In my previous blog, we discussed lifestyle changes that are easy to implement and can greatly reduce or eliminate low back pain. You can read that here. Now, I'd like to discuss a few exercises and warm-ups that you can incorporate to your daily routine.
There are exercises to perform that will reduce or eliminate back pain, just as there are some that need to be avoided. The big focus here is gaining midline (core) stability and strengthening your posterior chain (think about your entire backside, mainly the glutes and hamstrings).
Let's start with proper warm-ups. These are often overlooked and can make a big impact on preventing injury as well as priming the body to use the targeted muscles most effectively. Feel free to use these at the end of a training session as well.
Warm Ups & Stability
1) Banded Walks - These are my favorite and should be used every day. Get a Hip Circle or some small resistance bands. It's an excellent way to get your hips and glutes activated before working out. It is also good accessory work to strengthen the posterior. The problem I see with most people, whether they experience back pain or not, is a lack of strength and activation in those areas. As I like to say, "a strong ass is a strong athlete." Not surprisingly, a stronger butt also helps in stabilizing and supporting your lumbar spine.
2) Bird Dog - A simple and effective stability exercise to hone in on balance, midline stability, and good posture.
3) Dead Bug
4) Plank - With forearms on the ground and your shoulders stacked over your elbows, keep a straight line from your shoulders to your heels (toes flexed against the ground). Don't let your hips sink to the ground! If anything, raise them up a little if you are feeling discomfort. Start with sets of 30 second holds, with 30-60 seconds rest. Eventually build up to holding for a minute or more.
Now that we've touched on some warm-ups and stabilization movements, let's get into a few exercises that will give you a good bang for your buck.
A note for the population (and there are a lot more of you than you think) with disc problems --- any weighted movements should be done with the object supported by your center of gravity. An example would be deadlifting a barbell off the ground and keeping the bar in line with your mid-foot throughout the lift. Letting the weight drift away from that center will cause unwanted stress on the low back.
Let's get into a few exercises. I like all of these for a few reasons. First, you aren't loading weights on top of your spine so there isn't any direct compression of the spine. Second, they will focus on building your posterior chain to make strong hips, glutes, and hamstrings.
1) Glute Bridge - the key point on these is not to arch your back when starting on the ground. You can also add a barbell on top of your hips for added resistance.
2) Romanian Deadlift (RDL) - Start light with these and focus on hinging at the hip with a flat back. Any rounding or softness in the back on these will have the opposite effect of what we desire.
3) Rack Pull - This is another deadlift variation in which you set up a barbell at knee height or just above and focus on just the final lockout portion of a deadlift. Get full tension on the bar and your body before pulling the bar to your hips.
4) Sumo Deadlift
Try these exercises and see what works well for you. Start slow and light to set good movement patterns. You want to avoid hyperextension for a while, so try not to get into an arched back position. Things like sit-ups or v-ups may just irritate the problem until you've gained enough strength and stability in your back. Now get to work!
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