Thursday, 5 February 2015

Strengthen your lower back

A weak lower back can lead to both acute injuries (from a single incident, such as snow shoveling) and chronic back pain (from ongoing postural problems, such as improper desk set up--for exercises and stretches related to posture, see my Improve your posture at your desk post).  Strengthening the lower back will assist in injury prevention.  Begin by incorporating lower back exercises in two to three times per week, taking a day of rest in between.  Here are three exercises you can do at home with no equipment:

Technique tips:

Bridge
  • Keep your head, neck and shoulders flat on the floor to avoid straining your neck.
  • Lift your hips up slowly (balance might be a challenge in the beginning).  When you have your balance, try extending your arms straight up to make the exercise more challenging.
  • Breathe evenly, and hold this posture for 10 to 15s to start, and work your way up to holding for 30s.  Once you have achieved 30s, try the single leg bridge.
Single leg bridge
  • Maintain the technique of the bridge, but slowly extend the right leg, keeping the right thigh aligned with the left.  
  • Hold for 15s on each leg, working your way up to 30s on each leg.
Superman
  • Keep your head and neck aligned with your back to avoid straining.
  • Begin by lifting your upper body off the mat and lightly squeeze the muscles of the lower back.  Pause for 1 second, then lower back down.  Once you have achieved this, try lifting the legs off the mat at the same time as the upper body.
  • Keep your abs pulled in throughout the movement and breathe evenly.
  • Work your way up to 2 sets of 12 superman lifts, then try the sea turtle exercise.
Sea turtle
  • Maintain the technique of the superman, but on each lift up, move the arms from extended forward to the sides and widen the legs.
  • Work up to 2 sets of 12 sea turtles.
Bent knee reverse plank
  • Place your hands directly below your shoulders and feet flat on the floor.  
  • You might find that flexibility limits the chest and shoulders to the fingers pointing outward.  You can work up to placing the hands on the floor with fingers pointing forward (as demonstrated in the reverse plank).
  • Slowly lift your hips up until your core is parallel to the floor.
  • Breathe evenly throughout the hold, and aim to hold for 10-15s to start, working your way up to 30s.
  • When you can hold for 30s, try the reverse plank.
 Reverse plank
  • If you can, place your hands below your shoulders with fingers pointing forward.
  • Place the heels on the floor with legs extended.
  • Slowly lift your hips up until your core is at a 45 degree angle to the floor.
  • Breathe evenly throughout the hold and work up to holding for 30s.
 If you give these exercises a try, let me know how it went in the comments!

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