Braaaping and back pain

Hey Lee!!

Love the site, love the book. I was wondering if you have had any lower back issues during the course of your cycling experience. Yesterday I was braaaping and today I feel a lot of stiffness and soreness in my lower back. I never had any serious injuries to constitute any sniveling. I’m 37, slightly overweight.I ride a hard-tail similar to the P-series bikes. Usually I find that some heat therapy or even a chiropractor is good when it requires it. My question is this, could it be my technique or should I consider specific back exercises to reduce pain after braaaping? Thanks Lee. See ya’ at Sea Otter!!


Hey Dan,

First the disclaimer: I am neither a doctor nor a physical therapist nor a personal trainer (but my dad’s a doctor, and I studied exercise physiology, and some of my best friends are personal trainers). If you are experiencing any issues and before you make any changes, see a trained professional.

OK, now:


Good posture is good posture, off or on the bike. AA BMX Pro Danny Caluag snaps a gate with perfect hip/spine alignment.

– There are different types of pain. There’s the bad pain, from a slipped disk, impinged nerve, damaged soft tissue, etc. And there’s the good pain, from tired muscles. Bad pain is bad and must be addressed. Good pain is OK and can be trained through. If you have any question, see a professional.

– About 12 years ago, I had Bad lower back pain. It was caused by an overzealous personal trainer. This guy was literally a drill sergeant, and we worked legs once a week. Dude, I was so freaking strong in the gym, but it made me no faster on the bike, and I gave myself a chronic strain. Everything sucked: walking, riding, even sitting. The issue slowly went away only after I laid off the gym, started some gentle stretching and let things heal.

– These days, my lower back gets sore and tired just like the rest of my muscles. If I push too hard or lift too much, I give myself a little strain, and I pay for it for a day or so. This winter I did five straight days of heavy snow shoveling, and that did a number on me. 100 laps of pump is always a challenge. Otherwise, my back is fine.


Textbook attack position. Note the lack of spine curve.

– The alignment of your pelvis and spine has a huge effect on your riding technique and the amount of strain on your lower back.

– Many riders keep their pelvises vertical, as if they’re sitting on a barstool, then they curve their back forward toward the bars. This is A) weak, B) inefficient and C) puts your lower back at risk. You shouldn’t lift heavy things while bending your lower back, and you shouldn’t yank on the bars while bending your lower back.

– Practice keeping your pelvis and spine in line. On the bike in Attack Position, that means rotating your pelvis forward and keeping your back level. This makes you stronger and more stable, and it also improves cornering, pump, etc.

– Many of you have no idea what I’m talking about. If you really want to dial in your hip/spine awareness — and meet cute girls — attend some basic yoga classes. You will learn a ton, and you’ll feel the benefits everywhere.


AA BMX Pro Jason Richardson demonstrates perfect power clean technique. This exercise strengthens the key movements and encourages — no, demands — proper alignment.

– Your core cannot be too strong or have too much endurance. Studies show that, when it comes to preventing injury, endurance is more important than raw strength.

– The most effective way to prepare your lower back for riding is … riding. Get out there and practice perfect technique. Your skill and your strength will increase together.

– I am a huge fan of off-the-bike exercises. They work you in a more integrated way, and they build strength and stability that you cannot get on the bike. James Wilson’s programs are excellent.

– I love lifting heavy things, but with my crazy shoulders and lower back, I’ve learned that consistency is the key to my comfort. I don’t push hard, but I do some basic exercises every day that I don’t ride super hard or do a James program.

– My favorite “everyday” exercises are sun salutations; upward dog/downward dog sequences; front, back and side planks; and divebomber pushups. These all build strength, range of motion and endurance with minimal strain.

– Merely standing and sitting correctly are excellent training. Oh yeah: Lose that extra weight.

To recap

– Be careful with your back. Things can go very wrong very quickly. If you have any worries, see a professional.

– Practice excellent riding technique.

– Constantly improve your functional strength, range of motion and endurance.

– Braaap!!!

Lee (39 this year and stronger than ever!)

Also read: “My quads hurt” – Use your hips!

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