5 Exercises to Strengthen Your Lower Back

Lower back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide, with up to 80% of the population experiencing back pain at some point. But you can reduce your risk of back pain with the help of Dr. Hooman M. Melamed, a board-certified orthopedic back surgeon.

To keep your back strong and limber, Dr. Melamed recommends strengthening exercises for your back, abdomen, and legs. By stretching and strengthening these muscles, you improve your spine’s support system, making back pain, and the complications surrounding it, a thing of the past.

With the five exercises and about 15 minutes a day, you keep your back flexible and strong. Though numerous exercises and activities can strengthen your back, Dr. Melamed recommends these five every day, regardless of your routine.

1. Cat/Cow

Cat/cow is a traditional yoga warm-up that slowly and gently moves your spine, loosening your muscles and increasing flexibility. Cat/cow also improves circulation around your spinal discs.

Start on your hands and knees. Make sure that you’re aligned correctly, with your knees directly below your hips and your shoulders stacked over your wrists. Begin with your spine neutral.

Take a deep inhale and as you exhale, tighten your core, pulling your belly button toward your spine, as you round your back into cat position. Make sure to tuck your hips and lower your head so that you resemble a Halloween cat.

On an inhale, drop your abdomen toward the ground, still engaging your core, and pull your chest through your arms into cow pose. Raise your gaze toward the sky and assume the look of a sway-back cow.

Flow back and forth with your breath, exhaling to cat and inhaling to cow. Do this three to five times, twice a day.

2. Bird Dog

Bird dog strengthens your back and abdomen and works toward spinal stabilization. It reinforces proper alignment and teaches you how to engage your core.

From your hands and knees, start bird dog with a neutral spine. When you’re ready, lift your right leg so that it's parallel to the ground while staying strong and stable on your other leg and arms. Try not to shift your weight. Keep your hips aligned, and your toes pointed down.

If you feel strong enough, lift your left arm in front of you, bringing it parallel to the floor. Hold for five seconds then lower your arm and leg to the floor. Switch sides. Repeat three to five times.

3. Partial Crunches

To strengthen your abdomen and back without causing unnecessary strain, forgo traditional sit-ups for partial crunches. These exercises increase your core strength without leading to back pain.

Begin partial crunches by lying on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Reach your arms straight up with your fingers reaching for the ceiling. On an inhale, engage your core muscles and lift your shoulders off the floor.

Hold for one second and release. On your next inhale, repeat. Do 8-12 repetitions. Make sure that your feet, tailbone, and lower back remain in contact with the floor throughout the entire exercise.

4. Hamstring Stretches

Tight hamstrings -- muscles that stretch from the back of your knee to your tailbone -- can lead to low back pain. When tight, these muscles shorten, straining your back. By stretching your hamstrings, you lengthen the muscles, reducing stress and tension in the lower back.

Lying on your back, stretch your left leg out while you place a towel, belt, or strap around the arch of your right foot. Straighten your right leg, pushing your heel toward the sky. Hold on to both sides of the strap and work on straightening the right leg and making it perpendicular to the floor.

Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds before lowering and repeating on your left leg. Do two to four repetitions.

5. Supine Twist

Supine twist helps your back feel great and improves its health. It stretches your back muscles and glutes while strengthening your abdomen. What’s more, these twists hydrate your spinal discs and realign your spine.

Lie on your back, looking at the ceiling or sky. Stretch the left leg long and bend your right knee. Place your left hand on the outside of your right knee, and drop your right hand out to your side. Take a deep inhale and on the exhale, use your hand to draw your right knee across your body toward the left. Let your gaze fall to the right.

Keep your right shoulder on the ground and hold this position for 5-10 seconds. Roll back to center and repeat on the other side. Do two to three repetitions, both in the morning and evening.

When your back hurts, seek the help of a board-certified back specialist. Book your appointment with Dr. Melamed today.

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