Just like reinforced steel can bear more weight than sheet aluminum, a strong, well-conditioned back can withstand more stress, and protect the spine better, than a back that has not been conditioned through exercise.
Conditioning through flexibility and strengthening back exercises not only helps the back avoid injury, or minimize the severity of injury if the spine is traumatized, it also can help relieve the pain of many back conditions.
Here are a few workouts, which we are sure will help you gain strength in your back and be much stronger and fitter than you have ever been before!
How to do it: Lie on your back, feet flat and hip-width apart, arms relaxed, and knees bent. Squeeze your buttocks as you lift your hips, creating a straight line from the knees to the shoulders. Hold for a slow count of two, then lower slowly. Build up to 10 to 12 repetitions.
What it does: This move counteracts the effects of too much chair time, which puts excessive pressure on the spine. It stretches the hip flexors and strengthens the muscles that stabilize the spine, including those of the lower back, the gluteals, and the large, stabilizing abdominal muscles.
How to do it: Begin on all fours, knees hip-width apart and under the hips, hands flat and shoulder-width apart. Squeeze your abs by pulling your belly toward your spine. Keep the spine neutral, without arching the back or rotating the hips, and extend your right leg back and your left arm straight ahead. Hold for two to three seconds or as long as you can maintain form. Repeat five to six times on each side.
What it does: This exercise improves muscle balance and coordination, making it easier to keep the spine stable for everyday moves, such as walking, running, dancing, and carrying a child. It also tones your glutes, upper back, lower spine, and hamstrings. Tighter abs also keep the spine supported.
How to do it: Lie on your right side, in a straight line from head to feet, resting on your forearm. Your elbow should be directly under your shoulder. With your abdominals gently contracted, lift your hips off the floor, maintaining the line. Keep your hips square and your neck in line with your spine. Hold 20 to 40 seconds and lower. Repeat two to three times, alternating sides. (If this is too challenging, start with bent knees.)
What it does: Builds strength and endurance in the core. This will help keep your lower back protected and stable during activities that require movement in the hips or back.
How to do it: With your abs gently contracted and hands on hips, take a big step forward with your right foot. Sink down so your right knee is at a 90-degree angle, then push back to the starting position without pausing. Repeat 8 to 12 times, then switch legs and repeat.
What it does: Improves whole-body control, which is key to protecting the spine during walking, running, or stair-climbing. Recruits both surface and deeper stabilizing muscles along the sides, glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves.