Around 80 percent of Americans will incur some back injury in their lifetime; however, there are many simple exercises you can do to strengthen your back and improve muscle flexibility, thus making injury less likely. Additionally, these back strengthening exercises help improve posture and reduce your chance of ever needing back braces for spinal support.
To start, it is important to recognize a few tactics regarding back health: keep stomach muscles strong, maintain a lean body mass, increase your upper extremities flexibility and, of course, take care when completing strenuous back motions or lifting heavy weight. In addition to these back health fundamentals, the following are a few activities designed to keep you strong while fighting off a need for back braces in the future:
- Pelvic Extension: Lie on a flat surface with your back to the ground. Bend your knees and place your feet about hip-width apart. Use your back, stomach and buttocks to raise your hips so that they are off the ground and create a straight line from your knees to your shoulder. Hold this position for a few seconds. Build up to 12-15 repetitions.
- Plank: Lie on a flat surface face-down with your palms flat on the floor. Bend your arms at your elbows and bend your toes to use for support as you raise your body to plank position. Keep your back straight and pull your stomach in as you lift off the ground using your flat forearms and toes. You want to ensure your pelvis is pulled up and your abdomen is tight to prevent sagging toward the ground or your buttocks from sticking too high. You want to have a straight line from your back to your ankles. Hold for a few seconds to 30 seconds, depending on your ability. Build up to 20 seconds. Repeat for 3 -5 reps. The plank is an extremely versatile and all-encompassing exercise because it works so many muscles at the same time.
- Butt lifter: Get on all fours – your hands flat and shoulder-width apart and your knees hip-width apart. Pull your stomach and pelvis in and keep this tight throughout the exercise. Without altering your straight back and tight abdomen, bring your right bended knee in to your chest and then extend it out straight so it is parallel with the floor. Repeat 5 – 15 times. Switch legs. Please Note: you can do a variation of this exercise by lifting your bent leg to the left and right sides.
- Lifting lunge: Stand up straight and pull in your abs gently. Place your hands on your hip and step forward with your right leg. Sink down as you plant your right leg firmly and flatly on the ground, ensuring that your knee does not extend out further than your ankle. Your right knee should be at a 90-degree ankle when you are sunken down in the exercise. Immediately push back up, using your abdominal muscles to help pull your leg off the ground. When you have pushed off the ground and are back to a normal standing position, immediately use your abdominals to bring the knee toward your chest. Hug it and place it back on the ground. Switch legs and repeat. Build up to repetitions of 10 – 12.
- Steamroller: Stand upright and contract your abs slightly so that there is no arch or sag in your back. Put both palms of your hands to the back of your head (almost as if you were lying down in bed) and lace your fingers together. Keeping your hands laced together, use your abs to raise your right knee to try and meet your left elbow while still standing completely upright. Switch and repeat. Work to getting your knees higher and closer to your elbows. Once you have mastered the exercise, you can do sets of 30 – 50 very quickly. Work to sets of 30 – 50 per side. The steamroller is geared primarily toward strengthening the abdomen and range of motion in the hips.
Practice these exercises at home and with caution even if you are not currently suffering from back pain. Strengthening your back muscles, abdominals and flexibility will help keep you out of spine and torso back braces. If you have experienced a significant injury or are currently using a spinal or back brace, consult your physician before performing any exercise program.
Note: This information is not intended to supplement or replace advice from a medical professional, or to diagnose or treat any condition.
About the Author: MMAR Medical Group Inc. is one of North America's premiere medical orthopedic brace distributors, carrying a large selection of carpal tunnel braces and complimentary rehabilitative cold therapy units. Based in Houston Texas, MMAR also carries a back brace and unloader knee brace selection.