Back pain affects just about everyone at some point in their lives. Some common causes include muscle or disc injuries, standing on your feet too long, overexerting yourself during sports activities, poor posture, a bad mattress, being overweight and even pregnancy. But while lower back pain is by far the most common type of back pain, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, you must also perform exercises for your upper back and abdominal areas for better overall core muscle support. That said, following are some highly effective exercises for strengthening your back.
Lower Back Press
Lie on a hard surface with your feet on the floor and your knees bent and pointing upward. Place your hands at your sides, keeping them face down on the floor. Slowly press your lower back to the floor and hold that position for five seconds. Relax. Repeat this movement five times when you’re first starting out, but gradually build it up to between 10 and 25 reps. This exercise is one of the easiest and most effective ones for directly strengthening your lower back muscles, according to Select Spine & Sports Medicine. It can also alleviate pain and stiffness in this region and better protect your lower spine from injuries. As with most of the subsequent back exercises, perform this one at least two or three times per week for the best results.
Knee(s) to Chest
Continue lying on the floor with your hands at your sides and both legs bent. While keeping your right leg bent, raise it up, grab it with both hands behind your knee and pull it toward your chest. Hold your leg there for 20 seconds, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, and then relax. Repeat the same movement with your left leg, and then complete five total repetitions with each leg. This exercise is designed to both stretch and strengthen your lower back, making it more flexible for strenuous activities. A variation to this exercise, which you can perform after it, is to pull both knees to your chest instead of just one. The latter exercise stretches both sides of your lower back simultaneously. Both exercises also stretch your hips and buttocks, which further support your lower back.
The Back Bridge
The back bridge is a little more difficult to execute and is best done after you’ve warmed up with a few other back exercises. Start in the same position as the knee-to-chest exercise, with both legs bent and your feet planted firmly on the floor. Using your arms as leverage, lift your lower back off the floor and raise it as high as you can, while keeping your entire back in alignment with your hips and legs. Try to maintain this position for at least three full breaths, according to Mayo Clinic, and then lower your back to the floor. Repeat up to five times when starting out, but build up to 30 repetitions. When performing this movement, it’s important to tense your abdominal muscles and buttocks while keeping your head and shoulders relaxed.
The Forearm Plank
Grab a mat for this exercise or use a carpeted surface. Lean on the mat or carpet with both forearms planted underneath you and the rest of your weight on your toes. Your legs should be fully extended behind you and off the mat. Make sure your elbows are aligned with your shoulders to prevent shoulder strain. Hold this position for 30 seconds, then gradually work up to a minute, according to Huffington Post. Tense your abs throughout this exercise and avoid dropping your hips for maximum results.
Upper Back Squeeze
People who carry objects or bend over frequently are prone to upper back pain. And one of the best ways to strengthen this area is with the upper back squeeze. Sit on a chair and raise your upper arms up to each side so they’re parallel to the floor. Point both hands upward so that you’re arms resemble a football goalpost. Bring both arms in front of you and touch your elbows and wrists together. Hold that movement for five seconds, and then move your arms backward as far as you can. Squeeze your upper back and trapezius muscles for five seconds, and then relax. Do five or ten repetitions.