Strong back muscles are beneficial because they can protect you from injury and prevent possible back pain. If you have chronic back pain, back strengthening exercises might just be the key to reducing your discomfort.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, maintaining and building the strength of your back muscles is especially important if your chronic back pain is due to skeletal irregularities, such as scoliosis, a common spine condition with 3 million new cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year.
Even if your spine is structurally normal, working on the muscles that support it can help improve your posture and coordination and can prevent or alleviate pain, particularly if you sit at a desk all day.
Starting your day with these five back strengthening exercises can create toned muscles to support and protect your spine.
Why not start with easy exercises to strengthen back muscles? The Superman exercise minimizes strain on the spine by building the muscles in your lower back so they're more substantial and supportive.
- Spread a mat on the floor and stretch out on it face down, arms straight and fully extended in front of you, legs straight and fully extended behind you.
- Inhale as you raise your chest, arms and legs off the floor at the same time.
- Take a few seconds to hold the pose, squeeze the muscles in your lower back as you exhale and feel like Superman flying through the sky.
- Lower to the ground and relax completely.
- Repeat two to three times.
It's a smooth transition from Superman to plank because both exercises have you stretched out on the mat facing down. A core strengthening exercise, plank requires little movement and it minimizes strain on the spine by strengthening your abdominal muscles. (The spine needs 360 degree support from your muscles).
- Lift up from lying face down and place your elbows beneath your shoulders and your forearms facing forward.
- Press your toes into the floor, pushing back with your heels, squeezing your glutes and lifting your body so it hovers over the mat in a straight line.
- Look at a spot on the floor about a foot beyond your hands to keep your neck and spine in a neutral position.
- Keep breathing and hold the position for 20 seconds. Work up to holding the position for 2 minutes.
- If the exercise gets too easy, push up so your arms are extended and your hands are beneath your shoulders.
This recent study showed that strengthening the gluteus muscles (in your rear end) can decrease low back pain and increase low back strength. Bridge can help with that:
- Lie on your back, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor.
- Relax your shoulders and head while squeezing your gluteal muscles and your abs.
- Slowly lift your hips to form a bridge.
- Keep your body in a straight line that reaches from your shoulders to your knees.
- Hold for three breaths.
- Gently lower your hips to the starting position.
- Repeat four times until it becomes easy and work up to 30 repetitions.
Sitting for long periods can lead to tight hips, which can cause an imbalance in the lower part of your body that can pull on your pelvis and alter your posture, resulting in back pain, according to The Cooper Institute. Reclining Pigeon is an easy hip-opener exercise that loosens these muscles, keeping your pelvis in the right place and minimizing strain and pain. You can do this stretch on the floor or even in bed:
- Lie down on your back and bend your knees.
- Place the left ankle over your right knee.
- Thread your left arm through the hole created with your left leg.
- Inhale and bring your right hand to meet your left hand and clasp them.
- Exhale and lift your right knee, gently pressing it towards your chest with your hands.
- Hold for a few seconds, then release.
- Repeat on the other side.
Twisting the spine wrings out tension and helps you relax, which can alleviate strain and back pain. This easy twist can also be done before you leave for work and before you go to sleep.
- Lie on your back, knees bent and arms stretched out perpendicular to your body.
- Inhale, bringing your knees towards your chest.
- Exhale as you gently let them fall together to the right, looking over your left arm and keeping your left shoulder pressed into the bed. Hold the pose for as long as it feels good.
- Return to the neutral position.
- Repeat on the other side.
According to the National Institutes of Health, there is evidence that yoga can be as effective as standard physical therapy and provides both short- and long-term benefits to ease chronic low back pain.
The Sun Salutation is a sequence of postures that incorporate breath with movement and includes standing, reaching toward the sky, folding and stepping back into a plank position. Sun Salutations can minimize strain on the spine and alleviate back pain. The movements warm up all of the major muscle groups in your body, which makes blood flow to the muscles in the spine and abdomen that support the back.
There are many yoga classes that you can take in person or online for free to get step-by-step guidance on how to properly do a series of Sun Salutations.