Woman performing bird-dog back exercise

5 Simple Exercises to Build Back Strength

Whether you are an aficionado in weight lifting or a self-described couch potato, back strength and the exercises that lead to it are important in maintaining overall health. The spine is directly connected to the central nervous system, and an unhealthy or weak back can result in chronic issues with pain, numbness, poor digestion and impaired breathing. To reduce the potential for back pain, here are five simple exercises anyone can do each day.


Hip Bridge

Start by lying on the floor, back on the ground with feet spread the width of your hips. Your feet should rest flat on the floor, and you knees are bent. As you slowly lift your hips off the ground, squeeze your rear end so that a straight line is created from the shoulders to your knees. Hold the straight line position for two or three counts and slowly release back down, repeating 10 to 12 times as you are able.


A hip bridge is an easy strengthening exercise that is meant to counteract the effects sitting for extended periods of time. This movement forces hip flexors to stretch while building strength in the muscles used to stabilize the spine.


Squats

Start by standing with your feet flat on the ground, shoulder width apart and toes aligned with your knees. Push your chest forward slightly while moving your hips down and back, like you are sitting down on the edge of a chair. Continue moving down until your thighs are parallel with the floor, and slowly come back to standing position. Squats can be done with light or heavy weights for a more challenging exercise, but are an excellent strength builder without weights as well.


Squats help loosen tight hip joints by lengthening the muscles surrounding the hip. This exercise also helps build a solid core, which keeps the spine supported and stable.


Lunge

Standing with your feet together, flat on the ground, take a deep step forward. Your knee should create a right angle as you lunge forward, and your abdominal muscles should be slightly contracted during this exercise. Without pausing, gently push back out of the lunge and repeat the process with the same leg. Lunges are effective when done in sets of eight or 10 for each leg.


Similar to squats, lunges strengthen the muscles that work to stabilize the spine in the back and in stomach. Your hamstrings, glutes, quads and calves are all working together during this exercise, promoting full body control and strength building.


Bird Dog

To begin bird dog, position yourself on all fours on the floor, with your knees directly below your hips and hands directly below your shoulders. Your knees should be hip width apart, and your hands should be flat on the ground at the width of your shoulders. While contracting the stomach and keeping the spine neutral, extend your right arm straight out while extending your left leg straight back. Hold the position for two or three seconds and return to the starting position. Repeat on each side six to eight times as you can.


The bird dog exercise works to improve muscle balance and core strength while toning the muscles in the back, legs and abdomen. Doing this exercise regularly promotes spine stabilization which is beneficial in every day movements including walking, running and carrying a child.


Side Plank

Start by lying on your right side, creating a straight line with your body from head to toe. Place your elbow directly beneath your shoulder, resting on your forearm. Contract your stomach muscles slightly as you lift your hips off the ground, holding your body steady in the straight line. Hold the lifted position for 20 to 30 seconds, slowly lower your body down. Alternating sides, do three to four repetitions.

Side planks are one of the best exercises for building strength in core muscles that help support the spine and back. Both the lower back and hips are more protected the stronger your core muscles get, which helps keep the spine stable throughout the day.


Doing one of more of these exercises each day will keep your spine, lower and upper back healthy, reducing the potential for back pain, stiffness and long-term discomfort.


Published: June 6th, 2015