Why You Need Back Exercises

Most of us these days have a desk job, where we sit and work at the computer for long periods of time, and the demanding schedule makes it very difficult to squeeze in regular exercise. Also, most of us are not in the habit of eating healthy, well-balanced meals. All these factors combined can result in a lot of physical problems, the most common of them being backaches. They start as an uncomfortable knot somewhere along the spine, which is mostly taken care of in the weekend massage appointments. However, ignoring back pains can be risky. Therefore, regular back exercises are advisable.

How to Exercise the Back

There are quite a few effective back strengthening exercises, but the exercises listed below will give you a great start.

Hip Bridge:  This exercise involves lying down on your back with your arms long at your side, your feet directly under your knees, and slightly closer than hip width apart. Next, try to lift your back while making a straight line from shoulder to knees and holding the position for a couple of seconds, and then repeat 8 – 10 times.


Bird Dog: In this exercise, you have to get on your hands and knees on the floor; part your knees hip width and hands shoulder width. Maintaining the position, stretch the left leg and right hand out and hold the posture for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat with alternating pattern.


Side Plank:  While lying on your side, use the support of your elbow to lift up your body weight. The upper leg should be directly on top of the lower leg and straighten knees and hips. Hold the position for roughly 30 seconds or longer, if you can. Repeat a few times on alternating sides.



Lunge:  Keeping your upper body straight, shoulders back and relaxed with core engaged, step forward with one leg, lowering your hips until both knees are bent at roughly a 90-degree angle. Your front knee should be directly above your ankle, and make sure your other knee doesn’t touch the floor. When you push back to the start position, keep your weight in your heels.  Repeat a few times on alternate legs.




Benefits of Back Exercises

Back exercises not only help to strengthen your back, but also helps to release the excessive pressure the spine handles due to long hours of sitting on a chair. The stabilizing abdominal muscles and lower back muscles are strengthened, which also helps to improve the balance of muscles, their coordination and stability. A stronger abdomen helps to extend greater support to the spine.

While regular back exercises are definitely beneficial, try to avoid sitting too long by taking mini breaks throughout the day to stretch and take short walks to relieve stress and tension.


Photo credit:

Hip bridge exercise from workoutlabs.com

Bird-dog exercise image from  workoutlabs.com

Side plank exercise image from workoutlabs.com

Lunge exercise image from workoutlabs.com



Get Rid of Back Fat

Photo Credit: Krestavilis PD
Fat can be deposited anywhere on your body. For many people, especially women, fat deposits on the back are a problem. Wearing a bra can cause back fat to bulge above and below the bra. A successful weight loss plan must include a low-fat, low-sugar, nutritious diet combined with regular exercise. It is almost impossible to “spot” train your body to lose fat in only one place, like the belly or the back. However, you can and should focus on exercises that burn fat while working specific muscle groups for a more lean and toned body. Start by being more active generally. Walk more, ride a bicycle, take the stairs instead of the elevator and adopt a healthier diet. Then try some exercises that target the muscles of the back to help reduce fat on your back.
Lower back extensions stretch the muscles of your lower back and help to strengthen your back muscles for better posture and balance. Lie on the floor on your stomach. Stretch your body out straight. Place your hands on the floor palms down beside your hips. Breathe in and lift your chest off the floor. Keep your face pointed toward the floor during the exercise. Lift your chest as high as possible and hold the position for 5 seconds. Relax and lower your chest back to the floor. Do 10 repetitions of this exercise. When you feel stronger, try lifting your legs and chest at the same time. 

The bridge exercise will stretch all the muscles of your back, your abdomen and your thighs. Lie on your back with your knees bent. Keep your feet flat on the floor and place your palms on the floor beside your hips. Breathe in and squeeze your abdominal muscles. Lift your hips toward the ceiling as far as you can. Keep your shoulders and hands on the floor. Hold the position for 5 seconds and then breathe out as your lower your body back to the floor. Do 10 repetitions. 

