Today I am discussing an exercise to strengthen your back, as a healthy back is not only supple but also strong. We need a strong back to sit with good alignment, move with ease and enjoy exercise. I like this exercise because it strengthens the upper as well as the lower back.
Before strengthening muscles, however, we have to make sure they are not chronically contracted. Chronically tight muscles are weak, and need releasing first so that they can function optimally by contracting and releasing. Therefore, if your back feels weak, tight and heavy, please practise the movements described in the previous blog first.
My last blog was all about poses that release and stretch back muscles. When these muscles are tight, sitting and repetitive movements can become less comfortable and even painful. In the long run, the chronic contraction may lead to serious back problems. It is important to keep stretching your back on a regular basis, especially when you have a sedentary lifestyle or you do a lot of lifting, bending or standing — so this is for everyone really!
Once your back muscles are quite released, you can start strengthening them. Only start with the pose described below when your back is pain free. If this movement hurts it means that your back is not ready yet. The idea of “no pain, no gain” does not work when you have back pain!
To strengthen upper and lower back:
Starting in child’s pose, place your left hand on your lower back and extend the right arm in front of you. If your shoulders are tight it is better to keep your right arm bent, level with but not close to the ear. If you have a shoulder injury please keep both arms behind the back or in a position where you don’t feel pain.
Inhale and lift your right arm, head and shoulders so that the upper back straightens. The arm, even if bent, has to stay level with your head. This first movement makes your upper back muscles work. Think of lengthening forward through the crown of your head. Once your spine is straight, start lifting the whole back so you come up on your knees with the arm pointing up to the ceiling. This second part of the movement requires the lower back to work.
Exhale and start bending from the hips and lower the trunk back to the starting position. Keep the back straight as long as possible; the head and arm are the last to come down.
If the movement is hard just start with one repetition with each arm and slowly increase the repetitions to 4 or 6 with each arm. Remember to stop immediately if your back hurts. The exercise can be quite hard work, so stay in child’s pose or lie on your back for a few minutes afterwards.
Variation 1: easier
You can make this movement easier by leaving both hands behind your back, and even easier by not coming up on the knees but sitting on the ankles for the end position. If your feet hurt place a rolled towel under your ankles.
Variation 2: harder
The movement is harder when we lengthen both arms out in front. This is because you add weight to the part of your body that is lifting up, and the back muscles have to work harder to resist gravity. Remember to first straighten the back before coming up so you don’t do this movement with a rounded back.
Launch of a new programme!
I am excited about my new programme that targets weak back and abdominal muscles. It is especially for those of you with a sedentary lifestyle and a not-so-specific-exercise regime.
If you feel your back has lost its flexibility and strength, and your abs could be stronger, if you are starting to feel that daily activities such as sitting and exercise are not as carefree as they used to be, this programme is for you!
The limiting effects of a tight back hit us usually when we are over 40. We may start to feel weak and tight at the same time with a heavy back, tight leg muscles, tight hip flexors and weak abs and gluts. My new Back & Abs programme addresses these issues in 10 one-to-one sessions. The individual attention allows you to start at the level that is right for you and progress at your own pace.
In the 10-week programme you are given the basics to feel stronger, lighter and more flexible. Moreover, you will learn how to work safely for your back and with correct alignment. Because I work with the breath, you are also getting the benefit of the calming and focusing effect of these sessions.
Cost: £450 for 10 sessions, when at the Chiswick Home Studio.
Skype sessions available
If you want to know more, do email or call me!