About 80 percent of the adult population experiences back pain at one time or another. Back pain can be caused by a loss of muscle tone and flexibility due to age or lack of physical activity. Back pain can also be triggered by obesity or a sudden weight gain, causing pressure and strain on back muscles. Poor posture or sitting long hours in a desk chair without proper support can lead to an achy back, as can spending long hours bending, lifting, and carrying heavy objects. Exercising your core muscles leads to overall good health, and taking time to consciously focus on the abdominal and back muscles that support your spine can strengthen those muscles and decrease strain on your back. If you are currently suffering from back pain, check with your doctor or physical therapist to determine which exercise are proper for you. If you are looking to strengthen your muscles to prevent back pain, check out these helpful exercises.
It may sound simple, but walking is a great way to get some aerobic exercise and strengthen your body’s core muscles. Walking strengthens the muscles in your feet, legs, and hips and improves circulation and blood flow. Invest in a good pair of walking or running shoes that will support your feet and provide you with the proper balance. Always start with some stretching before a walk, then head out for a brisk walk with your head up, back straight, and abdominal muscles pulled in. Try to walk for 30 minutes a day at least four times each week.
9. Pelvic Tilt
To strengthen your abdominal muscles, try the abdominal pelvic tilt. Lie on your back on the floor with feet hip-width apart and knees bent. Contract your abdominal muscles and tilt your pelvis forward. It is important that your lower back stays flat against the surface of the floor with no curvature. Try to picture your belly button contracting back toward your spine. Hold this position for 10 seconds, being sure to continue breathing while keeping your abdominal muscles contracted. Relax your muscles, then repeat, doing five sets of 10 repetitions.
8. Bridge Exercise
The bridge exercise targets the muscles of your back, buttocks, and hamstrings. Lie on your back with feet shoulder-width apart and knees bent. Contract your abdominal muscles to pull your belly button toward your spine and use the muscles of your buttocks to raise your back off the floor slowly. Keep your shoulders on the floor, but make sure you are using your leg and buttock muscles to do the work rather than transferring weight to your shoulders or arms. Hold this position for five seconds before returning to a resting position. Repeat this exercise, doing two sets of five repetitions.
7. Squat Exercises
Squats are great for strengthening your hips, buttock muscles, and hamstrings. Sit on the edge of a chair with your feet shoulder-width apart. Cross your arms over your chest with your hands on the opposite shoulders. Keep your back straight, and abdominal muscles contracted as you use your buttock muscles to stand up. Inhale and bring your hips slightly back as you squat back down to the edge of the chair, making sure to keep your back straight, shoulders back, and your eyes straight ahead. Repeat this exercise in two sets of 10 squats each.
6. Cat Curls
Cat curls are fun exercises that strengthen your abdominal muscles without some of the strain that can be caused by old-fashioned sit-ups. Get down on the floor on your hands and knees with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly beneath your hips. While exhaling, point the top of your head and your tailbone toward the floor while arching your back up like a cat. Contract your abdominal muscles toward your spine. Raise your knees very slightly off the ground, perhaps half an inch or so. Hold this position for five seconds. Slowly lower your knees, release your abdominal muscles, and stretch in the opposite direction by raising your head toward the sky.
5. Prone Arm and Leg Raises
Lie on the floor on your stomach with your arms stretched straight out over your head and your legs stretched out straight on the floor behind you. Hold your hands with palms facing each other. Keeping your forehead in contact with the floor, exhale, and then raise one arm and the opposite leg at the same time. Lower them slowly back to the floor and repeat with your other arm and leg. Be careful not to lift your head off the floor or arch your back while performing this exercise. Repeat this exercise in three sets of 10 repetitions each.
4. Arm and Leg Extensions
Get down on the floor on your hands and knees, with your knees directly beneath your hips and your hands directly beneath your shoulders. Pull in your abdominal muscles as you slowly extend your right hand straight forward and your right foot straight backward. Lift your right arm and left leg as high as you can while keeping your torso stable. Slowly return your right arm and leg to the starting position and repeat the exercise with your left leg and arm.
3. Clamshell Exercise
The clamshell exercise is great for strengthening the muscles of the buttocks and improving the mobility of your hips. Lie on your side on a mat with your knees bent, keeping your heels together and hips stable. You will want to make sure that you are aligned with your heels, hips, and shoulders, forming a straight line. Keeping your ankles together, slowly lift your top knee about four inches and then lower it slowly back to the starting position. Continue raising and lowering the knee ten times, then switch to your other side and repeat.
2. Piriformis Muscle Stretches
The piriformis muscle is located deep in the buttocks, running diagonally from your lower spine to the top of the femur bone of your leg. This muscle helps rotate your hip to turn out your feet. To stretch this muscle, lie on your back with both feet flat on the floor and your knees bent. Grasp one knee at a time and pull slowly toward the opposite side of your chest. Hold for five seconds. Slowly return your foot to the floor and repeat with the other knee. Repeat three times.
1. Child’s Pose
The yoga position called Child’s Pose is excellent for relaxing the tense muscles of your lower back and for improving spinal mobility. Get down on your hands and knees on the floor and slowly move your hips back and down toward the heels of your feet while allowing your arms to relax and stretch out in front of you. Your forehead should be touching the floor, and your belly should rest between your thighs. Hold this pose for 10 seconds and repeat three to five times.Related: Why You Should Be Stretching Every Day