As a fitness trainer and sports therapist with over 20 years experience; meeting people with a history of back pain is incredibly common. Poor posture or ‘Office Back’ has a lot to do with most people’s chronic back pain. Sitting consistently for long periods of time can cause postural abnormalities and mechanical imbalances. This simply means certain muscles in the body stop working efficiently while others are working too hard ‘on over drive’.
How Back Strengthening Exercises Will Benefit You
Imagine a stereo with two speakers attached. The brain represents the stereo and the speakers represent a pair of muscles (muscles create movement by working in pairs). Imagine turning the balance to favour one of the speakers… The volume would increase from that specific speaker while the other one would go silent. This is similar to how the brain favours certain pairs of muscles which causes imbalances and weaknesses, especially when we sit too much.
When we have a sedentary lifestyle, our constant sitting causes the brain (the stereo) to adjust its balance (via the nervous system) to favour the muscles on the front of the body (otherwise known as the Anterior Chain Muscles). the muscles become tight and over-worked (or Hypertonic) while the nerve signals neglect the Posterior Chain muscles on the back on the body. This results in even more tightness, but now on weak, under-active muscles. This scenario is called Reciprocal Inhibition = Lack of engagement in the posterior chain which causes weaknesses in the back, increasing risk of back pain and injury.
The four back strengthening exercises detailed below will help engage your posterior chain muscles, address your postural needs and start restoring an appropriate muscular balance to strengthen and support your spine.
Dorsal Raises 2 x 10
- Lay flat on your front with your feet together and your body straight
- Keep your legs relaxed, feet down, face parallel with the floor (In line with the body)
- Using the muscles in your back, slowly aim to lift your chest up off the floor (You will feel the muscles in the back working to lift you)
- Keep your movements slow and controlled
Prone Hand Claps 2 x 10
- Lay face down on the floor
- Extend your arms out to your side and rotate so your thumbs are pointing to the sky
- Aim to keep the elbows straight and stretch the arms forward as if to gently clap the hands – The idea is to not let your hands touch the floor
- Return to your start position and repeat.
Superman 2 x 30 seconds (each side)
- Position yourself onto your hands and knees
- Carefully draw your lower tummy inward towards your spin (This will help to activate your abdominal muscles)
- Maintaining a flat and neutral spine, extend one arm forward and, stretch both the elbow and shoulder
- Now extend the opposite leg backwards and maintain a straight knee – Hold still and control the position
Bridges 2 x 15
- Lay flat on your back
- Bend the legs so your feet are flat on the ground
- Imagine your spine is a bicycle chain… Moving from the lower back, we are aiming to lift each link one by one until your hips are as high as you can comfortably get them
- At the top of the movement, squeeze your glutes (buttock muscles) and slowly lower your back placing the ‘links’ down on to the floor one by one (likened to a ‘peeling’ motion, pulling a sticker off the floor and then sticking it back down)
PLEASE REMEMBER – If you have a serious back complaint or currently experiencing back pain, please seek the advice of a medical professional before attempting a new exercise programme.
Aim to complete these exercises 3-4 times per week for maximum benefits. You can do them anywhere as there is no need for equipment or huge amounts of space. Just you, the floor and about ten minutes of your day.
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