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If you can't figure out what exercises will benefit your back, you're not alone. There are so many different machines at the gym it almost feels like we have to use them. But, the truth is, the best back exercises can be done using just your body weight. Whether you have injured your lower back or are working out for preventative purposes, less weight is the way to go. At the very most, you should be using very light free weights or a band for resistance.
To reduce back pain, here are some back exercises to do at the gym or at home:
The Superman specifically targets the lower back. You can do this one while at work, in the office, or on your living room floor.
- Lie down on your belly keeping your feet a little wider than shoulder width.
- Stretch your arms out in front of you like you're flying and place your palms on the ground.
- Raise both your hands and legs up off the floor at the same time**, hold for 2 seconds, return to start.
- Repeat 10 times per set as needed
**Be careful. You don't have to raise your hands and feet very high off the ground for this exercise to be effective.
If Your Stomach is Causing the Problem
Excess weight in your stomach puts tremendous strain on the lower back. Expecting mothers and guys who have been on the barstool for way too long experience many of the same back problems. Some exercises are simply undoable for pregnant women but everybody can do this simple move for increased mobility.
- Lay down flat on your back with your hands down by your sides, palms touching the ground.
- Bend your knees and allow the soles of your feet to rest on the floor.
- Slowly press your palms into the ground and raise your hips until your body has formed a straight line from your shoulders all the way to your knees. Hold this pose for 3 seconds.
- Slowly lower your hips back down to the floor.
- Repeat 10 times per set
We Call It the Hula Hoop
Your lower back makes tiny little adjustments all day long. Many people lose mobility slowly over time, without even noticing. Then, one day, it's all but gone. Stand up and do this exercise right now and see how it feels. Don't just think about doing it. That won't do anything.
- Standing tall, rest your hands on your hips with your feet shoulder width apart.
- Slowly rotate your pelvis in a circular motion much the same way as you would for a hula hoop, only much slower. It should take 2-3 seconds for your hips to make a complete circle.
- Repeat ten circles in one direction, then ten in the opposite direction. You'll be amazed at the pressure taken off your spine.
A Version of the Russian Twist
For this one, you'll need a yoga ball (also known as a physio ball). It will help to improve posture and strengthen your upper back, lower back, and increase your range of motion.
- Simply sit on the yoga ball and slowly walk your legs forward to allow your upper back to rest comfortably on the ball. Keep your lower back flat and your hips high. Your shoulders and knees should be in a relatively straight line, parallel to the floor.
- Extend your arms in front of your chest and put your palms together.
- Now keep your arms extended and slowly twist to one side until your arms are parallel to the floor. Slowly return to your starting position and repeat for the other side. Do your best to keep your core tight throughout each rep.
- Repeat this ten times on each side for better rotational mobility.
Remember, slow and steady wins the race. Many free weight lower back exercises can be done from the starting position for the Russian Twist. This easy and gentle move will help you warm up and get ready for more explosive exercises.
Kettle Bell for Strengthening
If you're looking for a bit more intense exercise, swinging a kettle bell between your legs and up will help with disc problems and do a lot of good for both your lower back and upper back. All you need is a kettle bell and this exercise can be done at home. Keep the weight relatively light if your back is hurting, as adding weight will only further damage your muscles.
- Grab a kettle bell (30kg) and stand with your legs shoulder width apart.
- Squat down a bit and let your arms hang straight down between your legs while holding the kettle bell.
- As you begin to straighten your legs and thrust your pelvis forward, raise the kettle bell in front of your chest. This should be a fairly explosive. At the end of the move, your legs should be relatively straight and you should be standing upright with your arms extended at about shoulder height.
- Slowly lower the kettle bell back down between your legs and squat down into your starting position.
- Repeat ten times per set for three sets.
You can do all the fancy new exercises you want, but nothing beats swimming to help a hurt back. The water provides the perfect amount of resistance and requires you to recruit supporting muscles that are often neglected in daily exercise. Take a few laps in the pool next time you get a chance. It will relieve pain and and there is no chance of hurting yourself (except for the obvious). Whether it's lower back, upper back, chronic back pain, or just a small tweak, swimming will help to get rid of all pain while strengthening the supporting muscles. Be sure to take long, fluid strokes.
20 minutes, three days a week should work wonders.
Suffering from back pain is never fun. These are a few of the best exercises. Yoga, pilates, or even a simple foam roller can also have tremendous benefits. Whether you choose to do exercises with weights, dumbbells, machines, or without any weight, slow and steady is the name of the game.