Exercises To Strengthen The Upper And Lower Back
Back problems are becoming a common complaint, due in part to the increasing number of people who spend the majority of their time sitting down. Ergonomic chairs can help, but exercise is the key.
Muscles & Spine
Muscles, especially the complex system around the spine, are designed to keep us upright and to be mobile for the majority of the day, and lack of exercise can cause all sorts of painful problems. It is vital in today’s world to make a concentrated effort to keep these muscles supple and strong through exercise, as our jobs are on average less physically high impact than at any other time in history.
Pelvic tilts are a gentle stretching exercise for the lumbar region. When you lie flat on your back on the floor with your knees bent, the natural arch of your spine means your lower back is slightly raised. Using your abdomen rather than your legs, gently push your spine down until it is flat on the floor. Hold the position for a few seconds, relax and repeat as many times as you can.
The ‘Superman’ Exercise
Whilst lying on the floor flat out on your stomach with your arms above your head, take it in turns to raise and lower alternate arms and legs simultaneously. This move is commonly known as the ‘superman’, and stretches out all the major muscles in the lumbar, or lower back, region. From the same starting position the ‘cobra’ stretch works out those upper back muscles. This time, place your palms flat on the floor level with your shoulders, and gently extend your arms to raise your upper body off the floor.
If you attend a gym, rowing machines work out upper back muscles as well as upper arms, especially the seated version. Weight training also focuses a lot on building up back strength, but should not be attempted without proper instruction.
Knee To Chest
Another great lumbar exercise is the knee to chest. This can be performed standing or lying on your back, and is fairly self-explanatory. Hold position for a few seconds each time, and alternate legs. Alternatively, lunges with a crossover work all the core muscles, but especially those in the thighs and lower back. Perform a lunge as normal, then when fully extended cross the opposite arm over the front leg by twisting slightly from the hips.
Sternum Chin Ups
A variation on the traditional pull up, they help build up strength, but are not for beginners as they are extremely difficult. While lifting your body weight slowly, lean back and pull up so your chest rather than chin hits the bar. If you can achieve ten of these already you probably don’t need advice on back strengthening!
Constant movement is the key to suppleness and strength, so try to incorporate gentle exercises into your daily routine as well to get the full benefit.
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