As anyone who has suffered through a bad back injury knows, a weak spine makes most strenuous activities more difficult or impossible. For people who love the outdoors, this covers everything from pursuits with heavy back loads, such as backpacking or scuba diving, to sports like climbing and skiing. Spine strengthening should play a role in the exercise regimen of any outdoor enthusiast.
Many are unaware that one of the main functions of abdominal muscles is to hold the trunk upright, which in turn supports the spine. However, according to Professor Stuart McGill, an expert in spine biomechanics, good technique is essential to avoid having your stomach-strengthening exercises do little, nothing or actual harm. McGill recommends that such exercises should not bend the lumbar spine or compress the vertebrae.
One exercise that strengthens the abs and the spine is the curl-up. Lie down on your back with one knee bent and in the air, and the other leg stretched out flat on the floor. Place your hands under your lumbar curve, lifting the hands from the elbows. Stiffen your abdominal muscles while lifting your head and neck from the sternum. Hold this position for 7 to 8 seconds while breathing and then release. Keep doing these exercises until you are no longer able to keep the proper form.
Another abdominal exercise that is great for the back is the abdominal curl, recommended by both the Colorado Comprehensive Spine institute and Capital Region Spine. Lie flat on your back and raise your feet into the air above your hips. Keeping your legs straight and feet in the air, intertwine your fingers behind your neck and do curls. Compress your abs to raise your upper body, and keep your lower back on the floor at all times. Do not jerk yourself upright or use any other muscles, such as your arms pulling on your neck.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with a dumbbell in both hands. Bend over with your back straight so you form something of an "L" shape, holding the dumbbells under your shoulders. With your arms straight, lift the dumbbells until the dumbells and your elbows are on a straight line with your shoulders. Hold that position for a second, and then slowly lower the dumbbells back down to the start position below your shoulders.
Article Written By Edwin Thomas
Edwin Thomas has been writing since 1997. His work has appeared in various online publications, including The Black Table, Proboxing-Fans and others. A travel blogger, editor and writer, Thomas has traveled from Argentina to Vietnam in pursuit of stories. He holds a Master of Arts in international affairs from American University.