How do I Strengthen my Lower Back?

The lumbar spine area (low back) is frequently over looked when it comes to work out programs. When an athlete returns to the field after a long break, low back strains can occur because it was not address properly or at all. These strains can range from mild annoyances to a nagging injury that will last all season.

Here are a few movements you can incorporate into your work out that will keep your low back strong and flexible.

As with any work out routine, a warm up is essential. There are many options out there. From your recumbent and upright stationary bikes, treadmills and other cardiovascular machines, to jumping jacks, jogging in place and jumping rope. Anything to get your heart rate up and break a little bit of a sweat. Warm up for about 10 minutes. Remember, this is a warm up only, don’t over do it before you stretch.

Stretching. All you need is a firm, but cushioned area such as a mat or carpeted floor. I do not recommend stretching on a bed, just because I always thought they were too soft. There are a few basic stretches for the low back. I like to stretch the hamstrings first. The hamstrings are the muscle on the back of you thigh. Seated with your legs straight out in front of you, slowly reach for your toes. Hold at the point where you feel the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds, and breath normally. Never bounce into any stretch. Repeat. Next, keep one leg straight and bring the other leg to where the bottom of the foot is touching the inner thigh of the straight leg. It should resemble the position your in when you sit “crossed legged”, except for one straight leg. If your left leg is straight reach for your left toe with your right arm. This will stretch your right lower back area. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds while breathing normal and don’t bounce. Repeat and switch legs.

Prone low back extensions. Lying on your stomach, keeping your head straight, and arms at your side, bring your shoulders and top of your chest off the mat. Take care not to lift your feet off the ground. Do 3 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions, or how many you are comfortable doing. As you get stronger, increase the repetitions. While doing these movements, remember that you don’t need to over extend into a “cobra” position.

Abdominal movements. When working on the low back, the abdominal area must be addressed. Laying on your back bend your knees and place your heels into the mat. Your toes should be pointing up. Next, press your low back into the mat. If you are in proper position, the abdominals should already be in a state of contraction. From this position all you have to do is get your shoulder blades off the mat. Instead of “curling” toward your toes, go straight up. Picture a spot on the ceiling directly above you and move for it as if you were trying to touch it with your nose. Yes, I said with your nose.

This is just to insure you go up toward the ceiling instead of toward your toes. Be sure to keep your low back pressed into the mat at all times during this movement. This will insure proper pelvic tilt. Do 3 sets of 15 to 20, or as many as you can.

When your done with these movements, go back and stretch again. This routine should take you about 10 minutes, not including your warm up. If you feel any pain during any of these movements, stop and readjust your form. Good luck.

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