According to the American Chiropractic Association, around 31 million Americans experience lower back pain at one time in their lives. Moreover, back pain is also the most common reason for missed work. One-half of working Americans claim to have had back pain as a cause of work-related activities.
The human back is one of the most complex systems in the human body. It is full of joints, bones, muscles, and ligaments - all of which have to work in unison at any given moment and can easily sprain, rupture, strain, or irritate if used in unorthodox or stressful ways. Plus, even minor irritations can lead to significant back pain with devastating effects.
Apart from work-related instances, back pain can be caused by poor posture, obesity, or even old sports injuries. The human back is so abused and misunderstood that it is the third most common reason for visits to the doctor's office and is estimated to cost Americans around $50 billion in healthcare costs per year.
MY NECK, MY BACK (MUSCULAR-SKELETAL EDIT)
There are some simple back exercises one can do to help eliminate back pain or prevent it before it starts. Your back is a vital part of what keeps you upright, but unfortunately, many of us do not give it much notice unless it is causing us pain.
Moreover, our back tends to put up with a lot, despite its complex composition, and it is a system which can endure poor posture, lack of proper stretching, little-to-no exercise, and lots of awkward straining without too much complaint.
But, by and far, few of us, besides fitness geeks and muscle heads, even consider working out our backs. Instead, we focus on arm, legs, abs, shoulders, and maybe necks. However, many experts believe that back pain could be mitigated if the average American followed some simple protocols and exercise routines.
For instance, it is crucial to maintain a healthy diet and weight by remaining active. You should also avoid sitting or lying in the same position for extended periods of time. Moreover, it is recommended that you warm up and stretch before any physical activity, such as running or even gardening.
Proper posture is also essential, and for women with back pain, ditch those heels and go with flat shoes until your back can heal itself, experts say. But, perhaps most importantly, you should exercise your back a least a couple of times per week.
THE 7 BEST BACK EXERCISES FOR BEGINNERS
Giving your back a little love is all you really need to do because, after all, it controls the head, neck, shoulders, arms, legs, hips, and feet, and it is a central part of your body’s core. It helps to control your balance, movement, mobility, and confidence, as a strong back allows a person to walk with their head held high, literally. Plus, the muscles in your back also help serve a much more critical role regarding self-preservation; they protect your spine.
Concerning general fitness, though, you do not need to be a bodybuilder to want or achieve and stronger back, and, according to Fitness Magazine online, here are some basic back exercises to get you going.
Start with a simple stretching exercise called the Cobra, which is meant to target the lower back. Begin by lying face down with your palms down and your arms at your sides. Keep your glutes and abs tight, and try lifting your chest off from the floor, raising your arms up with your thumbs down and angling you back toward your hips.
Then, simultaneously lift your legs slightly and count to three. Try a few reps and enjoy the increased mobility you get just from stretching you back.
Seated Row with Bands
Another great back exercise for your back is called Seated Row with Bands.
You will need a set of resistance bands for this one, but you can start by sitting in a chair with your hands facing up, each holding one end of the band (the other end has hopefully been tied to a solid structure like a doorknob). Leaning slightly backward use just your arms to bring the band into your chest, bending at the elbows.
When your bands are at your chest, hold them there and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold everything in place for three seconds before returning slowly to the outstretched-arms position. Try to get in 8 to 10 reps with this one.
Moving on, you can easily raise the stakes of your back exercise workout by merely incorporating an exercise ball. Exercise balls are a natural exercise tool when working with the back, as they challenge it regarding balance, stability, and mobility.
With this exercise, start by standing upright with your feet shoulder-width apart and a 5-pound weight in both hands. Bend forward slightly at the hip, keeping your back as straight as you can.
Then, slowly raise your right leg while keeping your left leg slightly bent. Next, raise your arms out to the sides at about shoulder height. 8 to 10 reps, again, your magic number here.
Of course, the back is responsible for stability and balance, as we have discussed, so it only stands to reason that exercises that test those abilities should also be good for the back.
Rolling Ball Pull
It is with that logic in mind that we suggest the Rolling Ball Pull, in which you start by kneeling on the floor with your forearms and hands resting should-width apart on top of a stability ball.
As you gently roll the ball away from your body, you should extend your forearms, holding it steady, while you drop your chest and core toward the floor. With your back fully extend, hold the pose for three seconds and relax briefly before repeating the procedure for 8 to 10 more times.
Quadruped on Ball
Alternatively, you could go for an exercise we call Quadruped on Ball, which involves lying on top of a stability ball and extending your legs behind you with your midsection place firmly on the balls’ top. Your hands should be on the floor about shoulder-width apart when you start this exercise, and you should concentrate on maintaining your core stability.
The goal is to lift and extend the opposite arm and leg at the same time (left arm, right leg; right arm, left leg) without falling off from the ball. Get 8 to 10 reps in, and you are done for the day.
Single-Leg Row on Ball
Finally, the Single-Leg Row on Ball back exercise is sure to challenge you to a rigorous back workout. Just place your right hand and knee simultaneously on a stability ball, with your left foot on the floor for stability. The exercise begins by holding a weight in your left hand, with your palm pointed inward.
Try to keep your arms close to your body and your back as flat as you can as you squeeze in your shoulder blades, bringing your elbow back as close to your hips as you can. If you can get through 8 to 10 reps, you can cross this exercise off from your list for the day.
Of course, stretching your back and working on stability is one thing, but any athlete will tell you the only real way to protect yourself against every day back injuries to develop a powerful back and core. So, if you are into that sort of thing, here are some great back exercises for building and maintaining muscle.
Depending on how serious about getting to the gym you are, you can whip your back in shape in practically no time, but we thought we would end this list by naming an exercise you can do almost anywhere, and that will get your back ripped fast.
Pull-Ups and Chin-Ups
Pull-ups and chin-ups don’t require any special equipment, and they use every bit of your upper back and shoulder muscles to execute. Sure, they can be intimidating at first, but once you identify those muscle groups responsible for pulling one off, they do get easier. So, start with a dead hang position and pull your body up to the bar until your chin clears the top.
That’s it. That is rep one, at least. The thing to remember here is that pull-ups require an overhand grip, while chin-ups require an underhanded one. Also, the key to good form here is not to use your momentum to swing your body up, though momentum is ok if you are just starting out.
However, the goal is to get to a point where you can do 3-4 sets of 6-12 reps without using any momentum to your advantage at all.
BACK EXERCISES KEEP YOU HEALTHY
When it comes to the idea of back exercises now, we hope you have at least taken away that they are a good idea. As humans, we don’t generally give the back any of the credit it is due, and we only really pay attention to it if it hurts.
Yet a healthy back is central to good posture, mobility, movement, flexibility, and balance. And, even though we like to throw pills and new mattresses at it to keep it happy, our back still deserves a little attention in the way of exercise from time to time.
So, consider yoga, light exercise, chin-ups, or stretching today to avoid many of the hurts of tomorrow.