Were you recently in an auto accident? Did you suffer an injury on the basketball court or soccer field? Do you experience chronic back pain? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you know how debilitating back injuries can be.
Between visiting a chiropractor, receiving massages, and maintaining proper posture, you've done a lot to try to heal your back pain. And while these things go a long way to ease the pain, you might be missing a key piece of the recovery puzzle: strength training.
Why You Should Exercise Your Back and Core Muscles
Your back and core muscles provide support for your spine. Weak muscles create problems with your spine's bone structure, leading to a variety of medical issues, as well as severe pain. Compromised muscles can suffer injuries themselves, further weakening the spine,and intensifying back pain.
As a result, back and core strength training can:
- Reduce your chances of suffering from back pain.
- Prevent spinal and soft tissue injuries, as back and core muscles will be able to respond more effectively to stresses.
- Reduce the severity of back pain should an injury occur.
- Speed the recovery process after spinal or soft tissue injuries.
- Facilitate healing after spinal surgery.
- Improve posture.
Muscle Groups You Need to Target
As you seek to strengthen your back and core, you'll need to focus on several key muscle groups.
Extensors (Back and Gluteal Muscles)
The extensors straighten your back and help you stand. They also help you lift and extend your body and move your thighs away from your body.
Oblique (Paraspinal, or Side, Muscles)
The oblique muscle stabilizes your spine when you stand upright. Your spine also uses the oblique to rotate and maintain proper posture.
Flexors (Abdominal and Iliopsoas Muscles)
The flexors support spinal movement from the front. They also control the arch of your lower back and help you move your thighs inward.
4 Back-Strengthening Exercises
The following exercises focus on your back and gluteal muscles as well as engage your abdominals. Perform this routine four times every week, doing three sets of each exercise.
1. Pelvic Bridge
Lie flat on your back and bend your knees to a 90° angle, keeping your feet flat. Tighten your abs, then raise your butt off the floor. Keep your shoulders on the floor and your back in a straight line.
Hold yourself up for five seconds, then lower your butt to the floor. Repeat 10 times to complete one set.
2. Arm/Leg Raises
Place your hands and knees on the floor, keeping your hands directly under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips. Slowly raise and straighten your right arm and left leg simultaneously, keeping your abs tight as you do so. Hold your arm and leg straight for 5 seconds, then return to the starting position. Perform the same movement with your left arm and right leg.
Repeat the exercise 10 times on each side to complete one set.
3. Prone Arm/Leg Raises
This exercise is similar to the exercise above, but you perform it lying on your stomach. Slowly lift your right arm and left leg simultaneously, concentrating on keeping them in line with your torso as you lift. Repeat the same movement with your left arm and right leg.
Do the exercise 10 times on each side to complete one set.
4. Air Squats
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and toes facing forward. Tighten your abs, keep your back straight, and slowly bend your knees. As you bend your knees, move your butt down and back until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Hold the squat for five seconds, then squeeze your glutes to push yourself back up.
Perform 10 squats to complete one set.
4 Core-Strengthening Exercises
The following core exercises focus on the abdominal, lower abdominal, and oblique muscles. Perform this routine four times every week, doing three sets of each exercise.
1. Trunk Curl
Stay in the same position, with your back flat on the floor and knees bent. Cross your arms over your chest, then use your upper abdominal muscles to lift the trunk of your body from the floor. Lift yourself to a 15° angle, hold for five seconds, and gently lower your body down to the floor. Repeat 10 times to complete one set.
2. Exercise Ball Sit-Ups
Sit on an exercise ball, keeping your back straight and feet flat on the floor. Place your hands straight over your head or on your hips. Using your lower abs to stabilize yourself, flex at the hips and lean back slightly on the exercise ball.
Hold this pose for five seconds, then slowly lift yourself back up. Repeat this move 10 times to complete one set.
Start in a pushup position, but place your elbows and forearms on the floor. Using your elbows and toes for balance, tighten your abs and hold your body in place. Focus on keeping your back and legs in a straight line.
Hold this pose for at least 10 seconds. As your back and core get stronger, work up to holding the pose for one minute.
4. Side Plank
Lie on one side, placing your elbow and forearm on the floor. Tighten your abs, then push your body up until your shoulder is parallel with your elbow. Keeping your body in a straight line, hold this position for at least 10 seconds. Perform this exercise on both sides of your body to complete one set.
When recovering from a back injury or accident, build your workout routine around your back and core muscles. But remember to consult with your chiropractor before beginning any exercise routine. He or she can provide feedback and guidance for your specific condition.