Thursday, September 2

Build a Better Back
by Armand Tecco, M.Ed.

If you've ever had a backache -- and who hasn't -- you know how much you rely on your back muscles to perform daily chores. Our backs are working all the time to help us sit, stand, reach, lift, lower and more. When pain strikes we suffer from discomfort as well as the inconvenience of not being able to do what we need to do.

That's why it is vitally important that we protect our backs from injury through a prevention program designed to build strength and mobility. Follow this easy exercise regimen three times per week on nonconsecutive days to better your back.

Begin with a five to 10-minute warm-up consisting of cardiovascular activity, such as walking or cycling, to prepare your body for the workout. If time permits, extend the cardio activity to 20 minutes or more for an aerobic benefit. Then perform the following back strengthening exercises:

The bridge: Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart; knees bent at 90 degrees. Contract the low back and gluteal (rear) muscles, lifting your hips off the floor. Be careful not to lean on your neck. Hold for five to 10 seconds, then return to start position. Repeat 10 times.

Superman: Lie down on your stomach with your arms extended straight over your head, parallel to ground and legs straight behind you. Lift your right arm and upper body and left leg simultaneously; hold for three to five seconds then release. Repeat with opposite arm and leg. Repeat on both sides 10 times.

Now perform the following abdominal strengthening exercises, which will help the ab muscles support the back.

Chair crunch: Lie on your back with hips and knees flexed to 90 degrees; rest your lower legs on a chair or bench for stability. Keep buttocks close to chair. Place your hands behind your head and keep your head back, focusing your eyes upward. Lift your upper back off the floor, pause, then return to the start position on floor. Repeat as many times as possible, making sure not to pull on your head or neck. As you get stronger, you can eliminate the chair but retain the 90-degree positioning of hips and knees.

Leg lift: Lie with your back on the floor and your legs pointing straight up to ceiling, so they are perpendicular to floor. Place your hands behind head. Using your lower abs, raise your hips, lifting your legs toward the ceiling. Perform in a slow and controlled manner without using momentum or your shoulders to assist. Slowly lower your hips to the floor and repeat 10 times. Lastly, perform stretches that target your back.

Knee to chest: Lie on your back and hold one leg behind your knee, pulling the knee toward your chest. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then release. Repeat with opposite leg.

Knee to side: Lie on your back and bend one knee, bringing it over the other (straight) leg, across your body to the opposite side. Make sure both shoulders remain on the floor. Use your hand to gently pull the bent knee for a better stretch. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then release. Repeat with opposite leg.

The information, including opinions and recommendations, contained in this website is for educational purposes only. Such information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. No one should act upon any information provided in this website without first seeking medical advice from a qualified medical physician.

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