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Lower back injuries do not need to be part of our futures!

These injuries can occur when doing very simple every day activities, such as lifting boxes/kids/dogs/backpacks or while riding bikes, lifting weights, playing sports or simply bending over to tie a shoelace. Needless to say, having a lower pack injury is no fun. You feel the pain with almost every move you make, and you’re held back from living life to the fullest.

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I have to stay fit and healthy so that I can keep up with my husband, Jeff! He always has a fun adventure up his sleeve. Here we are cruising in the Amphicar in 2014.

 

So how can we prevent these lower back injuries from happening? The answer is by consistently performing exercises that create stronger, sturdier and more flexible core muscles. (Don’t worry, it’s easier then it sounds!)

Simply stated:

  • Strength – When you have weak core muscles, the back is more susceptible to pain or injury.
  • Flexibility – Loose and limber core and even hamstring muscles means less strain on the lower back.

Do yourself a humongous favor and take the time to do these simple no-equipment-required exercises and stretches 2 – 3 times a week. Your future self will thank you! The best time to do them is in the afternoon, evening or right after your regular workout.

If you are even slightly uncertain how to properly perform these exercises or stretches, jump on YouTube to find countless demonstration videos. Be sure to choose videos posted by certified fitness professionals.

Exercises

As these exercises get easier, feel free to add time and sets.

Side Plank – 1 minute each side

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Meet one of my BFF’s, Marcia, who will be my model today! Besides being an awesome friend, she is the chef and owner of the Los Angeles based company, Clean Food Delivered. As you can see here, Marcia demonstrates an awesome side plank despite the fact that the sun is in her eyes!  I should’ve given her my sunglasses…

  • Aim to do 3 sets of 20-second holds on each side.
  • If this is too difficult, start with 1 set of 20 seconds.
  • With consistency, you will quickly build enough strength to do 2 and 3 sets.

 

Plank – 1 minute

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Notice how Marcia’s neck, back, booty and legs are all aligned.

  • Aim to do 2 sets of 30-second holds or 3 sets of 20-second holds.
  • If you feel discomfort in your wrists, put your weight on your forearms, instead. Or, you can prop yourself up on a couple of dumbbells in order to keep your wrists straight.

 

One Arm Overhead Split Squat – Approximately 1 minute

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A) Both toes are faced forward and that working arm reaches as high as possible. The other hand can rest on your hip or reach straight out to the side.

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B) Squat so that your front leg creates a 90 degree angle. Meanwhile, that back knee gets as low as possible without actually touching the ground. Hold for two seconds before straightening and repeating.

  •  Perform 15-20 reps on each leg.
  • If the left leg is in front then the right arm is up in the air, and vise versa.
  • The front leg should form a perfect 90-degree angle when bent (See step B above)
  • Hold a light dumbbell up with that working arm when you’re ready to take it to the next level.
  • This can be performed as a walking lunge instead.

 

Stretches

Take deep breaths in and out through the nose while doing these stretches.

If you have sciatica or a slipped disk in your back, avoid all deep forward bends as these can make your condition worse.

 

Side Stretch – Hold for 10 seconds in each direction.

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Easy. Simple. Feels good. Yay.

 

Supine Hamstring Stretch – Hold 20 seconds for each leg

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Do your best to keep both legs straight and your back flat on the ground.

 

Yoga Sphinx – Hold for 20 seconds

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Focus on keeping those shoulders, neck and legs relaxed… and don’t forget to breath! Breathing is a good thing. 

 

Two Knee Twist – Hold 20 seconds on each side

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Aim to keep both shoulders on the ground during this stretch. I feel like laying on the ground and doing this stretch right now, actually! Marcia makes it look so relaxing.

 

Legs against the wall – Hold for 1 minute or longer.

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This one is my favorite. It’s a little tricky getting yourself right up against the wall, so just do your best! Once you get there, relax and imagine that your spine is melting into the ground.

 

If you have access to weights or kettlebells, here are more great exercises to consider doing to strengthen the core and back.

  • Deadlifts
  • Any type of kettlebell carry
  • Standing overhead press

 

More tips for back health:

  • If your job typically requires a lot of sitting, go out of your way to stand whenever possible.
  • Focus on posture. If your back gets sore after sitting or standing for long periods of time, there is a possibility that sitting up or standing tall with your chest up and shoulders down and back will alleviate the pain.
  • Most types of cardio help build core strength, as well. Especially when focus is placed on good posture and keeping abdominal muscles tight throughout the cardio session.

 

Here’s to a future with no lower back pain!

 

Please consult your doctor or medical professional before performing any exercises or trying any weight loss techniques shown or described on this website, as there may be personal medical or health considerations that only your doctor or health professional is competent to assess.

 

References:

Core Training: Evidence Translating to Better Performance and Injury Prevention

Stuart McGill, PhD
Spine Biomechanics, Department of Kinesiology, Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Mark Twight, Gym Jones, Knowledge, Question and Answer

Julie Rader, Breaking Muscle

Filed under: Body Talk

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Comments

Jo

hi audrey,
these EXERCISES sound great, OnE question though.. I already have a lower back Complaint so find the plank very painful, is there a way i can tweek the exercise So its less painful, yet effective?!

Reply

Audrey Dunham

Hi Jo, Try putting your knees down. But always listen to your body; if this is still painful, do not do it. There are exercises that can help regain strength in your back. Talk to your doctor to figure out which ones would be best for your situation.

Reply

Amy

What if you’ve had a back injury that enables your ability to walk (paraplegic). Are there additional ways to keep working on your core to stay in shape?

Reply

Audrey Dunham

Hi Amy, Any exercise that calls for lifting above your head, such as shoulder press or behind the head tricep extension (both done with dumbbells) also highly engage the core. But be sure to check with your doctor to make sure this is safe for you.

Reply

Amy

Thanks Audrey! Congrats on the twin boys as well!

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