Top 3 Exercises to Maintain a Healthy Back

By Outreach Physical and Occupational Therapy and Speech Rehabilitation

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80% of people will experience back pain at some point in their life. And it’s one of the top reasons an individual seeks out the advice of their family doctor and physical therapist.

But back pain is preventable. A healthy diet, proper lifting techniques, good posture, and specific core strengthening exercises go a long way in thwarting your chances of experiencing back pain.

In fact, experts claim that 3 specific exercises to strengthen your lower back, core, and gluteal muscles can significantly lower your risk.

So, what exercises should you be doing? Let’s take a look!

Gentle Core Exercises, Like Static Transverse Abdominis Activation

Ineffective activation of the transverse abdominis frequently leads to back pain. The transverse abdominis muscle works to stabilize your pelvis and low back; it essentially acts as a corset. Yet, many people often focus on strengthening those 6-pack abs - also known as the rectus abdominis muscle. In turn, the transverse abdominis muscle is commonly neglected.

The best way to strengthen your core and target the transverse abdominis muscle involves gentle core exercises, such as the following:

  • Lie face up on a comfortable surface.
  • Bend your knees and plant your feet flat on the ground.
  • Imagine a tight rope pulling your hip bones together - or think of drawing your belly button in toward your spine. This will help contract your transverse abdominis muscle. Make sure to keep breathing!
  • You can feel for the contraction by pushing your fingertips in between your hip bones. Try to hold the contraction for 5-10 seconds. And yes, it takes practice to get used to it.

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Once you master the basics with gentle core exercises, you can add alternating foot lifts. From there, you can do the same but with straight legs.

Make sure to go at your own pace. If you feel it in your back, go back to the basics. Aim to do the exercise 2-3 times per week for 10-12 repetitions and 2-3 sets at a time in order to best strengthen your core and back...

Strengthen Your Core With Glute Bridging

Strong glutes are an essential part of a strong core. Your gluteus maximus muscles are the biggest muscles in your body. They help support a strong back, hips, and pelvis. The glute bridging exercise helps you strengthen these muscles and thus help strengthen the core and back. It further aids in creating a flexible spine, which also reduces your chances of injury or pain. Here’s how you do it:

  • Lie face up on a comfortable surface, such as a yoga mat.
  • Engage your abdominal muscles and squeeze your glutes - then lift your hips and buttocks up and off the ground.
  • Aim to hold your hips and buttocks up for about 3-5 seconds.
  • Slowly lower back down to the ground.
  • Do 10-12 repetitions and 2-3 sets.

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This core strengthening exercise can also be performed 2-3 times per week. Again, if you feel pain in your back - ease off or don’t lift as high. Also, check in and make sure you are squeezing your glutes and engaging your full core.

Cat and Camel Strong Core Exercise

The cat and camel exercise can strengthen the lower back muscles and contribute to a healthy and flexible spine. It also teaches your body and core muscles how to work efficiently with the erector spinae muscle - which is responsible for keeping your body upright. Physical therapists will often prescribe this exercise for back pain patients to strengthen their lower back and core. But it is also an excellent preventative measure. So, how do you do it?

  • Begin on all-fours. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders. Your knees should be directly under your hips.
  • Take a deep breath in. At the same time, arch your back downward - bringing your belly toward the floor - and look up.
  • Exhale and bring your head in between your arms. Arch your back upwards.
  • Continue to go back and forth for 10-12 repetitions. You may choose to hold for a few breaths where you feel you need a little more of a stretch.

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These strong core exercises can be performed daily. It not only helps strengthen the core and back by improving your spine flexibility and abdominal strength but also further helps you become more in-tune with your own body, strengthening your mind-body awareness.

Strengthen Your Core to Avoid Back Pain

Back pain isn’t inevitable; you can avoid it. Do the above core strengthening exercises regularly, and you’ll significantly lower your risk. Live a full and happy life free from back pain!

If you do experience back pain, contact a physical therapist in your area. They are trained to help you strengthen your lower back muscles and core in order to get back to your regular activities and to prevent future incidents.

Not sure where to find a physical therapist in your area? The BetterPT website and mobile app has got your back - literally! You can find Outreach Physical and Occupational Therapy and other physical therapist near you that specializes in back pain and can help strengthen your core.



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