Back suffers the most because of the hours spent hunched over laptops or slumped before the computers. And, the hours you spent at home hunched over the smartphones will certainly does no favors. In fact, the back pain and stiffness is one of the most common health problems. And, still, back is one of the biggest muscle groups, we are guilty of ignoring. The importance of back strengthening exercises stretch further than the aesthetics. Along with improving your posture, these muscles are also crucial for maintaining functional movement.
There is no movement that you do in the whole day, which doesn’t involve your back. From leaning over the washbasin after brushing your teeth to tying your shoelaces, from carrying your backpack around to putting your luggage in the overhead bin on flights. The back is used in every movement. So, it is about time, you start taking care of your back, which is one of the most commonly injured parts of the body for all age groups.
Here, are five back exercises that will target your entire back including the lats, lumbar, rhomboids and the spinal erector muscles that surround, stabilize and support the spine. And, the best part is that you don’t need any equipment.
Reverse Snow Angels
Lie on the floor with face down on the floor, arms at your sides and palms facing down. Raise your shoulders and hands few inches off the ground by squeezing your shoulder blades together, engaging your lats and rhomboids in your mid-back. While, keeping your head facing down, in a slow and controlled motion, bring your arms up past your shoulders and up to your ears until your thumbs meet directly above your head. Then, slowly and in controlled movement, bring your arms back to the starting position. Please note that it is important that you keep the arms straight and elbows locked through the entire movement. This will engage your lats and shoulders.
If beginners are finding it hard to do, the exercise they can do, without compromising on the form is to move the arms only halfway so that they are even with your shoulders.
Lie on the bench, face down in such a way that the crease of your hip is at the end of the bench. Your hands should be firmly engaged on the underside of the bench for support and your feet should be resting on the ground. Now, while engaging your abdominals, glutes, hips and spinal erectors in your lower back, straighten out your legs, and slowly raise them up. At the top of the movement, your toes should be pointed away from your body and above your head. Hold this static position for five seconds by squeezing nearly every muscle in your body. Allow your feet to drop slightly below the bench, but don’t land them on the ground. Do four more repetitions and repeat for two more sets. There should be 30-60 seconds of rest between sets. Those, who find it difficult to do this exercise, can move their hips slightly up the bench, so that the trunk is better supported.
Lie on the ground facedown with your chin on the surface and eyes at the neutral gaze. The ankles should be touching and the toes should be pointed out and should touch the ground. Stretch your arms straight out above your shoulders, your palms should be resting flat on the ground. Now, engage your back, glutes and shoulder to pull your lower and upper body few inches off the floor. Your arms and legs should remain equally contracted so that your hands and feet are elevated to the same relative height at the top of the static hold position. You have to engage your body to hold this position like Man of Steel. Make sure that you are breathing. Depending on your fitness level, hold the static position for at least two to five seconds per repetition. Again, depending on your fitness level, perform between five and ten repetitions and possibly two or three sets.
Those who have the beginners’ fitness level and find it hard to do this movement can opt for a slight modification in the exercise form. They can raise and lower the opposite arm and leg simultaneously in the same fashion as the “Superman.” Hold the static position for 5 seconds, and try to go for 3 sets of 10 reps with a 1-minute rest.
With feet slightly wider than your shoulder width and firmly planted on the ground, stand up straight with your hands on your hips. To start the movement, engage your core, push your ribs down and pinch your shoulder blades slightly back with a neutral neck position. Bend forward at the waist in a slow and controlled movement, while keeping your shoulders in line with your hips. Throughout the exercise, keep your back, core, glutes and hamstrings engaged. Continue bending forward until you are parallel, or just above parallel to the floor. Once you reach this position, start bringing yourself back to the starting position, again the movement should be slow and controlled. Repeat for 3 sets of 10-15 reps, with a 30-60 second rest between sets.
During the exercise, ensure that you perform the exercise with the perfect form. The common mistake made while doing this exercise is rounding the back, which results in a loss of the neutral spine position. This could lead to a back injury and would also compromise on the results.
The beginners can opt to do the seated good mornings instead. Sit on a chair or on the edge of the bench, with your shoulders over your hips and legs bent at a 45 degree angle. The feet should be firmly planted on the ground and hands should be on the hips. Engage your core and slightly pull your shoulders back. Start bending forward until you hit the 45 degree angle, then start moving back to the starting position.
The Headstand (Not a Yoga Pose)
No, this is not the headstand yoga pose. This is a difficult and extremely challenging exercise that even gym rats approach with caution. In this advanced exercise, for the starting position, you will assume the push-up position with your feet up against the wall. Now, while keeping your core tight, hips flexed and spine neutral, walk your feet up the wall. Keep your hands firmly on the ground, just outside the shoulder width as you begin to move them towards the wall. The top of the position is achieved when your nose and toes are touching the wall. The hands should be firmly on the ground and the core should be engaged. Once you have achieved this position, start returning to the starting position by slowly walking your hands away from the wall in a controlled movement. Do as many repetitions as your fitness level allows. Similarly, rest period should be between 30 to 60 seconds depending on your fitness level.
There is no modification of this exercise that could be suited for the beginners. The reason being that this exercise is not for the starters. Only, those who have been working out for years and have developed advanced fitness level should try to do this exercise.