Until or unless your back goes out, this is not a part of your body that you’ve probably given much thought to. However, if you are suffering from back pain, you realize very quickly just how much you use your back in the course of a given day. Your back is actually a complicated and amazing configuration of vertebrae, disc, bones, ligaments and muscles that help your body to bend, sway and stretch as you go about your daily routine. So to baby your back – and to both treat and prevent lower back pain – try these stretches below.
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In order to do this stretch — which will work out not only your hamstrings but your lower back as well — lie flat on the floor on your back. Bend your right knee into your chest, then straighten the leg slowly towards the ceiling (you can wrap an exercise band around the bottom of your feet to help keep your leg in place if desired). Do not overstretch. Hold in position for 3-5 minutes, then slowly lower the leg to the floor.
The Downward-Facing Dog
This position is one of the best stretches for lower back pain will give your back a deep, gentle stretch, while also working out your hamstrings and calf muscles and strengthening the muscles in your arms. Begin on your hands and knees, with your hands shoulders-width apart and your hands planted firmly on the floor. While breathing out slowly, raise up on your tip-toes and slowly lift your buttocks off the floor so that your body bends in the shape of an “A”. Your weight should be supported by both your hands and your feet. Hold this pose for several minutes, breathing in and our easily, then reverse it by lower your buttocks and legs slowly to the mat. Rest for a few minutes in a prone position.
This provides a deep, relaxing stretch for the muscles in your lower and upper back while strengthening the muscles in your arms and legs. First, bend your knees and set feet on the floor, then bend elbows and spread palms out on the floor behind you. Slowly, lift yourself up on your arms and legs so that you are bent backwards with your navel raised towards the ceiling and your weight balanced equally between arms and legs. Hold for several moments, then lower yourself slowly and gently to the mat.
Lie on your back with arms beside you, pressing down against the floor. As you breathe in slowly, lift your feet off the floor and raise your legs towards the ceiling. Then swing your hips upwards and support them on your hands. Then, still breathing gently, lower your legs up and over your head so that your toes touch the floor behind you. Hold this pose for a minute, then gently swing your legs back and resume a prone position.
The Triangle Pose
This position allows you not only to get a great stretch for your lower back but your lateral muscles (the muscles along your sides) as well. In order to begin this pose, get into a standing position with your feet 3-4 feet apart. Raise your arms to shoulder height so that they are parrellel to the floor. Then, turning your left foot in, breathe out and bend your torso to the right and bend from the hips so that your hand can touch your calf, ankle or the floor, depending on how deep you want to stretch. While exhaling, pull yourself back to a standing position and lower your arms.
If you are suffering from back pain, these poses can help to stretch the muscles gently and get you back on your feet again. However, it is important to talk to your doctor before doing these or any other exercises to make sure they are right for you. You should also discuss a care plan which combines these exercises with the use of anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxers, rest and warm or cold applications to help treat this condition.
Bodyweight exercises are gaining ground in the fitness world due to the practicality and simplicity of getting in shape using your own body weight. Planks are one form of bodyweight exercises that will never go out of fashion.
Planks are one of the most effective exercises you can do. Why? Because they require a small time investment on your part, and offer the chance to achieve substantial results in a relatively short span of time.
Why is it important to train up our core strength?
There are numerous sites and blogs which detail ways to build your core muscles or core strength. Often though, these sites neglect to explain what your core muscles actually are, and why building them is important.
This is quite surprising, as core muscles are quite easy to explain. Your core muscles are a series of muscles in your midsection, and are used in most forms of movement. Though they aren’t housed in your arms or legs, your core muscles can help transfer force from one limb to another, or are used in addition to muscles in your arms or legs to increase their effectiveness. As such a strong core will make a big improvement on your ability to move and exercise further.
Also, they are great for helping other muscles in your midsection such as your abdominal muscles. Your abdominal muscles are important for supporting your back and spinal column, and as such are important aids in preventing injuries. However, for them to be most effective, you need to spend a lot of time developing your core muscles.
In short, planking exercises can make a huge improvement in your muscles down your whole body. Making them a hugely effective exercise to perform.
There are few forms of exercise as effective at building your core as planking exercises. However, planking exercises benefit far more than just your core strength.
By holding yourself in the position for a planking exercise, you’ll notice that your biceps, neck, and shoulder muscles are also being tested and strained. This this encouraging their buildup and development. This is great news if you like to do press ups, developed shoulder muscles will have a big impact on your press up performance.
When planking, you are holding yourself up through your arms and biceps and so by holding a planking position, your arm muscles are being toned and developed. Making planking a great alternative exercise to other forms of bicep developing exercises.
Moving down your midsection, successful plank exercises actually develop the muscles in your butt! These muscles tend to be ignored by a lot of exercises, so this is another great benefit of plank exercises.
