WHAT CAUSES BACK ACHES?
"My back hurts!"—who hasn't ever spoken these words or suffered from some sort of pain in the lumbar region? Lumbago is a frequent occurrence that impacts all of us at least once in our lives. But how are back pains caused?
Our spinal column is subjected to considerable stress every day. In most cases, back pains are mechanical in origin. They can be triggered by muscular contractions, troubles with the joint between two vertebrae (herniated disc or spondylolisthesis), osteoarthritis (which can occur after the age of 40), all which can contribute to back pain.
Back pain can occur when you remain immobile in the wrong position or when making a wrong movement while performing some sort of activity (known as lumbago, a sudden and intense pain in the lower back), or in case of physical impact or repetitive movements. Other contributing factors are: lack of physical activity (lumbar muscles lacking in tone, lack of tone in the abdominal muscles, hamstrings not limber), obesity, stress, etc.
The fragile nature of the lumbar region requires special care be paid to it. Located in the lower back, the lumbar muscles play a major role in supporting the spinal column. This is why a muscular back will help prevent and relieve pressure on the spinal column's bones and joints.
WHICH EXERCISES SHOULD YOU TO DO PREVENT BACK PAIN?
Here are 4 exercises to strengthen the muscles in your lower back, designed by François, our body-building expert. These simple and effective exercises can be easily performed at home. We recommend using a mat for the floor exercises to stay comfortable while working out. To experience the benefits of these exercises, do them 2 to 3 times a week.
- Each sequence of exercises should be performed together as a set. Do each set 4 times, for a total workout time of 15-20 minutes.
- Perform each individual exercise for 40 seconds, with 30 seconds of recovery between each one.
- Finish your session with 3 minutes of stretches.
Note: These basic exercises are not recommended for those with excessive curvature of the spine. If in doubt, please first consult your doctor.
EXERCISE 1: FLOOR BACK EXTENSIONS
- Targeted muscles: lumbar (lower back)
- Performing the exercise: Lie prone on your stomach, face down, arms alongside the body. If needed, place a towel under your forehead to be more comfortable. Inhale, then exhale while simultaneously lifting your bust and legs off the ground. Return to your starting position.
- Breathing: Inhale at your starting position, exhale while contracting your muscles.
- Safety tips: Remember to tuck in your stomach to tighten your ab muscles and protect your back throughout the entire exercise.
- Reps: Repeat for 40 seconds.
EXERCISE 2: ARM/OPPOSITE LEG LIFTS
- Targeted muscles: lumbar (lower back)
- Performing the exercise: Lie prone on your stomach, face down, arms extended in front of your head. Inhale, then exhale while simultaneously lifting one arm and the opposite leg together; be sure to lift your entire leg off the floor, with your toe pointed towards the floor. Return to your starting position.
- Breathing: Inhale at your starting position, then exhale while raising your leg and arm.
- Safety tips: Do not try to lift your limbs too high. Smaller movements are sufficient to work out your back muscles.
- Reps: Repeat for 40 seconds on each side.
EXERCISE 3: FLAT BACK
- Targeted muscles: lumbar, dorsal, deltoid muscles.
- Performing the exercise: Stand upright, legs slightly bent, raise arms above your head so they extend your torso. Focus on making yourself taller as you perform this exercise. Bend your body at the waist until your bust is parallel to the floor (keep back straight). Hold the position for 10 seconds then return to an upright position while keeping your back straight.
- Breathing: Inhale at the starting position, exhale as you lower your bust.
- Safety tips: Take care to never round or curve your back. Remember to tuck in your stomach to tighten your ab muscles and thus protect your back throughout the entire exercise.
- Reps: repeat for 40 seconds.
EXERCISE 4: PLANK
- Targeted muscles: transverse and rectus abdominals.
- Performing the exercise: Prone, facing the floor, lean on elbows and toes, lift your pelvis slightly so that your body is in a straight line. Your elbows should be directly below your shoulder joints. Be sure to tuck in your stomach as much as you can without cutting off your breathing.
