Everyday activities such as bending over to clean up after the kids, and leaning over to pick something off the ground takes its toll on your back. You use your back muscles for most movements, especially when you are just simply walking. Strengthening your back will not only improve the look of your back, but also will prevent from future injuries from happening. Try these 4 simple exercises that will improve your core, and help strengthen the back:
With your abs gently contracted and hands on hips, take a big step forward with your right foot. Sink down so your right knee is at a 90-degree angle, then push back to the starting position without pausing. Repeat 8 to 12 times, then switch legs and repeat.
Advanced: Set up to do a basic lunge, but this time step your right foot out on a diagonal, not straight ahead, as if the foot is pointing to 2 o’clock on a clock face. (When you lunge with the left foot, step it out to 10 o’clock.) The change in foot placement makes it harder to balance. As you get stronger, try it with your hands interlaced behind your head or hold a dumbbell in each hand to increase resistance.
Begin on all fours, knees hip-width apart and under the hips, hands flat and shoulder-width apart. Squeeze your abdominals by pulling the belly toward spine. Keep the spine neutral, without arching the back or rotating the hips, and extend your right leg back and your left arm straight ahead. Hold for two to three seconds or as long as you can maintain form. Repeat five to six times on each side.
Gradually increase the holding time for 10 to 12 counts. For an additional challenge, add movement to the mix by slowly lifting and lowering the extended arm and leg a few inches, maintaining proper form throughout.
The Hip Bridge
Lie on your back, feet flat and hip-width apart, arms relaxed, and knees bent. Squeeze your butt as you lift your hips, creating a straight line from the knees to the shoulders. Hold for a slow count of two, then lower slowly. Build up to 10 to 12 repetitions.
Lift one foot off the floor and hold it straight up toward the ceiling, foot flexed, keeping the hips even. This is a move that is much more challenging, so try starting by holding this pose for just a few seconds. Repeat five to eight times, then switch legs.
Lie on your right side, in a straight line from head to feet, resting on your forearm. Your elbow should be directly under your shoulder. With your abdominals gently contracted, lift your hips off the floor, maintaining the line. Keep your hips square and your neck in line with your spine. Hold 20 to 40 seconds and lower. Repeat two to three times, alternating sides. (If this is too challenging, start with bent knees.)
While holding the basic position, lift and lower your top leg. Gradually work toward holding the upper leg for 5 to 10 counts. Another option: Instead of resting on your forearm, support your body with your hand, palm on the floor and under the shoulder, elbow straight.
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