Best Back Exercises to Prevent Injury
We rely on our backs to carry us through every day, from the moment we wake up in the morning until we go to sleep at night! Taking proper care of our backs not only helps to promote proper spinal alignment and posture, but it also helps prevent injuries that can be extremely disruptive. Even so, our backs are often ignored when it comes to our daily workout routine which tends to focus more on other areas of the body like arms, glutes, and legs. While it’s important to get a full-body workout and focus on the areas that matter most to you, it’s also very important to give your back the attention it needs when creating your workout routine.
According to the Spine Health Institute, up to 80% of adults will experience back pain that drives them to seek medical assistance. Anyone who has experienced back pain will tell you that not only is it not fun, it can also throw a huge wrench into your daily routine. The good news is that back pain and injuries are preventable, and regular back exercise is one of the best ways to help!
Back exercises may seem intimidating at first, but once you incorporate them into your workout, you will find that over time these exercises will leave you feeling stronger and healthier! Here are some of our favorite back exercises to stay strong and prevent injury that you can start doing today. And, remember to always consult with your doctor or a medical professional before starting new exercises.
Named after the movements of these two animals, this stretching exercise both loosens and strengthens back muscles. Start by positioning yourself on a mat on all fours, arms shoulder-width apart and feet hip-width apart. Then, it’s time to “cat” by pulling your back down towards the floor while lifting your head upwards and pushing your tailbone out. Breathe into the stretch and hold for 10-15 seconds. Next, it’s time to “camel” by reversing your position and curving your spine towards the ceiling while pulling your tailbone in and dropping your head. Breathe into the stretch and hold for 10-15 seconds.
This upper-back exercise not only strengthens muscles, but it also helps promote good posture. Grab some hand weights and stand with your feet hip-distance apart and your knees bent slightly. Bend forward with a flat back, keeping your head aligned with your spine and your shoulders rolled back. Then, row your hand weights by pulling up, squeezing your shoulders together towards your back until you feel a comfortable tension and slowly move back down. Repeat 10-15 times, or as often as is best for you. If you are more advanced and want variations with your rows, check out these other exercises from Men’s Health here.
The plant exercise is best known for strengthening the core, which is key in keeping your lower back healthy and pain-free. Form is everything when it comes to planks, so if you haven’t done these before, start slow and be patient. Start in a modified push-up position, but with your elbows positioned directly under your shoulders while looking down at the floor. Do not drop your head! Your body should be perfectly aligned from head to toe. Hold for as long as you can and remember you will build up your ability to hold for longer over time, taking care to not bend or slouch at the hips. You can break and repeat 2-3 more times.
This exercise challenges your back and core at the same time. Start by laying on your stomach on a mat, arms extended out and forming a straight line with your body from head to toe. Next, imagine the Man of Steel in flight and lift your head and arms upward as well as your feet at the same time, keeping your stomach firmly on the floor. Hold for 5-10 seconds, then slowly return to the starting position. You can also do this exercise by lifting one arm and the opposite leg each time.
This traditional yoga pose both stretches and strengthens the lower back and is a great way to end your back workout – or any workout! Start on your hands and knees, preferably on a mat, with your hands directly underneath your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Spread your fingers apart with your middle finger pointing towards the top of your mat. Next, press firmly into the ground so your weight is distributed evenly and breathe in. Now, exhale while you tuck your toes and lift your knees off the mat, drawing your sit bones behind you. Straighten your legs without locking your knees and aim to distribute your body weight evenly among your hands and feet. Press and breathe into the stretch, keeping your shoulders drawn back and your body fully engaged. Hold for as long as you can, then release to your starting position.
These simple yet effective back exercises can be done at the gym or at home and in any combination that works best for you. Once you find the back routine that’s right for you, you will be well on the way to keeping your back strong and healthy and preventing injuries that can disrupt your life.
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