Muscle of the Month – Lower Back

What muscles does it include?

The lower back is actually a maze of many muscles working together and connecting in different places, so it is difficult to name just one main muscle to be worked as when strengthening and stretching your lower back you will be using a collection of the following muscles:

  • Erector Spinae
  • Illiocostalis
  • Spinalis
  • Longissimus
  • Multifidious
  • Iliac Crest

Why is having a strong lower back important?

Being able to stand up straight and hold your stomach in requires strong, resilient muscles along your spine and in your lower back. The stronger these back muscles are, the easier it is for you to maintain good posture throughout the day and during any activity. Also, having a strong lower back prevents injuries during all day to day activities, such as lifting, twisting, sitting/standing for long periods, gardening or manual work, as well as helping keep you strong and helping you train in the gym.

A common thought is that ‘if it hurts leave it’ and although this can be true for a few things – you don’t like to aggravate a bruise or a cut by poking it – but when it comes to your muscles it is so important TO KEEP IT MOVING. If you don’t use it you lose it! If you have hurt your lower back for any reason it is so important that you take measures to work it gently to strengthen it and stretch it out.

Our video demonstrates several exercises, from activation through to stretches. Remember to take it slow if you’re not used to this kind of workout and ask one of our instructors in the gym if you’re not sure about anything.

How to activate the muscle?

Sit Through to Thoracic Bridge

  • Start on your hands and knees with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Flex your feet and lift up onto your hands and the balls of your feet.
  • Then lift your right hand up and bring your left leg under your body and through and place your left foot flat on the ground. Rotate your hips up toward the ceiling, squeezing your glutes to lift them up as high as you can. Really try to open your hips up toward the ceiling and squeeze your glutes to fully extend your hips.
  • With your hips lifted, reach your right hand down toward the ground, rotating your chest toward the floor. Really reach your hand toward the ground as the rest of your body opens toward the ceiling to feel a nice stretch as you rotate. Feel your glutes working to keep BOTH hips up, while you reach your hand down. Don’t let your hips drop as you rotate.
  • You should feel a nice rotation and stretch through your spine. You are twisting almost like someone wringing out a towel. Make sure though that you aren’t hyperextending your low back to bridge up but are instead squeezing your glutes.
  • Then drop your hips and step your foot back through while placing your hand back down on the ground. Rotate to the other side, bridging your hips up as high as you can.

How to train muscle?

 Straight leg deadlift

  • Grasp a bar using an overhand grip (palms facing down).
  • Stand with your torso straight and your legs spaced using a shoulder width or narrower stance. The knees should be slightly bent. This is your starting position.
  • Keeping the knees stationary, lower the barbell to over the top of your feet by bending at the waist while keeping your back straight. Keep moving forward as if you were going to pick something from the floor until you feel a stretch on the hamstrings. Inhale as you perform this movement.
  • Start bringing your torso up straight again by extending your hips until you are back at the starting position. Exhale as you perform this movement.
  • Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.

Superman  

  • Lie on your stomach with your arms extended out in front of you and your legs long.
  • Lift your hands and feet off the ground approximately 6 inches, or until you feel a contraction in your lower back.
  • Engage your core muscles by slightly lifting your belly button off the floor. Reach away with your hands and feet. Be sure to look at the floor during this exercise to avoid neck strain.
  • Hold for 2 seconds.
  • Return to starting position. Repeat 10 times.

Good mornings

  • Begin with a bar on a rack at shoulder height. Rack the bar across the rear of your shoulders as you would a power squat, not on top of your shoulders. Keep your back tight, shoulder blades pinched together, and your knees slightly bent. Step back from the rack.
  • Begin by bending at the hips, moving them back as you bend over to near parallel. Keep your back arched and your cervical spine in proper alignment.
  • Reverse the motion by extending through the hips with your glutes and hamstrings. Continue until you have returned to the starting position.

How to stretch?

Child’s pose 

  • Begin on your hands and knees on the floor, with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
  • Reach out directly in front of you, extending your arms and placing your palms flat on the floor.
  • Slowly sit your hips back toward your heels, dropping your head and chest downward as your arms extend further.
  • If this stretch is too much, place a pillow under your belly to prop yourself up a bit and lessen the stretch of the low back muscles.
  • Stay here 20 to 30 seconds or even longer

Cat/Cow

  • Begin on your hands and knees on the floor, with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
  • Your spine should be parallel to the ground in this position.
  • Then, round your back, stretching your mid-back between your shoulder blades—similar to how a cat stretches by rounding its back.
  • Hold for 5 seconds, then relax and let your stomach fall downward as you gently arch your low back and hold here for 5 seconds.
  • Repeat these movements for 30 seconds or longer.

Lying back twist

  • Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Extend your arms out to the side in a “T” position.
  • Keep your shoulders on the ground as you gently roll both knees to one side.
  • Stay here 20 to 30 seconds, then return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
  • If the stretch is too much for you, place a pillow or stack of blankets under your knees when you twist to each side.

Enjoy working on your lower back – it’s one of the most important  things you can do to prevent backache. Let us know how you get on.

 

Holly Walford

Holly Walford

Aztec Gym Instructor at TLH Leisure Resort
Holly Walford

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