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.
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!)
- 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.
As these exercises get easier, feel free to add time and sets.
Side Plank – 1 minute each side
Meet one of my BFF’s, Marcia, who will be my model today! Besides being an awesome friend, she is a Los Angeles based private chef. 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
- 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
- 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.
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.
Supine Hamstring Stretch – Hold 20 seconds for each leg
Yoga Sphinx – Hold for 20 seconds
Two Knee Twist – Hold 20 seconds on each side
Legs against the wall – Hold for 1 minute or longer.
If you have access to weights or kettlebells, here are more great exercises to consider doing to strengthen the core and back.
- 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!
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