In response to last weeks post on shoulder pain, Carson emailed me and said he has back pain after volleyball. I can’t formally say what’s wrong because it’s impossible to assess over the internet, and the letters behind my name don’t allow me to do so anyway.

What I can offer is an explanation of the primary cause of back pain after volleyball.

Volleyball Players who fail this test are putting excess stress on their low back:

Functional movement testing is all the rage today, and for good reason since it is well supported in the literature for preventing pain and injury. While I don’t have objective data to support this specific test, I do have 3+ years working with hundreds of volleyball players in which I have picked out trends like a failure in this test correlating with back pain after volleyball.

So how do I prevent back pain after volleyball?

Just like the kid’s song about the shin bone connecting to the knee bone, the hips, upper back, and shoulders all connect, and contribute to low back pain after volleyball.

A lack of flexibility in one area, or a lack of strength in another area has a direct impact on the joints around it.

Back pain is rarely caused by a dysfunction in the back itself

Instead, a focus on whole body movement should be included, rather than just focusing on the injured joint itself.back pain after volleyball


Breaking news: Flexibility isn’t always a good thing! The graphic above I created for our coach training manual shows where in your body you want to have stability, and where you want flexibility. In general, you want really mobile hips, and upper back (thoracic spine). Combine that with stability in the lower back to prevent low back pain after volleyball.

Drills to improve Thoracic Spine (upper back) Mobility

If you failed the test in the video above, go through this mobility drill to loosen up your upper back.

Here is a video I recorded in the early days of EDGE when I was still uncomfortable in front of a camera. Still an awesome drill for improving flexibility of the upper back.

Drills to improve Hip mobility

We have been using this drill from Dean Somerset a lot recently, mostly because its effective without feeling like the standard boring stretching routine most people do.

Here is another one one I recorded way back in the early days of running EDGE, and still is a go to for many of our clients.

Drills to work on core stability:

Its super important that with every flexibility drill we do, we also add some stability training for the adjacent joints. To show flexibility in a joint, the joint next to it needs to be stable. In this case we need some core stability drills to make our hip and thoracic spine mobility work useful.

I won’t go down the rabbit hole of core stability drills in this blog post. Instead, just practice the test again as per the first video in this post. That way you are training to keep the core stable even as you put your arms overhead.


Let’s be clear, fixing a back, and addressing the cause of back pain are two separate issues.  Nothing that I covered above will replace proper rest and treatment from a professional.

PS. If your looking for a chiro… Jay Rennicks from Glover Road Chiropractic always gets great results for my athletes.

Once your back starts to feel better however, enabling high quality movement will help prevent the symptoms from returning.

Creating quality movement patterns enable a greater capacity for lots of movement. You can play more, with less back pain after volleyball because your have shifted stress from joints that can’t handle it to the joints that are able to handle that stress.

This ends with you spending more time in practice working on your skills to become a better athlete, and less time in the therapy room.

Spend this summer getting your body in a position to play next year rather than plowing through endless volleyball camps and breaking yourself down further!


As an aside, last summer Mattias spent the summer training, and after a great school and club season he recently announced that he is off to play for the Ryerson Rams next year! Congrats Mattias!



Props to Mattias who lifted 300lbs today! Just a few months ago he wasn't able to lift or play volleyball due to an…

Posted by EDGE Strength & Conditioning on Tuesday, September 2, 2014



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