Dumbbell Chest Fly Exercise

Chest fly exercises using dumbbells works your chest and shoulder muscles. The anterior and medial deltoids, pectorals, rotator cuffs, biceps and posterior deltoids all get a great workout when you do chest flys on a bench using dumbbells. Proper form is important to avoid injury. A fitness instructor can instruct you in the right way to do dumbbell chest flys to maximize your workout effectiveness and avoid injury. 
Photo Credit: George Stepanek CC-BY-SA-3.0-migrated

Lie back on a workout bench with your feet flat on the floor. The bench should be high enough so that your thighs and body are parallel to the floor when your knees are bent at a 45 degree angle. If you have never used dumbbells before, start with light-weight dumbbells, between 2 pounds and 5 pounds, and work with a fitness trainer or a spotter. Before you begin doing chest flys, make sure your shoulders are in contact with the bench by pulling your shoulder blades down. The back of your head, your shoulders and your butt should all be in contact with the bench. 
Grasp the dumbbells so that your palms are facing forward, toward the middle of your chest. Raise your arms straight up over your chest with your palms holding the dumbbells facing each other. Keep your wrists stable and your arms straight. Don’t bend your wrists. You should bend your elbows slightly for stability.
Breathe in and simultaneously lower your arms straight out toward the floor. Use a wide arc motion from your shoulder. Lower your arms and the dumbbells until your arms are at your shoulder level parallel to the floor. Hold the position for a few seconds. Breathe out as you slowly lift your arms back toward the ceiling in a wide upward arc motion. 
Do 10 to 15 repetitions of this exercise using the light weights. As your shoulder and arm strength improves, you can increase the dumbbell weight and increase the number of repetitions. Safety is most important when doing dumbbell chest flys. A spotter or certified fitness expert should always be present when you use free weights of any kind. 

Avoid Low Back Pain At Work

Photo Credit: Nick Webb CC-BY-2.0
Millions of people suffer from low back pain. Some aches and pains may be caused by your work. Most minor back pain is caused by muscle strain from lifting, repetitive movements or sitting in one position for extended periods of time. Whether you lift boxes or sit at a computer screen all day, you can suffer from low back pain. You can reduce your risk of low back pain by doing exercises that strengthen your back muscles, employing proper lifting techniques and taking frequent stretching breaks if you sit at work. 
Sitting in front of a computer screen or at a work station for hours can contribute to low back pain. Take  3 to 5 minute break once each hour to stand up and stretch your back muscles. Put your hands on your hips and twist to the left and then to the right. Raise your arms over your head and reach for the ceiling to stretch the muscles from your shoulders down to your buttocks. You should have a chair with proper back support. Use a rolled-up towel between your lower back and the back of the chair if your chair does not provide enough support. Avoid slumping in your chair by maintaining good posture while sitting at your desk. Keep your shoulders back and hold your head up straight so that the bottom of your chin is parallel to the floor. 
Avoid low back pain and muscle injury by using lifting techniques to protect your back. If you lift heavy objects at work, always use proper lifting techniques or get help lifting very heavy objects. Lift heavy boxes and other objects by planting your feet shoulder-width apart and stand close to the object. Bend down from your knees, not your waist. Keep your back straight as you lower your body by bending your knees and get a firm grasp on the object. Squeeze your abdominal muscles for support and lift the object using your legs. 
Exercise that strengthens your back muscles is the best way to prevent and to relieve chronic low back pain. Exercises that strengthen your back and core muscles will help prevent lower back pain. Stretching exercises can help improve your flexibility. Maintain a healthy weight, too. You are at greater risk of low back pain if your are overweight. 

