Any job that involves sitting for long periods of time puts a heavy load of stress on your lower back. Most of us spend our day working hunched over computers, and that means lower back pain is a constant companion. Doing exercises to strengthen these muscles is one of the most important time investments you can make. It’s the lower back that keeps us upright, defines posture, and acts as the platform for every physical activity you can think of. That’s why all well-designed training programmes begin with strengthening the core of the body, of which the lower back is the prime focus. And anyone who has experienced debilitating back pain knows the value of strengthening the area.
Lower back exercises are also convenient to do, because most of them involve no equipment. People with back pain often believe that exercising the back will only increase the pain. In fact, spine specialists actually recommend lower back exercises and stretches for relief from back pain, and consider it the best way to reduce pain, increase function, and prevent further recurrences. If you suffer from chronic back pain, do consult a doctor for a properly tailored regimen of workouts specifically targeted for your condition, but for every one else, here are three variations of one of the most effective ways to strengthen the lower back.
1. Swiss ball hyperextension
Lie on the ball with your abdomen and upper thighs resting on the ball. Balance your lower body by firmly planting your toes on the ground. With your hands locked behind your head or held across your chest, slowly raise your upper body till your back arches up (hyperextension). Hold for 10 seconds and return slowly to the original position. Aim for 10-15 repetitions to begin with.
Lie face down on the floor, legs together and straight, arms straight and extended. Don’t look up or strain your neck, instead keep your head and neck in a comfortable and neutral position in line with your spine. Keeping your arms and legs stiff and straight, but without locking your joints, simultaneously lift your limbs towards the ceiling to form a gentle curve with your body. Hold for approximately 30 counts. Then gently lower your back to the prone position.
3. Alternate superman
Follow the above instructions for a normal superman, but instead of lifting all your limbs together, only raise your left arm and your right leg slowly. Hold this position for a slow count of 10. Slowly return to original position. Repeat with right arm and left leg. As you feel more comfortable doing this, increase the length of time you hold the position, and the number of repetitions. Ideally, you should begin with the alternate version to build strength, and then move on to superman.
Every fortnight, experts show you the perfect way to execute the most functional exercises that give your body the maximum benefit.
Information and model: Karen Venter, master trainer, Ozone Fitness and Spa, New Delhi.
Coordinated by Rudraneil Sengupta
Photographs by Priyanka Parashar/Mint
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