Have you ever been told that your aches and pains can be fixed by strengthening your core? Did you try to do a bunch of abdominal exercises as a solution for low back pain?
Although the two solutions offered in the video above can be a part of the puzzle involving back, hip, and/or shoulder pain, we do not often hear about back exercises unless someone is talking about posture.
Posture or alignment are very important for your overall health. Yet another fantastic reason to work on your back strength is to help re-balance your muscular system and thus help promote a pain-free body.
I would like to share the 5 best at-home exercises to increase mobility and strength in your back.
Prone Cactus Arms
Come to lie on your tummy with your forehead resting on a towel. Place your arms straight out from your shoulders with a 90-degree bend at your elbows. Your hands are resting on the ground.
Inhale into the sides and back of your ribcage and exhale by pressing your pubic bone into the ground to help bring your pelvis into neutral.
Keeping that position, on your next breath lift only your hands off the ground. If that went well, lift both of your arms and hands off the ground and hold for 3 to 5 seconds. Repeat this exercise 5 to 8 times.
Bolstered Cactus Arms
This time you will lay prone on a yoga bolster or a stack of firm blankets. You will place your head just off the bolster. You may rest your head on a block or pillow or your hands for comfort.
Repeat the Cactus arm lift that you executed above while keeping your pubic bone pressed into the bolster as well as keeping your feet on the floor. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds. Repeat 5 to 8 times.
Floating Superman with a Bolster for Support
Utilize the same face down position on the bolster and the same pressing of the pubic bone into the bolster to stabilize yourself. The first stage of this exercise is to reach your arms out in front of you to the degree that is comfortable for your shoulders and hover the arms in the air for 3 to 5 seconds.
Notice if this tugs on your low back. If so, then re-try to lift with a bit more focus on pushing your pubic bone into the bolster. If you succeed without back issues, then proceed to the next step. Otherwise, continue to work on the superman arms.
Stage two is to add the legs in a lift or hover. You may want to test a very brief lift. If it is too much to lift your legs, it is very worthwhile to imagine you are going to lift your legs and hold.
This connection from your brain to your legs will activate your back muscles. Over time, you will find you are ready to lift your legs. Do this exercise 3 to 6 times.
The Challenge of Bolstered Swimming
This final exercise on the bolster is only appropriate if the superman exercise felt good for you – not necessarily easy, but doable. In swimming, you will start by keeping your feet on the ground while you experiment with reaching overhead as in superman.
This time you will flutter your arms as if they were slapping the water. You will wiggle and move a bit because your shoulders will be moving. If you are comfortable, you will then float your legs and flutter them as well for your next try. Flutter your arms and legs for short bursts 3 to 5 times.
Cobra with Boundaries Is Easier Than You Think
Begin flat on the floor with your hands just next to your breasts at your sides. You will be looking directly at the floor. Tuck your chin as if you were holding a lemon or lime between your chin and your neck. The tops of your feet will be resting on the floor and they will not lift.
Prepare by inhaling, and on your exhale press your pubic bone into the mat. On the next breath, energetically drag your hands back without moving them, and begin to lift your sternum off the ground. Do not look up. Keep the fruit under your chin for the entire exercise. Lower back down and find your set up again.
On this breath, imagine trying to draw your sternum forward and up the smallest amount. This is like thinking of a laser beam on your breast bone and trying to shine it towards the place where the wall ahead of you meets the floor. You may be able to move the laser beam up the wall a bit. That is all!
We are wanting to extend our thoracic spine and by nature, it does not have the amount of extension you think you see in a Yoga Journal cover photo. That is mostly head and lumbar flexion.
None of us need to practice those two movements repeatedly. Try making this modification if you are a yoga practitioner and see how you feel.
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What exercises have you tried to strengthen your back? Have they caused you pain? What handy tools do you use for exercising your back? Please share with our community!