Monday, July 12, 2010

Back Strengthening

Weak back muscles just can’t support your spine and battle gravity for an entire day. If you want your spine to stay healthy and pain-free, your best bet is to strengthen your back muscles with regular exercise.

Ideally, you’ll fortify your back with aerobic exercise (walking, running, dancing, and so on) and regular strength-training. Core exercises like abdominal crunches are particularly helpful because they reinforce the back and abdominal muscles that stabilize and support your spine.

The single most useful exercise for strengthening your back and relieving back pain is surprisingly simple and remarkably portable. You can do it on the floor of your home gym, in the chair at your office desk, or against the wall at a cocktail party. Pregnant women can use it to alleviate the excruciating backaches caused by their still-in-progress bundle of joy (on the floor up to the fourth month, against a wall thereafter). It goes by many names, including the one used in this chapter: the pelvic tilt.

If you have a pre-existing back condition or chronic back pain, doing the wrong kind of exercise (or doing the right exercise in the wrong way) could aggravate the problem. If you’re in doubt, check with your doctor, and never perform a back exercise that causes any sort of pain.

Here’s how to do the pelvic tilt:
1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your hands resting at your sides. (Or stand so you put your whole body—heels, bottom, and shoulders—against a wall.)
2. Tighten your abdominal muscles and squeeze your lower back down against the floor (or wall, or chair). Alternatively, you can rest your hand on the small of your back and push against that.

3. Hold the squeeze for five seconds, but don’t hold your breath.

4. Relax your muscles, then repeat this sequence 10 to 15 times.

You can find many of the core exercises cited in this chapter described online. To get started, you’ll find good collections of back exercises at and (To save yourself some typing, you can find this link on the Missing CD page at of Information : Oreilly - Your Body Missing Manual

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