A strong back and core is essential for keeping the body in alignment. It is your body’s center of strength from which all functional movement begins. Your core muscles keep you upright, keep your pelvis (and therefore the rest of your body) level and aligned, and support the movements of your extremities.
Your core aligns the spine, ribs, and pelvis. It’s made up of the pelvic floor muscles;
abdominal muscles; paraspinal muscles (on either side of the spine); and the largest muscle of the core, the diaphragm (which controls your breathing). Focus on these muscle groups when doing the following exercises to strengthen your back.
Back Bridges: This exercise strengthens your lower back and buttocks. Start by lying on your back. You can lie on the floor or a bed, whichever is better for you. Bend your knees and place the soles of your feet under your knees on the surface you’re lying on. Press through your feet and lift your lower back and buttocks up as high as you can. Hold for 3 to 10 seconds before releasing back down. Repeat this exercise six to ten times.
Bird Dogs: This exercise is great for strengthening your whole core while also working on your balance. Begin by kneeling on your hands and knees on the floor. If this is a lot of pressure on your knees, you can fold a blanket or towel to place under them as a cushion. Your wrists should be positioned under your shoulders and your knees should be directly under your hips.
While actively engaging the core muscles, reach the right hand forward, keeping it at shoulder height. At the same time, lift your left leg straight behind you, keeping your foot flexed (toes pointing towards the floor) and your leg level with your spine. Hold this position while focusing on your core for 10 to 20 seconds before lowering to the starting position and switching sides. Repeat three to six times each side.
Plank Hold: Plank holds strengthen your core muscles and lower back muscles. Start on your hands and knees on the floor. Tuck your toes under, straighten your arms, and engage your core while lifting your knees. If this is too difficult for you to start with, you can lower your knees, keeping your body straight and muscles engaged from knees to shoulders. Hold your plank for as long as you can and then lower down. Repeat this five times. As you get stronger you will be able to hold this position for longer.
Superman: This exercise works your lower back, middle back, and buttocks. Begin by lying on your stomach on the floor with your arms by your sides and your palms facing down. Inhale and lift everything up so that just your stomach and pelvis are touching the floor. Focus on engaging the muscles in your back. Hold for five seconds and then release.
For the next round place your arms straight out in front of you with your palms facing each other. On an inhale, lift your head, arms, and legs﹘ this is the full expression of your “superman” pose. Repeat these two variations for two more rounds.
Incorporate these exercises into your routine 3 to 4 days a week to strengthen your back, stabilize your pelvis, and reduce back pain.