Oh, my aching back! It's a complaint everyone hears regularly. The back seems to be the prime target for injuries and stress, and practically everyone will experience a back injury at some point in life. You definitely need something to tip the odds back in your favor and fortunately there are many exercises you can do that can help protect your back. Maintain a regular schedule of preventative care for the back along with your weekly workout schedule and you just may escape the curse of the bad back!
A strong body naturally supports itself with muscles depending on other muscles. The muscles responsible for supporting the back are your core or abdominal muscles, which wrap around your middle (core) and sides to help you remain upright. When you build strength in your core, you are on your way to building a better support system for the spine. This is why this foolproof plan includes movements that strengthen the abdominal muscles as well as back muscles. You will need a yoga mat to use with all three exercises.
If you already have trouble with your back or have experienced an injury to the spine, do not perform these exercises without consulting your doctor. Placing more stress on an injured spine can aggravate the damage and create more problems. Your doctor or chiropractor should be able to prescribe a wellness regimen for your back and spine that heals and strengthens at the same time. Even if you have not yet seen a medical professional or been diagnosed with a bad back, do not perform these exercises without the benefit of an expert opinion.
Superman! Building a Back of Steel
One of the best and most popular moves to strengthen the back is a yoga move known colloquially as the â€˜Superman.' You will need a thick yoga mat to kneel on. Begin on your hands and knees with your head up and slowly raise your right arm and left leg at the same time. Hold the pose for a count of ten and then slowly lower both to your starting position. Repeat with your left arm and right leg. Do this movement 25 times for each side for a total of fifty movements at least once every two days. Raising the opposite arm and leg forces your body to balance on the remaining limbs and calls your core muscles into action. Stronger core (abdominal) muscles mean a stronger back - that's why it's important to build strength in the core. To modify this move for a less flexible back, simply extend your leg out and place your toes on the floor to provide more support.
An interesting variation on Superman is to perform it on your bed. If you have a very soft mattress this may not work as well for you but by performing the exercise on a slightly unstable surface, you demand more work from your muscles and shape them up faster. Make it a part of your morning and evening routines and see your abs go from flab to fab!
Cats are supposed to be some of the smarter animals around and the flexibility and grace of felines certainly contributes to this theory. Think of a cat waking up from a nap and stretching his body. He knows his body needs the stretch to loosen and relax muscles and joints. For this exercise, begin in the same position on your yoga mat as for the Superman. Lower your head, drop your tailbone and suck your belly to your back as you round your spine into the letter "C.â€ Hold the position for a count of six and then slowly lower to your original position. Repeat the movement for three sets of 10 repetitions. This strengthens both the spine and the abdominal muscles, and increases support around the back.
Add a variation on this move by dropping your spine all the way down as you release. Lift your head at the same time and tighten your abs for a count of ten. This is known as the â€˜Cow' and also works to firm up the core and provide more care for the spine.
Deadly Cobra for Strong Backs
The final move assists with building and strengthening the same muscles as the Superman and Cat with a little more focus on creating more flexibility in the spine. Begin by lying facedown on your yoga mat. Place your hands on the floor at about shoulder height and breathe out as you press down with your hands and lift your upper body. Your head should be high and your feet should stay relatively close together in the back. Don't let your hands carry all the burden of holding you up; involve your core muscles in the job, too. Hold the pose for a count of eight; then release and repeat for three sets of ten repetitions. This is known as the Cobra pose and can work wonders for relieving tension in the upper back and shoulders.
Modifying this move by moving your hands slightly farther up from your shoulders and lifting your body as much as is comfortable
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