One of the most common physical complaints from my clients is lower back pain. For some people, this may stem from a deeper-rooted issue, such as a disc herniation, or spinal problems themselves. If you are in debilitating or chronic pain, I highly recommend finding a great physical therapist near you to be further evaluated.
For the rest of us: You might just have a weak core. And when I say core, I don’t just mean your abs. The core is made up of 29 muscles, and they do a lot when it comes to supporting your entire body. From being the basis of which we breathe from (hello diaphragm!) to aiding our extremities, the core is a ridiculously important part of your body.
Before we talk about doing any moving around, I want to touch on something known as “pelvic neutral”. Many people walk around day to day with an arch in their low back, or slumped shoulders from sitting at a desk and so on and so forth. Basically: Most people have really bad posture. And to be able to begin to strengthen these core muscles, you need to have your body in good posture. This is called pelvic neutral, which, simply stated, means having your hips even instead of tilted forward or back. There will be a cue within each movement on how to make sure you are in this. If you have access to a mirror during the exercises, even better!
Here, a few positions that might help in relieving lower back pain by helping to strengthen your core muscles. Try performing these a few times a week; you can easily work them into your regular workout routine in your warm-up or cool-down phase.
1. Bird Dog This one is my favorite. There are so many variations to change it up and keep it fun, as well as ways to progress and regress the movement as you get stronger.
- You will begin on all fours, kneeling. Place your wrists directly under your shoulders and have your knees in line with your hips.
- Pelvic Cue: No arching in your low back! You want a flat back, abs and glutes engaged throughout the entire movement. If you feel yourself slumping or arching, stop and reset.
- Extend one arm out in front, palm facing you.
- Once you can maintain this, extend the opposite leg all the way out behind you.
- Hold the pose for ~2 seconds, release and switch sides.
2. Bridge Bridges are probably the movement that people are most familiar with. This one focuses on your glutes, but again, everything is about working together!
- Lay down on your back, knees flexed and feet firmly planted on the ground.
- Squeeze your glutes tightly and lift your bottom and hips up off the floor.
- You’ll hold this for anywhere from 2-10 seconds, release and repeat.
- Pelvic Cue: You want to make sure that you are squeezing your glutes the entire time to prevent your body from sinking down during the hold.
3. Dead Bug Dead bugs incorporate something called abdominal bracing, as compared to what you may be familiar with in the fitness world, which is abdominal hollowing. Abdominal bracing requires a co-contraction of multiple deep abdominal and back muscles to support your body. This is another movement that be can be made unbelievably challenging, but only once you build up to it.
- Lay down on your back.
- Raise your arms up and back overhead (as if your holding a ball behind you).
- Flex your knees and your hips. (Your feet should be off the floor now; stay up the entire time!)
- Pelvic Cue: Your lower back must remain on the table throughout the entire movement. If it rises up (i.e. someone could put their hand under it), you’ll need to regress the movement.
- Next, begin heel taps. You will alternate sides, tapping your left heel to the table, then your right. All while keeping your low back to the table, and your arms raised overhead.
- To progress this, alternate extending each leg all the way out and then back while maintaining the same as above.
These three moves should help get you started on a strong core and a much better posture. Who doesn’t want that?!
DISCLAIMER: This should not be taken as medical advice, or as an alternative to a medical evaluation. These are movement-based suggestions and you take the suggestions at your own risk.
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