Exercises to Strengthen the Lower Back

Exercises to Strengthen the Lower Back
An attack of lower back pain can shorten your backpacking trip or make a visit to the slopes a waste of time. Exercising the lower back can mean everything from using weights to a series of stretches. Strong, flexible back muscles come into play in outdoor recreational activities that range from diving underwater to scaling sheer cliffs.

Single Leg Stretch

The single leg stretch is an exercise that can be done while watching television or in the break room at the office. You only need to lie down on your back with your head and shoulders lifted off the floor. Squeeze your abs as you pull up one knee to your chest while extending the other leg up off the floor at a 45-degree angle. Do this 10 to 20 times for each leg and you will stretch those muscles that often go tight in the lower back.

Camel Stretch

The camel stretch places you on your hands and knees with your hands placed beneath your shoulders. You begin this exercise in the cat stretch position with your head hanging down, but then slowly raise your head at the same time you are raising your hips and allowing your stomach to lower toward the floor. The name is a little off because instead of ending up with a hump on your back, you want to end up with the small of your back curved inward. Hold in that position for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times.

Lat Pulldown

The lat pull is one of the best exercises for the lower back that you can perform in the gym or with a weight machine at home. This exercise develops not just the latissimus dorsi, but you can also get the benefit of building up your biceps. The exercise is done on a weight machine by pulling the lat bar or handlebars down. Adjust the bar or seat to make sure that your arms are fully extended when doing the lat pulldown. According to "Basic Weight Training for Men and Women," you should pull the bar all the way down to your collarbone to achieve maximum effect.

Back Extensions

"Basic Weight Training for Men and Women" also recommends an advanced stretching exercise that takes advantage of the dedicated back extension machine or the bench on a universal gym. You must lie face down on the bench so that your upper body extends over the edge. Hang your head down as far as possible without feeling strain. Bracing your feet behind you on the bench, you then lift your torso up so that your entire body is parallel to the floor. This exercise may be termed "back hyperextension" elsewhere, but you want to make sure you don't actually hyperextend your torso backward as doing so could put undo pressure on the disks of your spine. Those currently experiencing lower back pain are also advised to avoid this advanced exercise.

Article Written By Timothy Sexton

Timothy Sexton is an award-winning author who started writing in 1994. He has written on topics ranging from politics and golf to nutrition and travel, and his work appears online for Zappos.com, Disaboom and MOJO, among others. He has also done work for "Sherlock Holmes and Philosophy." He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of West Florida.

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