Stability Ball Exercises for a Strong, Toned Back

The stability ball, also called an exercise ball, is a superb way to improve your strength, flexibility and muscle tone. You can focus on your whole body or work specific muscle groups. Warm spring days are just around the corner and so are backless, short-sleeve and sleeveless fashions. You will want your shoulders, upper back and arms to be toned and firm for spring and summer fashions and trips to the beach. Try these three upper body strengthening and toning stability ball exercises to get you in shape fast.
Performing push-ups using a stability ball adds an extra dimension of strengthening and toning to the regular push-up.  Begin with the stability ball underneath your body with your hands and feet on the floor. Keep your palms flat on the floor directly under your shoulders. Breathe in and squeeze your abdominal muscles. Walk your body backward until the stability ball is under your stomach and extend your legs out, but keep your toes on the floor. Place your palms on the stability ball underneath your shoulders. Squeeze the ball with your hands and press upward with your arms to lift your body off the ball. Hold the position for a few seconds and then lower your body back toward the ball. Exhale when pushing upward and inhale when lowering your body back down. Keep your spine in a straight line from the top of your head to your heels. 
Photo Credit:  LocalFitness.com.au
Leg extensions strengthen your chest, arms and upper back. Start by draping your body over a stability ball placed under your stomach. Place your hands palms down on the floor under your shoulders. Breathe out and tighten your abdominal muscles. Lift your feet off the floor and try to keep your legs together. Make a straight line with your body from your head to  your heels. Point your toes for maximum extension. Hold this position for a few seconds. The longer you can  hold the position, the better. Exhale, relax and then repeat the extension. 

Concentrate on your back and shoulders with a shoulder extension workout. Position yourself on the stability ball with it in the middle of your body and your hands and feet on the floor. Stretch out your legs, but keep your toes on the floor. Walk backward until the ball is directly underneath your stomach and both legs are stretched out straight with your toes on the floor. Stretch your arms straight out in front of your body. Try to keep your body straight and avoid arching your back. Slowly bring your arms back until you form a Y shape. Continue bringing  your arms back until they are straight out from the shoulder and form a T shape. Hold this position for a few seconds and then bring your arms back to the start position. Breathe out and repeat the exercise. 

Exercises to Strengthen Your Back

Photo Credit: Public Domain
A tired, sore, aching back can interfere with your daily activities and prevent you from enjoying many things. There are several easy exercises that you can do at home that can help strengthen your back muscles, increase flexibility and help relieve back pain. See your doctor to make sure it is safe for you to exercise your back and rule out conditions like osteoporosis before starting an exercise program.
An easy exercise to help strengthen your back is the leg extension. Start the exercise by getting on the floor on your hands and knees. Place your knees directly under  your hips and keep your hands flat on the floor at shoulder width. Tighten up your tummy and then extend one leg straight out behind you. Extend your arm on the opposite side straight out in front of your body. Try to keep your head, neck, spine, arm and leg in a straight line. Hold the stretch for a few seconds and then return to the start position. Repeat using the other arm and leg. Do 5 or more repetitions of this exercise every day to help strengthen your back muscles and improve flexibility and strength.
The side plank exercise is an excellent way to help strengthen your back and improve balance and coordination. Lie on your left side with your body forming a straight line. Lean on your elbow and forearm with your elbow directly below your shoulder. Lift body straight up on your elbow so that your body forms a straight line. Hold this position for a few seconds and then relax. Do 5 repetitions and then switch sides. This exercise will not only strengthen your back, but also help to tone and strengthen your abdominal muscles. 

When your back muscles feel tight, you can do some toe touches to stretch the muscles and improve flexibility. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Raise your arms over your head and reach as high as you can. Bend over from the waist and try to touch your toes with your fingertips. Hold the stretch for a few seconds and return to an upright position. Repeat this exercise 5 to 10 times to really stretch the back muscles and strengthen your core.

Hip lifts strengthen your lower back and leg muscles. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your arms at your sides. Place your palms flat on the floor and press your shoulders against the floor. Squeeze your abdominal muscles and your buttocks and then lift your hips toward the ceiling. Hold the position for 10 to 20 seconds and then relax. Repeat this exercise 10 times.

The lunge is an exercise that works your back, abs and leg muscles. Stand up straight with your feet slightly apart. Put your hands on your hips for stability and then take a giant step forward with one leg. Keep the other foot planted firmly on the floor. Slowly lower your upper body straight toward the floor until your forward legs forms a 90 degree angle. Hold the position for a few seconds and then push back with your forward leg to the upright position again. Repeat the lunge 5 to 10 times on each side. This exercise will also improve flexibility and balance.

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