Lower back exercises that strengthen that specific area of the body are a very good way of helping to reduce and prevent lower back pain while strengthening the legs, arm muscles, and core.
Studies suggest that such exercises may not only reduce or avoid pain but may also reduce the stiffness of the area and speed up the process of healing by increasing the blood flow to the area; such exercises, in any case, are always best practiced after consulting a doctor or therapist, to ensure they are executed correctly and the area is assisted with healing and not the opposite.
Like all muscles in the body, also the ones in the lower back require exercise to maintain strength and tone; unlike some of the other muscles in the body that are used to carry out every day’s activities (i.e.: gluteal muscles in the thighs are used to walk and climb steps), abdominal and deep back muscles are not, therefore specific exercises and movements need to be performed to ensure these maintain strength and avoid weakening with age.
Where are the lower back muscles located?
The spine of humans is divided into four sections with the two bottom ones called lumbar and sacrum; these two are the regions forming the lower back.
The muscles in the lower back anatomy of the human body include the longissimus, multifidus, quadratus, and spinalis; the muscles in this area work together with the transverse abdominal muscles to enhance the pressure in the intra-abdominal region of the body.
To provide stability to the trunk and spine, the muscles in the pelvic floor also assist with increasing this pressure.
Is walking good for lower back pain?
Oftentimes, lower back pain is reduced while standing, however, most exercise pain is indeed felt several hours after an activity, as the inflammation increases, therefore many suggest starting with very short walks and increasing from there.
It is nevertheless always recommended a specialist is consulted in such circumstances.
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Is Pilates beneficial for lower back pain? What about Yoga?
Both Pilates and Yoga may be helpful to reduce back pain as they strengthen muscles within the lower back area, however, some movements within these disciplines may further irritate or cause pain to the area; in any case, it is best to start with beginners’ movements and then scale up, always after having consulted a specialist in the field.
After taking all of the above into consideration, here are some of the most popular simple lower back exercises one can perform at home; again, should one suffer from any physical condition, it is recommended a doctor is consulted before starting any form of exercise.
Bridges or The Bridge
This is a very common exercise that is performed in many gym classes, such as aerobics (during the conditioning part) and total body conditioning.
This exercise, while being extremely simple, isolates and increases strength in the glutes and hamstrings and if performed in the correct manner they can also assist with increasing core stability, as they use the muscles in the abdomen, hips, and lower back.
The basic bridge movement allows overall body strength to improve as it requires multiple muscle groups to work together, as mentioned above; a strong core, as a consequence, can help reduce lower back pain. Although a doctor should always be consulted, studies have shown that when this exercise is performed correctly, it can be beneficial and safe also for people suffering from chronic lower back problems, as it can help them with pain management.
How to perform the bridge: step-by-step instructions
- After selecting a flat surface where to lie (i.e.: on the floor with a yoga mat), one should lie on the back with the arms straight down along the body with the palms on the ground, the legs bent so the feet are flat under the knees.
- By pushing the lower back into the ground, one should tighten the glutes and abdominal muscles before pushing up.
- Once the muscles are tightened, the hips should be raised so to create a straight line from the shoulders to the knees.
- Once in the correct position, the belly button should be pulled back towards the spine, while the core is squeezed.
- The position should be maintained and the muscles engaged for 20-30 seconds.
- After this, one can return to the starting position to then repeat the whole movement, which is normally recommended in groups of ten repetitions.
This exercise is very good to develop spinal flexibility and increase the range of motions one can perform.
The lower back muscles are as hard to exercise as they are to stretch and sometimes one can feel their back is tight even after stretching, as not all exercises are correct for this area of the body.
The knee-to-chest stretches do just that and when performed correctly are a great, simple way of relieving the feeling of stiffness in the lower back area; in the instance of any pains or problems, one should always consult a therapist before performing these exercises, no matter how easy or harmless they may sound.
How to perform knee-to-chest stretched: step-by-step instructions
- After selecting a flat surface where to lie (i.e.: on the floor with a yoga mat), one should lie on the back with the knees bent and the feet flat on the floor in what is called the supine position.
- One knee should be raised high enough that the lower part of the leg can be held with both hands while interlacing the fingers under the knee.
- Slowly one should pull the bent knee towards the trunk while using the hands as a help; this should be performed while trying to relax the pelvis, lower back, and legs as much as possible, as this exercise better reaches the muscles in the lower back when these are passive.
- The position should be held for a couple of seconds before the leg is returned to the floor and the exercise is repeated with the other leg.
This exercise can be performed while holding both legs at the same time, although this requires a lot of abdominal strength and it is, therefore, safer one starts with the one-legged version; in any case, should one perform this exercise with both legs at the same time, everything is done the same way, with the fingers interlaced around the knees, hugging the legs.
Lower Back Rotational Stretches
The lower back rotation is one of the most performed stretches in most exercise classes and the one most enjoy performing at the end of a workout; this is because when performed correctly it may help reduce the tension in the lower back, while working the core muscles, such as the abdominals, as well as the muscles in the pelvis area.
These exercises as well should be performed only after a doctor is consulted if there are any issues.
How to perform lower back rotational stretches: step-by-step instructions
- After selecting a flat surface where to lie (i.e.: on the floor with a yoga mat), one should lie on the back with the knees bent and brought up towards the chest as if sitting in a chair.
- The arms should be fully extended to the sides, perpendicular to the trunk, with the palms facing the floor.
- Holding the hands on the floor and the knees close together, both bent knees should be rolled over to one side of the body until they are on the ground. This position should be held for about 15 to 20 seconds.
- After holding, one should return to the initial position and repeat the same exercise on the other side of the body.
This exercise is normally recommended in repetitions of 5 to 10 on each side.