When you’re suffering with back pain, often the recommendation is to perform exercises in order to strengthen the muscles in your back. This can often seem like unhelpful advice as, you’ll know if you’ve ever been to the gym, it takes time and patience to build muscle and strength. Unlike treatment or painkillers which would help to take the pain away probably immediately, strengthening can be very time consuming and take weeks. Maybe you’ve tried exercises in the past and made you worse or they just didn’t help, often the key is seeking treatment in the first instance to relieve pain if the problem is very acute and is flaring, or having patience with building strength and be more consistent with the exercises. Today we’re going to talk about the most effective way to strengthen your back and core.
Before you start with any exercises to strengthen your back or core, you need to first learn how to activate your core muscles. It’s something you hear endlessly in exercise classes but if you’ve never been taught how to activate your core, you might be wondering why this would be necessary. Well the answer is actually really important.
What Exercises Do We Recommend To Strengthen The Core?
To help with progressing the strength of your core, we often prescribe our patients exercises known as Bird Dog or Dead Bugs. To perform a bird dog, you’ll need to be kneeling on all fours with your weight balanced in the middle, hands should be underneath the shoulders and legs hip-width apart. Activate your core and simultaneously lift your right arm and left leg keeping your core and entire middle section stable. To do the exercise correctly, you’ll need to keep your hips parallel to the floor with no rotation occurring in the hips as you lift. Hold for a couple of seconds, and gently lower back to the starting position and repeat with the opposite side. The exercise helps to further strengthen your core and helps to stabilise your lower back as well.
To perform Dead Bugs, you’ll need to lie on your back on the floor. Hold your arms out towards the ceiling, bring your legs up too but bent at the knee at a 90 degree angle. This is the starting position for the exercise, but you’ll also need to make sure that your back is completely flat against the floor – there shouldn’t be any space to put a hand between your back and the floor. Engage your core and slowly, with controlled movement, lower your right arm and left leg at the same time. Exhale as you lower until the arm and leg are just above the floor, or as far as you can without raising your back off the floor. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat using your opposite arm and leg. If lowering both an arm and a leg is difficult, try instead just lowering one arm or one leg, or both arms at first, and see if you can complete the exercise without arching your back at all. If you’re struggling to do the exercise without separating your back from the floor, you’ll need to adjust the exercise slightly to accommodate for your fitness level.
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