In the modern world, we spend the majority of our working day sitting at our desks. Sitting still is often unavoidable, but back pain doesn’t have to be.
We get told so often that it’s bad for us to sit down for prolonged periods, and sure enough, we can feel the consequences with the occasional ache and twinge in the back.
However, there are exercises you can do to protect against these twinges and pains. Check it out.
Why do you need back exercises?
When you’re sat down for a long time, you’re not using the muscles in your posterior chain, aka your hamstrings, butt, and back.
It’s very much a case of ‘use it or lose it’. According to a 2015 study, sitting and leading a sedentary lifestyle can really weaken these muscles and even reduce your bone density. If they’re weakened, your body becomes imbalanced and you start to feel muscle knots and pains as you try to compensate.
We’re going to help you start using those muscles again, and strengthen your back so you’re less likely to suffer from muscle weaknesses when you’re sat down.
Let’s get started!
One muscle group that gets seriously affected by hours sitting at a desk is the gluteus maximus aka- your butt. Luckily the bridge is here to help. What’s more, by strengthening your glutes, they can help to shore up your lower back too.
- Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor, around hip-width apart
- Keep your arms by your sides and push your hips up until your body is a straight line from your shoulders to your knees
- At the top of the movement, squeeze your glutes
- Slowly return your buttocks to the floor before beginning your next rep
Activating your posterior chain after a long day of sitting is essential to maintaining good back strength. The superman is a bodyweight movement that works everything from your hamstrings to your upper back
- Lie on your front with your legs straight behind you and your arms out in front of you
- Keeping both your arms and legs straight, raise your arms and shoulders and feet and knees off the floor, flexing the back and butt muscles. You kinda look like superman right now!
- Hold that position for a couple of seconds, then return your hands and feet to the floor in a controlled motion
3. Knee Rolls
This exercise will loosen off your lower back muscles, increasing your range of flexibility and stretching out any problem areas. On top of that, it should help to strengthen your core, making for a more stable back.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor
- Put your arms out to the sides so you’re lying in a T shape
- Keeping your shoulders as flat on the ground as possible and your feet in the same spot, roll your knees to one side as far as they can go, or until they rest on the ground
- Using your core strength, raise your legs back to the starting position, before dropping them to the other side
4. Lying Lateral Leg Lifts
This is more than just a mouthful. Often the outer muscles on your glutes go unloved in a workout, but not with the lying lateral leg lifts. By drilling this movement, you can create a more stable pelvis, which can reduce strain on the back.
- Lie on your side with your legs straight and together
- Bend the lower leg slightly
- Tighten your abs to engage the core and raise the top leg up until it’s at about 45 degrees. Remember to keep it straight throughout the movement
- Hold it in position, before returning it slowly to the other leg
- When you’ve finished your reps roll on to the other side to work the other leg
5. Cat Stretches
This is one of the most satisfying stretches you can do. By completely elongating the back you can take the tension off the spine, whilst strengthening and stretching the muscles that support it.
- Begin on all fours with your hands and knees around hip-width apart
- Start to arch the back, imagining you’re pressing your back up to the ceiling, whilst pulling the belly button in towards the spine
- Hold this position for a few seconds, before relaxing the muscles, returning your back to a flat position
With these pain-preventing, back-strengthening movements, you should be able to keep any twinges and aches at bay for longer.
These movements are simple and don’t require any equipment, so you can do them at home after a long day sitting in front of a screen. Or, if you’re really in need of a rejuvenating stretch, find a quiet corner in the office and unlock those tense muscles whenever you need.
Aim to perform them two or three times a week to start building strength in your back.
A consistent yoga practice can be an amazing way to incorporate the above exercises into your daily routine and help you relieve back pain along with other ailments in the body. If you're not sure where to start with your yoga practice, join us inside Food Matters TV. There are classes for all levels. Start your free 10-day trial here.