5 Best Back Exercises

There is no shortage of research or lack of co-workers to tell you that your chance of surviving a career in public safety without a back injury is slim to none. We are required to sit through yearly classes on proper lifting mechanics and then practice how to lift properly in a controlled environment. But the effects of sitting for long periods, poor posture, fatigue, muscle imbalances and old injuries are not accounted for. Of all the questions I get, helping to eliminate back pain is the most common. The underlying theme behind these questions is both consistent and unfortunate: 'How do I get my back stronger AFTER an injury'? Folks, the mental patient has already left the asylum, no sense shutting the door anymore!

So, instead of ranting about how the system is broken, take responsibility for yourself, be proactive, etc. I thought we could do something I actually dislike. Come up with the top 5 exercises to prevent a back injury. Why do I dislike this so much, you ask? Simple, one size does not fit all. We are all different and we all have unique but predictable patterns in our body. To choose 5 of the 'best' exercises becomes even more difficult when deciding whether to include stretching, which we should, but not in this month's column. So the 5 'best' exercises to reduce the risk of back injury in order of neuromuscular importance are

  1. Spine Segmental Stabilization
  2. Gluteus Strength/ Endurance
  3. Oblique Strength
  4. Core Strength/Endurance
  5. Shoulder Stabilization (yes, shoulders do effect your lower back).

If you perform the following exercises 3 times per week focusing on strict attention to detail and perfect form, add in some walking and stretching, you will significantly reduce the risk of injury. The exercises I included are designed to get you started on the path of postural and segmental control while building the foundation for muscular strength. Remember, strength without control is useless, control without power is inefficient. Put all the pieces together and you have taken the first step toward being responsible for your body and lessening you chance for injury.

Dog 1
Spinal Stability / Endurance

Resistance: Body Weight
Hold time: 5 progressing to 10 seconds
Repetitions: 10-15

Preparation

  • Position your body on all fours.
  • Ensure the arm is in line with the shoulder and the knee is aligned with the hip.
  • Place a bar on your back to assure proper alignment guidance. The rod should make contact with 3 points only. (head, middle back, pelvis)

Movement

  • Brace your abdominals retract the cervical spine. (Neutral Spine Position)
  • Slowly raise your hand and the opposite knee ΒΌ inch off the floor. (Hold for 5 seconds) Return to the start position repeat on the opposite side.

Tips

  • Do not rotate during movement. Use a slow transition between sides.

Progression

  • Use an unstable surface.
  • Progress hold time. (isometric)

Step Down
Gluteal, Hamstring & Pelvic Stabilization.

Resistance: Body Weight
Hold time: 2 Sec.
Repetitions: 10-15
Sets: 2-3

Preparation

  • Standing on the edge of a step (hold onto a bar or the wall if needed for balance). Brace your abdominals.

Movement

  • Perform a small step down until the foot is barely touching the floor and slowly return to the starting position. Never lock the knee, keep the abs tight and especially focus on keeping the pelvis level during the movement. Perform 2-3 sets of 10-20 reps.

Tips

  • Advance by increasing step height, adding in a hip abduction (side raise) or by eliminating a balance aid.
  • Make sure the knee stays in line with the foot and that the foot does not roll in during the descent.

Lateral Plank
Obliques-Abs-Spine

Resistance: Body Weight
Hold time: Endurance (15-45 sec.)
Repetitions: Time Sets: 2-3

Preparation

  • Position yourself on your side. The foot and elbow. (frontal plane)
  • Maintain a ridged body alignment with proper head position.

Movement

  • Brace your abdominals, and maintain spinal alignment.
  • Raise your torso up off the floor, hold and repeat. Continue on the opposite side.

Tips

  • Keep the glute muscles engaged throughout the exercise. Progression
  • Perform with hip abduction.

Prone Stance Reach Under- Reach out
Everything Muscle

Resistance: Body Weight
Hold time: 2 Sec.
Repetitions: 10-12
Sets: 2-3

Preparation

  • Begin in the push up position, feet should be wider than shoulder width. Strict attention to neutral spine and a stable pelvis.

Movement

  • With your abs braced and glutes contracted reach under your body to the opposite hip, hold for 3 sec. and reach out at a 45' angle and hold for 3 sec., perform all 10-12 reps prior to switching sides.

Tips

  • It is of paramount importance to keep your pelvis still, keep your knees locked and feet still. This is a fantastic exercise that incorporates the entire abdominal wall. Imagine the stick is on your back as you perform this exercise.

Advanced

  • Increase your hold time, alternate arms, use a very light dumbbell.

Dumbell Scaption 'V'
Scapula-Rotator Cuff-Postural Stability/Endurance

Resistance: Dumbbell
Hold time: 2 sec.
Repetitions: 12-15
Sets: 2-3

Preparation

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Or lay (prone on an incline bench, prone on ball.)

Movement

  • Brace your abdominals, retract the cervical spine. (Neutral Spine Position)
  • Stabilize your arms in a straight position.
  • With your thumbs pointing up slowly raise the dumbbells out to your sides in a narrow 'V' position.
  • Return to the start position and repeat.

Tips

  • Maintain (cervical) neck retraction.
  • Be sure not to shrug. (upper trap muscles)
  • Make sure to not raise arms above ear level.

If you or your department has fitness testing for Medics please drop me a line and let me know what you do and how you do it, at bryan@fitnessprogramsplus.com.



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