At the ACSM's (American College of Sports Medicine) 12th-annual Health & Fitness Summit and Exposition in March, 2008, Dr. Michael Bracko stressed the importance of back exercises to keep the spine--and muscles that surround it--healthy.
“The back is probably the most commonly injured part of the body for all people,” said Bracko. “We can help prevent back injuries through not only strengthening the back muscles themselves, but also by working muscles that surround and support the spine, such as the abdominals.”
Here are three great exercises Dr. Bracko recommends for the back, which require no equipment whatsoever:
1) Bird dog: Ge on your hands and knees on the floor.. Lift your right arm and opposing left leg simultaneously, holding straight, as high as you can lift each. Slowly, bring them back to the ground. Do 10 reps on each side.
2) Front plank: Lie on the floor, flat on your stomach. Bend your arms at the elbows to support your upper body, centering the elbows under the shoulders. Lift your body off the ground, using abdominal strength and toes to hold a “bridge” position, keeping the back straight. Hold a straight back for 10 seconds.
3) Side planks: Lie on your side, with your bottom arm centered under your shoulder. Lift your hips off the ground, and hold with a straight back for 10 seconds. Repeat on opposite side.
Chin-ups and pull-ups are great back strengtheners as well, requiring nothing more than a horizontal branch on a tree.
Don't forget the importance of building the muscles that support the back too, and abdominals certainly fall in this category. Weak abdominals can cause or exacerbate back problems.
Dr. Bracko recommends that if you work a desk job, you should make sure to get up and stretch a little every hour or so. Your back will suffer in the long run if you don't; it is not easy on the back to sit still for long periods.
Finally, don't forget to work on back flexibility too. Without flexibility, strength means very little. Click on the last link below to begin a yoga regimen. This ancient system has been tested for thousands of years, with great benefit to the backs of practitioners.