Lower back exercises are a great way to strengthen the spine’s supporting muscles. When the back muscles are strong and flexible, it helps protect spine and can even reduce or prevent back pain. One reason is that contracted muscles can throw off the spine’s alignment, leading to back pain. Along with back exercises, it is also good to do stretching work to help increase spine flexibility.
If you have a back condition or are just beginning an exercise program, it is best to check with a physician for advice. For added safety, always remember to warm up before exercising your lower back. There is a greater risk of injury when muscles are not properly stretched and warmed up. This is because cold muscles are more likely to tear. Warming up can be as simple as taking five to 10 minutes to march in place, walk or exercise on an elliptical trainer or stationary bicycle.
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The best lower back exercises are directly tied to fitness level. People who train with weights can run into problems if they do a lot of exercises to build the upper back without paying attention to the lower back. On the other hand, it is possible for beginners to overdo it at first. Lower back soreness or injury can take several weeks to heal, so it is advisable for beginners to use some caution and start out slow.
One thing to remember is that the lower back works in concert with other muscle groups, such as the abdominal muscles. Muscles in the back and stomach are both responsible for twisting and bending that involves the spine. Weak abdominal muscles can place strain on the lower back. In turn, weak lower back muscles can make it difficult to perform abdominal workouts effectively.
Two popular lower back exercises for stretching are the “cat” and the “cobra.” The cat involves beginning on all fours with your hands placed in line with your shoulders and your hips over your knees. Drop your stomach toward the floor while inhaling and looking up. While exhaling, round your back and tuck in your chin and tailbone.
To perform the cobra, lay face down with your arms bent and palms on the floor. Push with your arms to raise your upper torso back into an arch and hold. Then use your arms to lower yourself back down to the floor. Repeat several times.
Back extensions are a good way to help build strength in the lower back. Start in the same position as the cobra. This time, place your arms at your sides so that your hands are near your hips. Raise your head and shoulders up as high as you can while still remaining comfortable, briefly hold them there, then lower them back to their normal position. Remember to keep your shoulder muscles relaxed.
Simple side stretches also can help exercise the lower back. This is done by standing straight with your arms at your sides and feet shoulder-width apart. Bend to one side while raising the opposite arm up over your head and holding it there. Slowly straighten up, then repeat.
A gentle backward bending motion also can be used by starting from the same position as the side stretch. Support your back by placing your hands firmly at waist level. Slowly bend backward while being careful to not arch your back too far or too suddenly. Slowly return to standing upright and repeat several times.
As mentioned, it is always best to check with a medical professional before performing lower back exercises. This is particularly true if pain or a back condition is present. An exercise that is beneficial to one person might cause injury to another, especially when a back condition is present. The above exercises assume that no problems are present.