Why Exercise Your Lower Back?
If you suffer from lower back problems, you’ll find it very beneficial to exercise the muscles in that region. Your lower back affects your ability to stand and sit. In addition to helping you to sit and stand without pain, doing recommended lower back exercises has other benefits, as well. In addition to alleviating pain, you can increase your range of motion, prevent injuries, improve your overall training and conditioning, or speed your rehabilitation from an injury or surgery.
Which Classic Exercises Do More Harm Than Good?
- There are quite a few simple, low-impact exercises that are highly recommended for your lower back. Surprisingly, some of the exercises that you might traditionally think would work well are ones that you’ll want to avoid.
- For example, forget about sit-ups. Most people end up primarily using their hip muscles, not their abdominal muscles, so they’re working the wrong muscles. Sit-ups also put a lot of pressure on the discs in the spine.
- Another exercise to avoid is the double leg lift. Lifting both legs while you’re lying flat on your back places a lot of stress on the lower spine. If your muscles are already weak in that area, you could actually add to your pain instead of relieving it.
Also make it a habit to avoid full-length toe touches. You run the risk of overstretching your hamstrings, as well as the muscles in your lower back. This is another exercise that wears heavily on the spinal discs.
Which Exercises Yield the Best Results?
There are plenty of great low-impact exercises that can help you improve your tone and relieve back pain, but here are some of the simplest, most beneficial ones:
- Partial crunches are a good way to build up your stomach and back muscles without undue strain. Lie down with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent comfortably. Either place your hands behind your neck or cross your arms over your chest. Tense the muscles in your stomach. Exhale as you slowly raise your shoulders from the floor. Hold for a second and lower your shoulders gradually. Do 8-12 repetitions.
- Since you will already be on the floor, try doing bridging exercises. Lying on your back with your knees bent, touch only your heels to the floor. Contract your buttocks and try to lift your hips up. The goal is to get your knees, hips and shoulders in a straight line, raised off of the floor. Try not to tense your abdominal muscles or to arch your back. Try to hold this posture for 6 seconds or so and lower yourself again gradually. Repeat this 8-12 times. Rest for about 10 seconds between repetitions.
- Another good one is the single leg lift (remember to avoid lifting both legs from the ground at once). Lying on your back again, bend one knee and keep the other leg flat. Slowly lift the straight leg about 6 inches off of the floor, hold, and lower your leg gradually. Do 10 repetitions per leg before switching legs.
- Hamstring stretches are another good bet. To do these, you’ll need a rubber exercise band or a towel.Again, lying on your back, bend one leg at the knee. Place the towel or band under the ball of the foot on the side with the bent knee. Pull back gently on the towel as you slowly straighten your knee. If you’re doing this one correctly, you’ll feel the muscle in the back of your thigh begin to stretch. Try to hold this position for 15-30 seconds. Do 2-4 repetitions per leg.
- Finally, anything aerobic is low impact by nature. If you prefer not to do the exercises described here, go for a bicycle ride, go for a walk, or go swimming. If you’re new to a routine like this, start with short exercise sessions and gradually increase the time you spend as your endurance grows. Water aerobics or swimming are especially helpful for back pain, as the water naturally supports your weight without strain.
If you are experiencing pain or are just unsure whether a particular exercise is suitable for you, please do not hesitate to consult a physician. For more serious cases, the physician may write an order for phy