As we get older our bodies start to breakdown and the most common injury reported among older people is lower back pain. Therefore, it’s important to do everything you can to prevent lower back pain.
There’s a common saying in the fitness community: “Movement is Life.” It’s a simple way of saying that living a sedentary lifestyle that we’ve become so accustomed to is detrimental when it comes to our long-term health.
So naturally, when you feel a twinge or ache in your lower back your first reaction is to lay down on ice and avoid bending over. In some instances, this may be the right solution but to prevent these aches and pains from becoming a chronic issue you must take a step back and look at what is the underlying factor causing the issue.
The low back is a cog in a much larger system known as the posterior chain and it reaches from the hamstrings up through the lower back and into the core and mid to upper back. If any part of this system is weak you may wind up feeling pain or straining a muscle in any area throughout the posterior chain.
To fix this we need to focus on strengthening three key areas that make up the posterior chain to prevent any future lower back pain. Here are a few simple exercises that can help you maintain a healthy lower back for years to come!
Typically, when you think of strength training the legs you most likely think about bulging quadriceps and heavy squats. While squatting contributes to muscle development in the legs, the muscles in your lower body that are responsible for most of your daily movement are the hamstrings.
Tight hamstrings can make it difficult to bend over to pick something up and in athletes whose sport involves sprinting, hamstring injuries are very common as a result of being under trained.
At home, a simple exercise to build your hamstrings is the Glute Bridge. You don’t need any equipment and there are plenty of variations to try once you feel confident with the basic bridge.
At the gym, take advantage of the Glute Hamstring Raise machine if you’re a more advanced exerciser, however if you’re fairly new to the gym try the Romanian Deadlift. The key here is to put a slight bend in your knees and keep your back flat as you lower towards the ground.
Choose a weight that isn’t too strenuous and allows for a slow controlled motion through the complete movement. This can be done with a barbell, dumbbells, or kettlebell.
Like we pointed out earlier, when you experience lower back pain it seems logical to avoid strength training. But instead, to prevent lower back pain we want to follow the thinking of “motion is lotion” and get the body used to the hinging movement pattern that is so common in day to day activity.
A common at home exercise that can be done to strengthen the lower back is the Superman. Like the glute bridge, it doesn’t require any equipment and can be easily progressed to be more challenging.
The best exercise to work the lower back at the gym is the Kettlebell Swing. Most gyms these days have kettlebells ranging from very light to heavy weight so pick the one that works for you.
If your gym doesn’t have a kettlebell you can do a swing with a dumbbell as well. The benefit of the kettlebell swing is that it will target your entire posterior chain with just one movement.
When you think of the word “core” you most likely think of a super model sporting six-pack abs. Abs do play a role in the core, but they do not complete it.
The core is comprised of a group of muscles that includes the abs as well as the obliques and the thoracis muscles. A strong core will help you carry heavy objects, pick things up overhead, and brace yourself during sudden impact. Needless to say, the core is important to preventing or eliminating lower back pain.
To train the core at home you have a couple of options. If you prefer to go equipment-less then choose the Plank and be sure to incorporate some Side Plank variations from time to time as well. If you have the option, you can fill some buckets with water, sand, gravel, etc. and do a few laps of Farmer’s Carries.
These same exercises can be done at the gym with – you guessed it – weight to increase the difficulty.
Lower back health is essential for living a balanced and exciting life. From bending over to pick up your grandchildren to hitting 18 holes out on the golf course, the lower back is involved in nearly all daily activity.
The next time you feel lower back pain don’t take it as a sign that you need to rest, use it as a sign to take some extra time out of your day to use the exercises mentioned about to strengthen your lower back and live your healthiest life.
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