Advice for a bad back

Our friend Chris is having back issues.

I think he should see a professional … and he should insist on a top 1% performer.

Hi Lee – My name is Chris H., a 42 year old mountain biker with Rocky Mountain Racing out of Golden. Over the past three years since I started mountain biking, I have taken several of your courses at Valmont and a private lesson at Hall Ranch. I also have read your book, Mastering Mountain Bike Skills, and just got the 3rd edition.

I have a messed up back which I believe is my biggest weakness. I want to focus on strengthening my back and body to improve overall health and mountain biking. I have done a mix of racing over the last 4 years and I always feel my back is the limiting factor. In the past year, I did the Winter Park Enduro race where my back would give out leaving me feeling weak overall and with a lack of confidence. Nothing catastrophic, just an overall weakness leaving me unable to push myself. I raced the Steamboat Stinger XC race, and felt I could go as hard as my back would allow. I would pedal with a slight pain in my back, knowing that if I went any harder, it would get to a point I couldn’t recover from. In both situations, my legs, lungs, and rest of my body never felt like the limiting factor.

History – I crashed hard on the road a couple times and knocked my back out of place about 8 years ago. Ended up diagnosed with a bulging disc. Been through physical therapy several times, and it always helped get me back on track. I would still occasionally throw out my back usually lifting something or quickly running up steps with a 180 degree turn. Most recently, I have switched to nearly full time mountain biking and I am doing a 45 minutes core class at the Golden Rec Center once a week which really helps. I get a deep tissue massage every month as well. I haven’t had any spasms in my back in over a year. I attribute that to the focus on core workout, light stretching, and the reduced volume and intensity of training.

I am ready to take things to the next level and I am reaching out for advice. I want to get strong both on and off the bike. My first thought is to get on a year round strength training program for my back and body. Preferably in cycles to have a different focus off season vs on season. I am also willing to get another bike fit, but I want to make sure it is by an expert who can help work with my back/body issues.

I am reaching out to you since you have some different books available which seem to meet my needs. And of course there is the RipRow which intrigues me very much as well. What would you recommend?

Chris H


It’s great to hear from you, but it’s not great to hear about your back.

I’ve been down that road myself. I found a doctor who showed me the issue, then Dee Tidwell at Enduro MTB Training put me on a remedial core strength program. These days my back is awesome! Not only can I ride, but I can carry both of my growing girls. Hashtag dad strength.

Some thoughts:

1. If you have a medical issue, you need to see a medical professional. My F6 off-bike training program is a great way to build riding strength, but I’d be irresponsible to tell you to do it without oversight. Enduro MTB Training also has great programs, but I think you should see a doctor before you dig in.

2. Don’t trust your body to just anyone with a lab coat. Do you know how many doctors were in the top 1% of their training programs? Yep, 1%.

3. Since you seem to have a medical issue, I highly and massively and unapologetically recommend Drs. Dane, Matt and Brian at REVO Physiotherapy and Sports Performance in Boulder.

These guys are A) doctors, B) the best in their fields (which is why they were able to start their own clinic) and C) shredders. They know bikes. They work my camps. They get it. As a matter of fact, REVO are the only reason I still have my natural shoulders (the ortho insisted I needed replacement). I saw them once a week for a year, and now I go in every few months for a checkup. They’re happy not to see me so often.

REVO will do all the doctor stuff, plus they’ll put you on a smart training program. Importantly, this program will work for your body, goals, schedule AND injuries. That last thing is essential. And it’s why my trainer is a doctor.

Drs. Dane and Brian give tough love to some muscles in need at our LLB Moab camp.

4. RipRow is a fantastic tool. Not only does it strengthen the muscles that need to be stronger, it also teaches you the core engagement, alignment and technique you need to ride your best. Dane got me started with smart shoulder PT. RipRow keeps me in the game — and I’m stronger than ever. Seriously.

What do you think?


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