscle groups getting weak or tight. This training plan will give you the basic requirements to keep your back in the best condition for the sport. We’ll go through some simple stretches, exercises and drills all aimed at preparing your back to swim, bike and run. The plan has a dual purpose – it’s intended to prevent injury, but also optimise your performance.

Your back needs to do different things in each of the triathlon disciplines. In the swim your back is needed to help you stay in a streamlined position and balance your stroke. On the bike it’s what allows you to achieve an aero position and for the run it’s key to the biomechanics of running economically. Due to the complex nature of the spine, pain can originate from a number of different structures. If you suffer from any form of back pain (intermittent or ongoing), it’s vital you see a GP or physio to get a diagnosis and prescriptive rehab programme. You should also ensure that continuing to train isn’t detrimental to your recovery. If you’ve been diagnosed with mechanical lower back pain or just feel that your back is your weak spot, the tips in this plan should help.

Download the Stronger Spine Triathlon Training Plan here, and be sure to check out our other triathlon training plans.

Six areas to address

Triathletes can reduce the likelihood of experiencing back pain by eliminating the following six most common causes of it.

  •  Poor postural control/lumbar pelvic stability
  •  Incorrect bike position/set-up
  •  Poor running posture
  •  Poor running mechanics
  •  Work environment/posture
  •  Inappropriate gym and strength work

Find your lumbar neutral position

A neutral lumbar spine is where your pelvis is balanced centrally. To find your neutral position, stand sideways in front of a mirror, with your hands on your hips. Roll your pelvis forwards towards the floor, then roll it backwards, directing your tailbone to the floor. Try and pay attention to the amount of movement you have either way, and find the mid point where your pelvis is halfway between the forwards and backwards extremes. The halfway point is your lumbar neutral position. It is the most stable and shock-absorbing position that you can put your pelvis and lumbar spine in, and is ideal for training and injury prevention and how it should be in the exercises described in this plan.

Your Exercises

These exercises will be referred to throughout the four-week back strengthening plan. You don’t need any equipment to do the exercises but a foam roller and resistance band will be required to follow the plan.

Download the Stronger Spine Triathlon Training Plan here, and be sure to check out our other triathlon training plans.

This article was originally published in Triathlon Plus magazine. Save time and money by having every issue delivered to your door or digital device by subscribing to the print edition or buying digitally through Zinio or Apple Newsstand.

You’ll find loads more triathlon training advice in’s Training Advice section.

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