In much the same way as you develop your biceps and arm muscles, holding the planking position helps develop the muscles in your thighs too.
What is even better is that planking exercises don’t take much time at all. In fact you should probably only spend about ten minutes max per day in the planking exercise.
7 Things that happen when you start doing planks every day
1. You’ll improve core definition and performance
Planks are an ideal exercise for the abdominal muscles exactly because they engage all major core muscle groups including the transverse abdominus, the rectus abdominus, the external oblique muscle, and the glutes. The importance of strengthening each muscle group cannot be underestimated either, for all of these groups serve their own purpose. If you strengthen these muscle groups you will notice:
Rectus adbominis: improved sports performance, particularly with jumping. This muscle group is also responsible for giving you the renowned six pack look.
Oblique muscles: improved capacity for stable side-bending and waist-twisting
Glutes: a supported back and a strong, shapely booty.
2. You’ll decrease your risk of injury in the back and spinal column
Doing planks is a type of exercise that allow you to build muscle while also making sure that you are not putting too much pressure on your spine or hips. According to the American Council on Exercise, doing planks regularly not only significantly reduces back pain but it also strengthens your muscles and ensures a strong support for your entire back, especially in the areas around your upper back.
Check out this article if you would like to find out about how doing planks on different surfaces can impact the effectiveness of this exercise in strengthening your core.
3. You’ll experience an increased boost to your overall metabolism
Planking is an excellent way of challenging your entire body because doing them every day will burn more calories than other traditional abdominal exercises, such as crunches or sit-ups. The muscles you strengthen by doing this exercise on a day-to-day basis will ensure that you burn more energy even when sedentary. This is especially important if you are spending the majority of your day sitting in front of a computer. Also, making it a daily 10- to 1 minute home exercise before or after work will not only provide an enhanced metabolic rate but it will also ensure that that metabolic rate remains high all day long, (yes, even while you are asleep).
4. You’ll significantly improve your posture
Planking exercises have a great impact and improvement on your posture. This is great news as a strong posture brings with it a huge number of fantastic benefits .
A good posture keeps your bones and joins in the correct alignment which means both your bones and joints will be better maintained and more healthy, but also means the overall effectiveness of your muscles will be improved.
A good posture will ensure your back or spine is in the correct position and so you will suffer less back pain.
On top of everything, someone with good posture looks better, healthier, and more confident.
5. You’ll improve overall balance
Have you ever felt that when you tried standing on one leg, you couldn’t stand up straight for more than a couple of seconds? It’s not because you were drunk- unless you happened to be at the time!- but rather, it’s because your abdominal muscles weren’t strong enough to give you the balance you needed. Through improving your balance by doing side planks and planks with extensions you will boost your performance in every kind of sporting activity.
6. You’ll become more flexible than ever before
Flexibility is a key benefit of doing planks regularly, for this form of exercise expands and stretches all your posterior muscle groups – shoulders, shoulder blades, and collarbone – while also stretching your hamstrings, arches of your feet, and toes. With a side plank added in to the mix, you can also work on your oblique muscles. This will provide you with further benefits when it comes to hyper-extending your toes, a movement that is crucial for supporting your body’s weight.
7. You’ll witness mental benefits
Plank exercises have a particular effect on our nerves, making them an excellent means of improving overall mood. How? Well, they stretch out muscle groups that contribute to stress and tension in the body. Just think about it: you are sitting in your chair, at home or at work, all day long; your thigh muscles get tight, your legs get heavy due to being bent for several hours; and tension develops in your shoulders due to being forced to slump forward all day. These are all circumstances that put too stress on the muscles and nerves. The good news is that planks not only calm your brain, but they can also treat anxiety and symptoms of depression– but only if you make it part of your daily routine.
How to hold a plank position
Get into pushup position on the floor.
Now bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your weight on your forearms.
Keep your torso straight and rigid and your body in a straight line from ears to toes with no sagging or bending.
Your head is relaxed and you should be looking at the floor.
Hold the position for as long as you can.
Remember to breathe. Inhale and exhale slowly and steadily.
When your form begins to suffer, pull the plug. You’re only benefiting from the plank by actually doing the plank.
Watch the video if you have any doubt!
Here is a great infographic that shows the best plank variation exercises to evenly target all abdominal muscle groups:
How to improve your plank time gradually
Start with the easier variation if needed. You can start with a bent-knee plank if you can’t perform a regular plank yet. If you can hold a plank for more than two minutes with ease, you can move on to these tougher variations.
Practise every day. Space your planking exercise throughout the day and do 3-4 times every day. Try to hold the position 10 seconds longer each time.
Perform other body-weight exercises at the same time. Push-up and squat will improve your core strength too.
Are you ready to devote 5-10 minutes of your day, every day, to stay fit, healthy and, most importantly, strong as a bull? Then jump in and make doing plank exercises a part of your life.