Variation: To perform this exercise more easily, rest on your knees instead of your toes, while keeping your pelvis forward.
- Breathing: Slow, deep and controlled. Inhale through your nose, exhale slowly through your mouth.
- Safety tips: Be sure not to lower your pelvis too far, and take care to contract your abs to avoid lower back pains.
- Reps: Hold the plank position for 40 to 60 seconds, depending on your fitness level.
BACK ROLL, EXTENDED ARMS
- Targeted muscles: lumbar, hamstrings.
- Performing the exercise: Stand up straight, legs parallel. Gradually roll your back forward, head relaxed. Lower your upper body as low as you can. Touch the floor with your hands, if you can. To further isolate your hamstrings, try this variation: Lay down on your back, legs straight. Using an elastic strap (or towel), gradually pull your leg (keep it stiff) towards you without lifting your bottom or pelvis off the floor.
- Breathing: slowly and deeply.
- Safety tips: Bend your legs slightly if the stretches are too painful. Keep the weight of your body on the front of your legs.
- Reps: Hold the position for 20 seconds, then slowly unroll your back. Rest for 10 seconds. Repeat the exercise 3 times.
HOLLOW/ROUND BACK ON ALL FOURS
- Targeted muscles: the lower muscle chain (buttocks, lower back and pelvic muscles).
- Performing the exercise: On your exercise mat, get on all fours with your hands below your shoulders and your back straight. Inhale, then hollow your back by letting your spinal column fall downward. Don't force the movement (keep your stomach muscles relaxed). When you've stretched as far as you can in this position, inhale as you tuck in your stomach and push your back out to make it round (round your spinal column and neck).
- Breathing: Inhale as you let your back fall down, exhale as you push your back out.
- Safety tips: Keep your body aligned throughout the entire exercise.
- Reps: Slowly alternate between hollow (down) and round (up) positions for 90 seconds.
TAKING IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL - THE ROMAN CHAIR/EXTENSION BENCH: THE PERFECT MACHINE FOR BUILDING BACK MUSCLE
You've just finished reading 4 exercises to build and stretch your lower back muscles effectively. To take things to the next level and train regularly, you might want to invest in a roman chair (extension bench), a fitness machine specially designed to strengthen your lower back. Here are 2 exercises that you can do daily using that equipment.
EXERCISE 1: LUMBAR EXTENSION
- Targeted muscles: the muscles of the back side of the lower back.
- Performing the exercise: Stretch out on the bench up to just below the belly, lock your legs in place using the ankle supports, and place your hands on each side of your head. Your pelvis should be forward, on the edge of the bench. Slowly lower your torso as far as you can in a controlled movement (take 3-4 seconds to lower your body). This is your starting position. Inhale deeply, then exhale as you fully raise your upper body.
- Breathing: Inhale at the low position, then exhale as you raise your bust.
- Safety tips: Draw your belly button in towards your spine to protect your back. Perform this movement smoothly and without jerky movements. Raise your upper body until it is lined up with your legs (horizontally).
- Reps: 4 sets of 10 reps each.
Note: To make this exercise easier, cross your arms across your chest.
EXERCISE 2: STATIC LUMBAR WORKOUT
- Targeted muscles: the muscles of the back side of the lower back (lumbar), the shoulder blade tendons.
- Performing the exercise: Stretch out on the bench, until just below the belly, and lock your legs using the ankle supports. Your pelvis should be forward, on the edge of the bench. Hold a weight in each hand (dumbbell, disc weight), and extend your arms horizontally. Inhale, contract your ab muscles, then exhale as you lift your arms upward. Return to your starting position. Repeat the movement.
- Breathing: Inhale in the low position, exhale as you extend your arms above your head.
- Safety tips: Draw your belly button in towards your spine to protect your back. Perform this exercise smoothly without sudden or jerky movements.
- Reps: 4 sets of 10 reps, with 45 seconds of recovery between each set.
You now know a few exercises to strengthen your back muscles. Do them as regularly as you can to prevent back pain and make your back more limber!