4 Strengthening Exercises to Avoid Back Injury
4 Strengthening Exercises to Avoid Back Injury
Obtaining any kind of injury is always frustrating, whether it plagues you for a day or for a year. Back injuries are extremely common, and, while some are easy to relieve, there are quite a few that take much longer to repair. Because there are so many causes for back injuries, it’s important that everyone is diligent about protecting the area. Injuries in the back can range from strains and dull aches to pinched nerves, herniated discs, and fractured vertebrae.
Because we use the back for all kinds of movements in our everyday lives, it’s very important that we pay attention to any changes and avoid putting extra strain on the area as much as possible. Some of the most basic ways to avoid injury to the back include lifting with your knees, practicing proper posture, and maintaining a healthy weight.
If you’ve noticed that you have back problems often, or you lift a lot of weight on a daily basis, you might consider wearing a quality back brace; a brace will give you added lumbar support and allow you to perform daily needs with less discomfort.
To avoid back injuries, there are various exercises you can add into your daily schedule to strengthen the muscles and increase flexibility. It’s important to remember that not all pain in the back is caused by the actual muscles in the back; many issues could be occurring, such as tight hip flexors, shoulder and arm problems, tight pelvis, etc. These muscles should all be able to work properly so that the back does not end up compensating.
Consider the strengthening exercises suggested to work toward a healthier back:
- Cat-Camel Stretch
This exercise is fairly simple, and it’s a good way to give the upper and lower back an effective stretch. This kind of exercise will help to increase flexibility along the spine, and it is a great warm-up activity to avoid injury.
To perform this stretch, put your body in a table pose, with your knees and hands on the ground. Keep your arms straight, directly underneath your shoulders, and keep your knees directly underneath your hips. To create the “cat” position, raise your head and shoulders so you are looking up, while simultaneously letting your stomach sink to the floor. This will create an arched position.
Move into the “camel” position by dropping your head and shoulders and moving the head toward your hips. Round your back, and hold this position to feel the stretch in your lower back. Go back and forth between these stretches, being careful not to rock forward and backward.
A lot of the injuries that occur in the back region are caused by a lack of core strength. Essentially, a mid-section without muscle and good posture can be pulled too far forward, putting a lot of stress on the lower back area to compensate.
To avoid this problem, planks are performed to increase abdominal strength and balance out the stress put on the back. These are simple to perform and can be done almost anywhere. Simply set yourself up on your elbows and keep your legs out straight, holding them up with your toes. Hold for a count of 15-30 seconds, and repeat the exercise 3-5 times. As you get stronger, begin to increase your holding time.
If you struggle at first, try keeping your knees down for an easier option.
- Bird Dog Stretch
This strengthening exercise is a little more difficult to master; however, it’s one of the best movements to help improve your core strength, align your body, and warm up the muscles before activity. All of these components are important to keeping the back aligned, relaxed, and strong. Anyone who has problems with alignment will certainly feel its effect in the lower region of the back, so practicing this strengthening exercise is important.
To begin, start out as you would for the Cat/Camel stretch, in a table position on your hands and knees. Keep your arms beneath your shoulders, and your head horizontal with the floor. To begin, simply reach your right arm straight out in front of you and reach as far as you can without losing your balance. Hold here for 30 seconds, and then switch arms.
Once you’ve stretched your arms, push your right leg out behind you, as straight as you can and keeping it at the same height as your body. Hold for 30 seconds, and then switch. Once your balance is strong enough, you can begin to stretch opposing arms and legs simultaneously and hold for 30 seconds. If you want to make it even more difficult, reach your right arm out to the side of your body, while your left leg reaches outward to the left side of your body.
This is a great stretch because of its multiple levels of difficulty. Be sure to do only as much as your back allows and work your way up.
- Founder to Forward Fold
This move will help to strengthen the core and back muscles while also improving flexibility. This move also promotes control over the muscles, so remember to do this stretch slowly and with purpose. If the moves are too difficult, put your hands behind your back to make the moves more attainable.
To begin, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and facing forward. Lean forward so that your glutes stick out, but be careful not to hunch your shoulders—keep a nice, straight back. Keeping your head facing downward, reach your arms above your head and have the tips of the fingertips touch, with the pinkies pushing into one another the hardest. Keep your core strong as you raise your arms and hold them there for 30 seconds. Using your abs to hold the position and balance will promote a strong back and core.
From here, bend at the hips and bring your hands to the ground, making sure to bend the knees slightly. Your whole body should be working to counterbalance the weight at the back of your body where your glutes are pushing outward.
To stand, lean back gently to keep the weight in your heels and let your arms hang as you slowly stand up. Bring your hips forward as you stand up slowly and with intention. Repeat.
A strong back means that the rest of the body is strong as well. If you’re prone to back injuries or want to avoid them, be sure to consider the strengthening exercises suggested to promote a strong back that will allow you to enjoy your daily activities.
About the Author: Stacey Stewart is the content manager for the Brace Shop. When she’s not writing, you can find her paddle boarding, training for her next marathon, or trying to complete a WOD.