6 at-home workouts to strengthen your back, improve posture, and relieve back pain
- At-home back-strengthening workouts, like planks and bridges, use your body weight to build muscle.
- Strengthening your back not only improves posture but also prevents or eases common back pain.
Having an achy back is incredibly common — about eight in ten people experience back pain at some point in their lives. Doing back strengthening exercises like bridge and chair pose is one of the best ways to fight off back pain and prevent injuries.
"If you want to strengthen your back, you must focus on strengthening the muscles around your back to support you," says Tatiana Lampa CPT, a corrective exercise specialist and the founder of the Training with T App.
Here are the specific back muscles you should be strengthening along with six at-home workouts you can easily incorporate into your daily routine to reduce back pain.
"A plank will build strength into your core, which is essential for strengthening your back," Lampa says. If your core is weak, you will have less muscular support for your back and you may end up with lower back pain and poor posture.
To get into a plank, follow these steps:
- Get into a tabletop position on your hands and knees on the floor. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders and your knees hip width apart.
- Step your feet back and straighten your legs so you're supported by the balls of your feet.
- Engage your abdominal muscles and hold the position, keeping your back straight.
Depending on your core strength, you can hold the plank for 10 to 30 seconds and aim for two or three sets.
Note: If this position is hurting your wrists, you can also try a low plank by lowering onto your forearms. You can also drop your knees to the floor if you need a less demanding version.
2. Side plank
A side plank works to strengthen your oblique muscles, which help with rotating and stabilizing your spine.
To get into a side plank:
- Start by getting into a regular plank position.
- Lift up your right hand and rotate your body so that the front of your body faces the right side.
- Place your right hand on your right hip.
- Roll your left foot so that you're supported by the outer edge of the foot.
- Lift up your right foot and rest it on top of the left.
- Engage your oblique muscles on each side of your abdomen and hold the position.
- Just like regular plank, you can adjust this position so you're resting your left forearm on the floor instead of your hand.
- Repeat the same exercise on the other side.
Like a regular plank, try to hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds on each side and work up to two or three reps.
Strong obliques are important to keep your spine moving — they're the muscles that allow you to bend sideways and twist your torso.
3. Bird dogs
"Bird dogs are one of my favorite low back friendly exercises that strengthen your core and glutes," Lampa says.
Your gluteal muscles are essential for a healthy back — they help stabilize your pelvis and lower back as you walk and move around.
To do bird dog exercises, follow these steps:
- Start in a tabletop position with your hands and knees on the floor.
- While engaging your abs, lift up your left arm and extend it forward in line with your shoulder.
- Then lift your right knee and extend your leg backward so your foot is at the height of your hip.
- Hold this pose for a few seconds while keeping your abs and glutes engaged.
- Lower your arm and leg and repeat the same process on the other side.
Try doing eight to ten reps on each side and repeat the whole process for two or three sets, depending on how your body feels.
The superman exercise works to strengthen your glutes and lower back and may help ease lower back pain.
Because the superman involves extending your spine, it can also help strengthen the erector spinae muscles along your spine.
To do the superman, follow these steps:
- Lie face down on the floor with your arms extended forward above your head and your legs straight out behind you.
- At the same time, lift your arms and legs a few inches upward so that they're parallel to the floor.
- Hold this position for five seconds, keeping your abs and back muscles engaged.
- Slowly lower your arms and legs back to the ground.
- Repeat the pose ten times.
"A glute bridge is actually an amazing, and super simple exercise to do to strengthen your back," Starkman says. It targets muscles on the backside of your body like the erector spinae and latissimus dorsi, says Starkman.
Bridge is also "a great low back friendly exercise for anyone who is coming from an injury or looking to build strength," Lampa says. This is because your glutes are doing most of the work and taking strain off of your lower back.
To get into bridge position, do the following:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, about hip width apart.
- Put your hands flat on the floor at your sides and make sure your fingertips can brush the backs of your heels.
- Lift up your hips while pressing down through your feet and the palms of your hands.
- Tuck your chin slightly toward your chest so your neck isn't straining.
- Hold this position for 10 to 30 seconds while engaging your thighs and glutes.
- Lower down slowly and repeat for two or three sets.
6. Chair pose
You may recognize chair pose from yoga — it can strengthen the muscles that stabilize your lower back, including your glutes and core, Starkman says.
Holding the pose can help build endurance in your lower back muscles, which is important because "back injuries tend to happen when our muscles are reaching their fatigue point," Starkman says.
Follow these steps to get into chair pose:
- Stand with your feet about hip-width apart.
- Lift your arms up over your head and hold them parallel to each other.
- Bend your knees and sit your butt backward as if you're going to sit in a chair. Keep your back straight and avoid arching your lower back.
- Lean your upper body slightly forward so it makes a right angle with your thighs.
- Hold the pose for 30 seconds to one minute.
Try to do this pose twice per day or work up to three sets.
Strengthening your back is important to help you develop proper posture, bend and twist easily, and prevent injury.
Exercises like bridge, superman, and plank can all help strengthen your core, upper, and lower back.
"Starting something new is never easy, but even if you start with a 5-minute routine, two times a week, that's something," Starkman says.
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