Low back pain is a common physical ailment. According to a 2012 American Physical Therapy Association survey, 61 percent of Americans experience low back pain, while 31 percent of those individuals state that it affects their ability to exercise.
The causes of low back pain vary but typically include a spine injury, degenerative disc disease, nerve issues (e.g. sciatica), or muscle/ligament strains.
Lower back pain affects both sedentary and physically active people and is incredibly annoying. Luckily, it can be prevented or managed.
The best way to do this is with a regular fitness routine—and Aaptiv can help.
Before we target the best moves to strengthen your back, let’s first take a look at how our backs support and move us.
How does my back work?
The spine has individual bones called vertebrae, and between them, there are discs made of collagen. The joints within this disc and vertebrae combination are called facet joints, and they guide spine movements.
As for muscles, the frontal abdominal wall is the rectus abdominis (the “six pack”), while the lateral abdominal wall is called the obliques. These muscles allow you to throw, punch, walk, kick, and jump.
Looking to build abdominal strength? Check out the strength training classes on Aaptiv.
The back muscles include the spinal erectors (low back), latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and trapezius (upper back). These muscles are involved in lifting, pulling, and carrying objects.
Lastly, there are ligaments and fascia that make up the connective tissue that holds the aforementioned parts together.
Why strengthen my lower back?
Strong back muscles can lead to improved performance in any sport. Sprinters use their lats to propel themselves forward; marathon runners need strong abs to handle hours of pounding the pavement; CrossFit athletes need to lift barbells off the floor for dozens of repetitions, and powerlifters must use their strength for an all-out effort.
Little known fact: Bodybuilding competitions are said to be won “from the back.”
If you have low back pain, strengthening your back with the following moves may result in better sleep, increased hip mobility, and a return to regular, pain-free physical activity.
If you’re experiencing low back pain that affects your daily living, and it hasn’t gone away in two to three weeks, consider seeing a medical professional about the issue.
Exercises for Low Back Pain
Do these four moves before your next workout to ensure that you’re preventing back injury and getting your back ready to move.
Lower back pain is often the sign of tight hip flexors. Loosen them up with an Aaptiv stretch.
How to do it:
- Get on all fours with your upper back slightly curved upward, hands under the shoulders, and knees under the hips. Tighten your abs.
- Raise the right leg and left arm simultaneously, trying to separate them and lengthen your spine. Don’t raise the arm higher than the shoulder or the leg higher than the hips. Hold for ten seconds in this position, then return to all fours. That’s one rep.
- Do six reps then switch sides, raising the left leg and right arm simultaneously for six reps.
How to do it:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and heels about one foot from your glutes. Place your palms on the ground beside you. This is the starting position.
- Focusing on squeezing the glute muscles, raise your hips off the ground as high as you can. Squeeze the glutes again at the top, pause for two seconds, then return back down to the ground. That’s one rep.
- Do three sets of ten reps.
How to do it:
- Place your left elbow and the side of your left foot on the ground so that your back is in a straight line and your hips are on the ground. The right foot can be stacked on top of the left foot or placed in front of the left foot.
- Bring yourself off the ground. Now your only points of contact with the ground should be your left elbow and feet. Your right hand can go on the ground, on the left shoulder, or, for an added challenge, on your right hip. This is the starting position.
- Hold this position for ten seconds. That’s one rep on the left elbow. Do six reps then switch sides. More advanced trainees can aim for 30-60 second holds on each side.
Equipment needed: two dumbbells. Start with ten to 20 pounds in each hand for women, and 20 to 40 pounds in each hand for men.
Note: This exercise is for people with little to no low back pain. It will help improve posture during daily living, which in turns prevents back pain, but its main purpose is to improve sports performance.
How to do it:
- Stand, holding a dumbbell in each hand at your sides with palms facing each other.
- Walk forward for 30-40 yards then turn around and walk back to your starting point. Don’t lean forward, and keep your shoulders and chest back. That’s one trip.
- Do three total trips.
Low Cable Pull
Equipment needed: pulley machine
How to do it:
- Attach a rope to the low cable machine and set it to its lowest setting. Face away from the machine with feet shoulder-width apart. Grab the rope with each hand using an overhand grip. This is the starting position.
- Push your hips back while keeping a stiff core; this will cause your arms to move back too. Now, push your hips forward until you are standing up straight. Squeeze your glutes at the end of the rep. That’s one rep.
- Do three sets of eight reps. Start with 20 pounds. If you have perfect form, you may increase the weight.