Poor posture can have an impact on every area of your life, beginning with how much pain you’re in. When your back is weak, it’s hard for your body to stay upright, and your muscles may cramp up or begin to ache. This pain can cause you to have worse posture to compensate, and the cycle continues.
Doing back exercises can help you to build those muscles back up, reducing your pain, and improving your posture. Read on to discover some of the best back exercises for every strength level, as well as stretches to alleviate your pain.
If you’re looking to strengthen your low back, bridges are one of the best ways to do it. To do this move, begin by lying on the floor on your back; you may want to lay down a yoga mat or towel underneath you. Place your feet flat on the floor a few inches out from your hips with your knees pointed to the ceiling.
Lay your arms on either side of your body with your palms towards the floor and then push up through your feet. Raise your hips off the floor as high as you can, forming a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Lower back to the ground slowly and then repeat for a set of fifteen.
2, Knee to Chest Stretches
Stretching out your lower back can help to alleviate tension and pain, making it easier for you to strengthen the muscles there. Knee to chest stretches are a wonderfully gentle way to relax the muscles in your lumbar region. Begin by lying on your back on the floor with your legs straight out and your arms down by your sides.
Pull one of your knees into your chest, wrapping your arms around it to pull it closer to your body. Hold this for five seconds and then slowly release your leg back to the floor. Repeat this with the other leg, and do this on each side two or three times twice a day.
3. Rotational Stretches
Rotational stretches are another great way to relieve tension and reduce pain in your low back. Begin laying on your back on the floor with your knees up, as you did with the bridges. Press your shoulders into the floor and extend your arms out to both sides with your palms pressed to the floor.
Slowly lower your knees over to one side, allowing your hips to roll, but keeping your upper back flat on the floor. Hold this position for five or ten seconds before returning to your starting position. Repeat this on the other side, and then go through the whole circuit once or twice more.
Draw-ins work muscles on the front and side of your abdomen, helping to stabilize your spine and lower back. Begin by lying on the floor on your back in the same position as for the bridge and rotational exercises. You can keep your arms by your side or place on hand on your pelvis and the other on your chest
Take a deep breath in, feeling the air fill your chest and abdomen. As you breathe out, pull your belly button in towards your spine, being sure not to tilt your hips as you do so. Hold this position for five seconds, and then take another deep breath in, repeating the whole cycle five times.
5. Pelvic Tilts
Pelvic tilts can help to relax your back muscles, keeping them flexible and strong. Begin in our basic position, lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place one hand on your hips and the other on your chest over your heart.
Without lifting your hips or shoulders off the floor, arch your lower back, pushing your stomach out and hold for five seconds. Then, slowly, flatten your back out before pulling your belly button towards the floor, curling your low back. Hold this for five seconds and repeat the cycle up to thirty times a day.
6. Lateral Leg Lifts
Leg lifts are a great way to strengthen the muscles that run along the outside of your hips, supporting your pelvis and low back. Begin lying on your side on a yoga mat or towel with your legs stacked on top of each other. Bend your lower arm to support your head and place your upper hand flat on the floor in front of your sternum.
Raise your top leg about eighteen inches off the floor, keeping your leg straight and your foot flexed. Hold the position for two seconds before lowering it back down. Repeat this maneuver ten times, and then roll over and do the same cycle on the other leg.
7. Cat Stretches
Cat stretches are a great way to both lengthen and strengthen the muscles that support your spine. Begin on your hands and knees on a yoga mat or towel. Keep your hands centered under your shoulders, your knees centered under your hips, and your toes flat, not curled under.
Slowly begin to draw your belly button up towards the ceiling, allowing your spine to curve as you do. Arch your back all the way up towards the ceiling like a cat stretching and then release back down, returning your back to a flat position. Repeat this two to four more times, and go through the whole cycle twice a day.
Superman exercises strengthen the muscles in your low back, as well as those around your shoulder blades. Begin lying on the floor on your stomach; you may want to put down a yoga mat or towel. Stretch your legs out flat behind you and extend your arms forward over your head.
Raise your hands and feet about six inches off the floor, lifting your shoulders off the floor if possible. Stretch forward with your arms and back with your feet, reaching towards opposite walls. Hold the position for two seconds, lower yourself back down, and repeat the whole cycle a total of ten times.
