Authored by Julia Drake – Fitness Instructor at Hilton Head Health
Every weight loss journey has its roadblocks, barriers, and challenges; for a lot of people, a common roadblock is low back pain. These aches can often make sticking to an exercise plan a difficult challenge. The good news is sometimes exercising can actually help reduce current back pain, and prevent future aches from even occurring. The key is the type of exercise. The map around this roadblock draws a line directly to strength exercises.
If we have ruled out muscle sprains, strains, or any spinal injury, sometimes our lower back pain can be from muscle weakness. The muscles surrounding the spine are responsible for being strong enough to protect the spine. If these muscles are weak, the spine’s protection is compromised, which could lead to low back pain. Our posterior muscles surrounding the low back protect our spine, but another (often surprising) important muscle for spinal protection and to prevent low back pain, is our core muscles.
Before performing any core strengthening exercise, we must first engage the core muscles. At Hilton Head Health, we like to use imagery. If you act as if you are coughing or blowing out birthday candles, you might feel a tightness in your tummy. That tightness is your core muscles activating. In order to engage those activated core muscles, hold that tightness. Another way to engage these core muscles is actively sucking your belly button into your spine, and holding it there. Use these tips to engage your core when performing each of the three strength exercises below to prevent low back pain from either a chair or on the floor.
We have small muscles in our low back attached to our spine called the multifidus muscles, which is named the “smallest yet most powerful muscles to support the spine*”. These muscles are said to activate even before your body starts a movement (like lifting a heavy box from the floor) to create a strong protective shield around the spine. Sometimes these muscles can “fall asleep” from lack of use or muscle weakness, which could contribute to low back pain. The Bird Dog is a great exercise to start with because it “wakes up” these multifidus muscles. The more we practice waking up the multifidus muscles, the less likely they will fall asleep!
To perform the bird dog standing:
To perform the bird dog on the mat:
Do this exercise at least 10 times on each side.
In order to protect the spine and prevent low back pain, all the muscles surrounding the spine must work together to act as a strong protective shield. This exercise strengthens both the posterior muscles AND the core muscles, at the same time.
To perform the bridge standing (also called a hip hinge):
To perform the bridge on the mat:
Do this exercise at least 10 times.
Our core is our support system for the body. These muscles play a major role in almost every movement the body performs; anywhere from sitting up straight, to getting up off the floor. The body depends on these muscles to do a lot of work. If our core is weak and cannot support the demands of our body’s every day movements, other muscles must take over. These muscles are often the low back muscles, leading to low back pain over time. The plank is one of the best exercises for strengthening the core, and it is also one of the most challenging. Start at whatever level for however long, because any amount of time in your plank (with proper form, of course) is a great core workout!
To perform the plank standing:
To perform the plank on the mat:
Hold this exercise for as long as you can, aiming for 2 minutes. Once you can reach 2 minutes, try the Extra Challenge!
Fitness Instructor at Hilton Head Health