Strengthening the back muscles is just as (if not more) important as abdominals when it comes to maintaining back health. The spinal column runs along the inside and has muscles at both the front and the back to support it, so naturally both sets of muscles should be toned. The lower back takes on the brunt of the body’s weight while sitting and standing. The vertebrae in that part of the back are larger to accommodate this weight, but there is still a higher risk of lower back injury because of this burden. Every day use, such as lifting, twisting and bending can fatigue back muscles and, over time, be the cause of short term problems (acute pain), such as a back strain or sprain, or long-term conditions (chronic pain), such as herniated disks, osteoarthritis, or less frequently spinal stenosis. While most all American adults experience back pain at some point, maintaining good back health can decrease or eliminate it altogether.
This Hamstring Raise is an exercise that will not only strengthen the lower back muscles and the glutes, but will stretch the hips and can help with balance as well:
Stand facing the back of a weighted chair. Stand up straight with abdominals engaged, pelvis neutral (not tucked under or pushed back), and chest up and shoulders down. Let your head balance on top of your neck.
Hold the back of the chair. Lift your right leg out behind you while keeping it straight with your foot flexed. Don’t forget to breathe and stop if you feel any pain. Lift your leg away from you about 12 inches and hold for 5-10 seconds. As you lift your leg, try to stay vertical and don’t tip to the opposite side. Slowly lower the leg and repeat with the left leg. Repeat this exercise 3-6 times. As your back become stronger, try to lift the leg farther back.