Although most people think of crunches as a core exercise, they can also help to strengthen the muscles that wrap around your sides to support your spine. Start in our basic stretch position, lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Either cross your hands over your chest or tuck them under your head with your fingers laced behind your neck.
Engage your core muscles and lift your head and shoulders off the floor. Be sure to pull with your abs, not with your neck muscles, and use your hands to support your neck if needed. Hold this position for five seconds, lower back down, and repeat the exercise nine more times for a total of ten reps.
10. Resistance Band Work
Resistance bands are a great way to strengthen your upper back muscles even if you don’t have access to fancy gym equipment. Resistance bands are effectively giant rubber straps that you can stretch to strengthen your muscles.
For one resistance band exercise, stand with your arms extended out in front of you and your resistance band taut (but not stretched) between your hands. Keeping your arms straight, squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull your hands apart, lengthening the resistance band. Repeat this fifteen or twenty times.
You can also start with your resistance band hooked over the top of a door and your arms stretched over your head, gripping it. Keeping your back straight and your elbows in line with your body, pull down on the resistance band, forming right angles with your arms. Repeat this twelve times, focusing on the muscles around your shoulder blades.
11. Dumbbell Rows
There are a few different styles of dumbbell rows you can do to strengthen your upper back muscles.
To do wide dumbbell rows, hold one dumbbell in each hand, spread your feet shoulder-width apart, and bend at the waist so your back is at 45 degrees to the floor. Keeping your back flat, lower your arms down in front of you, and then pull your elbows to a 90-degree angle perpendicular to your body.
You can also start on your hands and knees on the floor, gripping one dumbbell in one hand. Lift your elbow back to a 90-degree angle, keeping it tucked in tight to your body in a rowing motion.
For a little extra challenge, get down into a pushup position, gripping a barbell in each hand. Shift your weight to one hand, pulling the other up into a row position before reversing and doing the same thing on the other hand.
Deadlifts are an amazing way to strengthen your low back if you have access to a barbell set. Begin standing behind the barbell with your feet shoulder-width apart, and then bend at the hips and knees to grasp the bar. Keep your chest lifted and your back flat as you do this.
Gripping the barbell, push back up to a full standing position, being sure to keep your back flat and lift with your knees and hips. Reverse the movement, lowering the barbell back to the ground. Do this twelve times total, and repeat up to three times.
13. 'Good Mornings'
“Good mornings” are another great barbell exercise if you aren’t quite up to deadlifts yet. Begin with a barbell on your shoulders behind your head. If this is your first time doing this exercise, don’t add any weights to the bar just yet; work up to those as you get stronger.
Keep your back flat and begin hinging at the hips to bend into a bowing position. Lower until your back is parallel with the floor, softening your knees if needed. Push through your feet and raise back to standing before repeating this maneuver for a total of twelve repetitions.
14. Wood Chops
Wood chops are a great way to strengthen your low back and the muscles that wrap around the sides of your hips. Get a large weight ball or, if you don’t have one, a heavy book or another large object will work. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and grasp the object in both hands in front of your chest.
Reach your arms up to the top right corner of the room, allowing your hips to turn and your heel to come off the floor. Then swing your arms back down in a chopping motion, planting your feet on the floor and bringing your exercise ball down in front of your left hip. Repeat this motion twelve times on each side, swinging up to the left and down to the right on the other side.
15. Reverse Flys
Reverse flys target the muscles along the insides of your shoulder blades, which is great for your posture. Begin by gripping a dumbbell in each hand and standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend at the waist, keeping your back flat, so your torso is at a 45-degree angle to the floor.
Extend your arms out in front of you with your hands together. Then, keeping your back and arms straight, pull your arms out so they’re extended to either side. Lower them back down to your starting position and repeat twelve times.
Discover More Great Back Exercises
Doing back exercises is a great way to improve your posture, reduce back pain, and stay mobile. If you’re just getting started, try some of the stretches we discussed here or begin with pelvic tilts and bridges. If you’re looking to develop more muscle, dumbbell rows, deadlifts, and “good mornings” can be great options.
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