04 Sep 2017

Back strengthening exercises might not be as obvious to you as you think, as developing a strong core and working on your core muscles will help to reduce back pain and hopefully prevent any further injury in the future, particularly lower back pain. Core exercises and conditioning your body through flexibility and working your core muscles is quite often more important that solely focusing on direct back exercises.
Whether you’re an avid gym-goer and had an injury through your training or you’ve pulled a muscle simply by bending over too quickly or twisting your back (which is very common), it’s really important to carry out some exercises which will help to strengthen your back and hopefully speed up the recovery process and avoid it happening again in the future.
Lee Moran, Director at Freedom Strength, outlines below five of the best exercises which you can do to help strengthen your back after an injury. These five exercises are all quite low-impact to avoid any extra strain or pushing yourself (and your back) too far. The exercises include hip lifts, the swan dive, the plank hold, the bird dog and abdominal crunches. The main thing to remember though is to never continue any exercises or a workout if your back is hurting, as this could do more harm than good.


    1. Hip Lifts

Hip Lifts may look pretty simple but they are actually tougher and more impactful than they look, this is why they are a great exercise option for developing your core strength. A great way to relieve tension in your lower back, Hip Lifts also help to strengthen the muscle between your ribs and hips (rectus abdominis) and tone your oblique muscles.
To perform Hip Lifts:

  • Place a mat on the floor for additional padding and lie on your back with both of your feet flat on the floor and your knees pointing up.
  • With your arms by your sides, let your back and head rest comfortably on the ground.
  • Breathe in as you pull your navel towards your spine.
  • Breathe out as you lift your hips up toward the ceiling and a few inches off the floor. Keep your head and shoulders connected to the ground and really focus on keeping your lower abdominal muscles strong during the lift.
  • Hold this lifted posture for 1 count and then slowly lower back down to the floor.
  • Repeat this lift for 60 seconds.

2. Swan Dive
The Swan Dive is a very common pose in Pilates and is designed to develop back strength and improve your overall posture. Adding in this Pilates pose into your recovery training will really help with your back progress and enhance your flexibility. Ideal for any level of fitness, the Swan Dive exercise helps to work the back, abdominals, glutes, hamstrings and inner thighs. Be careful if you are suffering with any neck problems though.
To perform Swan Dive:

  • Start off by lying down on your stomach with your arms and legs stretched out.
  • Breathing in and lengthening your core, lift from the crown of your head and peel your spine from the mat.
  • Keep your head looking down and lift your arms and legs up towards the ceiling so that your back becomes slightly arched and your abdominal muscles are being worked.
  • Maintain this posture for a few seconds and then breathe out and slowly release back down to the floor.


    3. Plank Hold

The Plank Hold is a brilliant exercise to master for developing your core strength. It’s quite a simple (yet tough) exercise which will help strengthen your entire body, primarily your lower core area. It’s a straightforward exercise as you don’t need any equipment and you can increase the difficulty level by making certain adjustments. The longer you can hold the plank position, the more resilient your lower back will be to injury.
Before carrying out a regular plank, it’s best to build up your strength by starting from a bent-knee plank. Once you can hold a bent-knee plank for more than two minutes, it’s time to move onto a regular plank.
To perform bent-knee Plank Hold:

  • Start off in a push-up position where your hands are planted directly under your shoulders (slightly wider than shoulder-width apart) and your arms are stretched out at full length.
  • Have your knees resting on the ground so that there’s less stress on your lower back.
  • Hold this position for 20 seconds initially and as you become more comfortable with the exercise, keep extending the amount of time you hold it for.

To perform standard Plank Hold:

  • Start off in a push-up position where your hands are planted directly under your shoulders (slightly wider than shoulder-width apart) and your arms are stretched out at full length.
  • Stabilise your body and focus on your core muscles to hold your strength. Your head should be in line with your back.
  • Hold the plank position for 20 seconds initially and as you become more comfortable with the exercise, keep extending the amount of time you hold it for.


    4. Bird Dog

The Bird Dog exercise is a classic core exercise that is designed to emphasise lower back strength and improve balance. It’s a simple yet very effective movement that you can incorporate into your daily routine. This movement is really about strength and power rather than speed and agility. You need to ensure that your core muscles are the key focus of this exercise.
To perform Bird Dog:

  • Start off in an all-fours position on your mat, with your hands placed under your shoulders and knees being hip-width apart.
  • Extend your left leg behind you and flex the foot so that your toes are pointing towards the ground.
  • Then extend your right arm in front of you with your thumb facing up towards the ceiling.
  • Whilst carrying out this movement, keep your abdominal muscles engages and strong.
  • Hold on one side for 10 to 20 seconds.
  • The repeat with the other side, so that your left arm is extended in front of you and your right leg is extended out behind you.


    5. Abdominal Crunch

Another exercise designed to improve core strength, the Abdominal Crunch will help to tone your abdominal muscles and strengthen your lower back. This type of exercise should also help to improve your overall balance and by helping to develop strong core muscles, it will aid in a healthy posture.
To perform Abdominal Crunch:

  • Place a mat on the floor to cushion your spine and lay flat on your back with your knees bent.
  • You can then either place your hands behind your head or across your chest, either way you need to ensure that your neck is protected and that you’re not pulling on your neck.
  • Slowly lift your shoulder blades off the floor and start contracting your abdominal muscles.
  • Hold at the top for a few seconds, keeping your neck straight and the focus on your lower core.
  • Slowly lower your shoulder blades back down to the mat but not relaxing to all the way.
  • Repeat this motion for 15 to 20 movements and really concentrate on engaging your core muscles and working them as hard as possible.

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