Everyone wants to avoid back pain and protect themselves from injury. Keeping your back strong is crucial to keeping yourself free from back pain. A strong back works to protect your spine from injury and helps keep it in alignment. There are several muscles that wrap around and connect to your back and this creates a super-strong “belt” around your back. These muscles include the glutes, lats, traps, and abs. While there are many exercises that can be harmful to your back, here are the 10 best exercises you can do to strengthen your back.
10 Best Exercises to Strengthen Your Back:
- Reverse Snow Angel: To perform this exercise, lie down with your face towards the ground, and raise your arms up and over your head. Remember to keep the palms of your hands facing the ground throughout the exercise. Press your shoulder blades into your back, and then bring your arms forward again. This exercise works the muscles from the waistline up to the shoulders including the trapezius muscle (more commonly known as traps) and those of the lower back.
- Aquaman: To begin, lie face down. Raise your right arm and your left leg up about 5-6 inches above the ground, or however high is most comfortable for you. Repeat with the opposite arm and leg. You can either hold this position for a few seconds or change sides rapidly. Work to keep your arms and legs straight, and avoid bending at the knee or elbow. This exercise works the lower back and the obliques which are the muscles that extend from the lower half of the ribs down to the pelvis. In addition, it also helps to work the glutes which are located in the buttocks.
- Bird Dog: This exercise is similar to the Aquaman, but you are up on your hands and knees. To start, grab a mat and place your hand directly under your shoulders, and your knees directly under your hips. Then straighten your arms and legs as you lift your right arm and your left leg up. Keep your hips facing the ground and your arms and leg parallel to the ground. Avoid twisting in order to get your leg up higher. Only go as far as is comfortable. Also, remember to keep your back straight and abs engaged. This exercise focuses on the glutes and the traps.
- Draw-in Maneuver: The Draw-in Maneuver targets the transverse abdominis, which forms the inner layer of the abdominal muscle. It sits directly below the abdominis which is the muscle that is known for the 6-pack. The transverse abdominis is key to strengthening and stabilizing the core. To perform the Draw-in Maneuver, lay on your back on the floor. Bend your knees, and keep your feet flat on the floor. Keep your back neutral, and take a deep breath in. As you exhale, pull your belly button towards your spine and hold this position for 5 seconds. Be sure to keep your body relaxed, as you may be tempted to hold tension in your feet, and near your lower ribs.
- Good Morning: The Good Morning exercise is performed while standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands behind your head. While standing tall, roll your shoulders back, and keep your core engaged. Lean forward from the hips until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings, but don’t go beyond horizontal. Remember to keep your back straight, and exhale as you stand back up straight. This effectively works your glutes, hamstrings, and your lower back.
- Squats: Squats help to strengthen your quads, calves, and hamstrings. This may not seem to be of any help to the lower back, or back in any way, but strong hips and thighs absorb daily forces before they reach the spine. It also helps to enhance the coordination between the abdominal and lower back muscles. To start, stand straight with your shoulders back and your feet shoulder-width apart with your toes pointed out slightly with your abs engaged. Bend your knees as you lower your body, and avoid arching your back. Evenly distributed on your feet by keeping your heels flat on the ground. Your knees should form a 30-40 degree angle before you come back up.
- Cat-Cow Stretch: This exercise is great to warm up, cool down, and to help prevent and alleviate pain. It helps stretch the spine and the abdominal muscles. This exercise is done on your hands and knees. Keep your hands beneath your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips. Keep your head up and looking out. Inhale as you arch your back, and tip your pelvis back to lift your tailbone up. Your belly will dip down, but do your best to keep your abdominals tight and engaged. Exhale as you round your back up towards the ceiling, and tuck in your pelvis. Drop your head and look towards your belly button. Repeat as needed.
- T-Pushup: To begin, start in a regular push-up position. Lower yourself to the ground as you normally would with a regular push up. Once you are back up to the top position, extend your left arm up to the ceiling. Rotate your body so your body weight is resting on your right foot and right hand. Be sure to keep your back straight. Your body should resemble a tilted T. Repeat on each side. This type of exercise works your shoulders, obliques, and triceps as well as your stabilizing core muscles.
- Planks: Performing a plank is another exercise that helps strengthen the transverse abdominis and other core strengthening muscles. To perform a plank, start on your hands and knees. Then lower yourself onto your forearms, and remember to keep your elbows directly under your shoulders. Keep your head down with your eyes looking slightly forward. Step your feet back one at a time and stay on your toes. As you hold this position, remember to keep your abs tight. Hold for as long as you can.
- Pull-ups: This exercise requires a pull-up bar. Grip the bar with both hands shoulder-width apart and palms facing away from you. Hang with your arms and elbows locked, then pull up so your chin is above the bar. Remember to keep your back tight with your neck relaxed, and move your shoulders away from your ears. Lower yourself slowly keeping your muscles contracted the entire way down until your arms are straight once again. If you are new to pull-ups, consider placing a chair or a stool about a foot in front of the pull-up bar. While standing on the chair, grab the bar and pull yourself up as you would with a regular pull-up. Once your chin is above the bar, lift your feet off the chair and lower yourself down as slowly as you can. Repeat until fatigued.
These are the 10 best exercises to strengthen your back. Performing exercises that work the muscles groups connected to the back helps keep your back strong. Be sure to incorporate these exercises into your workout routine to prevent injury. As always, remember to check with your doctor before starting any new work out routine.