After many years of being an active sportsman, pressure of work and a young family resulted in me suddenly stopping active sport. I didn’t need to strengthen my back particularly, because I was still in reasonable shape. For a couple of years, I remained in active employment, so I maintained some semblance of core strength. But I was made redundant, and started working from home. This was great in one way, but bad in another because I took less and less exercise.
I found that my back got weaker. I used to get alignment problems, which for those that have suffered from bad backs, will know how debilitating it can be.
So, back to how to strengthen your back!
In my experience, the first thing you have to do is ensure that your back is straight to start with. If there are underlying problems, no amount of strengthening will do any good. I personally have used Osteopaths for this, although I have discovered a good physio who uses something called the Bowen Technique, which I found to be very effective.
Having ensured that my back was straight and free from problems, I started on a routine of 5 minute a day exercises which have kept my back in trim for the last 18 months. So much so, that I am now able to play basketball and football with my son; something that was impossible 2 years ago. Well, not impossible, but without the lower back strengthening, I would have been out of action for months afterwards!
The routine is simple. I will go through the steps below:-
1. Lie on the floor on your back. Bend your knees, and cross your legs. Let your legs fall to one side (still crossed), so that you are lying on your side. Gently send your uppermost arm in the opposite direction to the way you are lying. Do not force it if it won’t go. Bring your legs back to centre, cross the other way, and let your legs fall down to the other side, Bring your other arm across, away from your body. You might hear a click, or an ‘event’. Do not worry about this. This exercise is brilliant for keeping the back straight.
2. I start with an exercise known only to me as ‘superman’. Lie on the floor on your front. Lift one arm and stretch it out above and to the side of you. At the same time, lift the OPPOSITE leg up and straight. So, if you can imagine Superman in flight, right arm up and pointed straight ahead, left leg up and straight behind; both raised away from the floor. Hold this for 10, then do the same with the opposite arm and leg. In other words, now with your left arm and right leg. Hold for 10, then repeat both. You might find that you are unable to lift arms and legs far off the ground at first. Don’t worry. Just don’t strain yourself. You will get more mobility as your back gets stronger.
3. Turn over on your back. Pull one knee up to your chest and hold. This is just a stretch. Hold for 10, and the do the other leg. Then repeat both.
4. Bring both legs up to your chest, and exhale. Hold for 10. Do this once only
5. With your knees bent, do two sets of sit ups to strengthen your abdominals. I realise that we are strengthening your lower back, but strengthening your abs does help in this respect. Do 10 sit ups, rest, and then repeat. Do not strain yourself.
6. Lie on your back and lift one leg up in the air. Try and keep it straight. Clasp your hands behind your knee and pull the leg gently towards you. We are stretching the hamstrings. Remember, do not strain yourself. Do the other leg and then repeat.
It takes 5 minutes, and for me, it has done wonders for my core strength and mobility. And repeated use over a period of time does wonders for your lower back toning.
Incidentally, if you struggle to raise yourself off the floor after lying down, place both hands under the small of your back and push down, You should be able to raise your body up easily and pain free.
5 minutes a day is all it takes to strengthen and tone your lower back with these simple exercises that you can do on the floor at home.