One of the most common concerns in the human body is having a “bad back”, or a “sore back”.

This should be a major issue for people, since we were built to bend over and stand up straight. Problem is that we live in a modern society where we sit too much and may not load our physical bodies as much as they were intended.

So if it is important to be able to perform basic moves, then what should we do to improve to the point of better health and better physical ability? The answer is always to put the body through a proper amount of work so that an improvement is the adaptive response to that work. Sounds simple but there’s more to it than that. I guess that is why good trainers are necessary!

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Let’s take a quick look at the lower back region.

One important reminder here: No single body part or muscle works alone, rather we have a combination or “synergy” going on which includes balance in the body from left to right, front to back, etc. Furthermore, we have the “targeted” muscle group but also stabilizers and opposing muscles, so you can quickly see that this is perhaps a little more complicated.

Not to worry though…to properly improve, you just have to recognize the function of the targeted muscle(s), find a movement that accomplishes that function and put a slight extra load onto it while also protecting and stabilizing for safety and effectiveness.

So let’s look at the lower back. The spinal erectors.

We bend at the hip, then back up straight. This function is best accomplished with a bent-leg deadlift. This is, in fact, one of my favorites since it involves so much of the body. And if done properly, it is one of the safest movements I can think of.

Bent-Leg Deadlift:

I prefer using a barbell for this. Begin by standing upright, holding the bar down in front of you at arm’s length. Next, move the hips back, allowing the torso to tip forward and bend over. The bar itself should travel straight down to the top edge of the kneecaps. It should not move out away forward from you nor should it maintain contact with your legs and “slide” down.

If you have trouble with this, just start in the “down” position….bent over holding the bar touching the top edge of the kneecaps. Stand back up by driving the hips forward, then reverse and repeat for reps.

This range of motion should result in approximately 90 degrees of bend in the hips. That’s plenty for most of us. Athletes will want to go lower, but I recommend this safe range of motion in general.

Now for that “synergy” I mentioned: Let’s not forget the stabilizing factor.

exercise to strengthen lower back_2

Posture:

During the movement, keep the chest out high, tummy tucked in, chin up slightly. Keep your eyes looking about 8 ft / 2-3 meters in front of you. That will keep the chin from dipping downward. This posture will keep the back “flat”, not rounded and thereby prevent injury. I always use a wider grip too. This allows the shoulders to stay back and avoid a “protracted” posture.

 Now, this is simply the best movement for the lower back and some ideas on stabilizing while doing it. The other part of this “synergy” includes implementing the following workout if your aim is to exercise to strengthen lower back:

1. Lats:

Try chin-ups or lat pull-downs from a high cable. This muscle group covers a good portion of the back and its fascia-style tendon(s) cover the lower back, so they overlap right into the same area!

2. Mid-Trapezius/Rhomboids:

To maintain good posture you have to be able to get a good contraction between the shoulder blades. Keeping your chest up high helps this and performing scapular retraction or rowing movements help develop this area of the mid-back.

3. Abs:

Remember that front-to-back synergy? You don’t want to create an imbalance so include ab work for the front of the body here too. I recommend Planking, Crunches, and Torso Twists.

Targeting the lower back while including the synergy-related work will provide great results. Our lower backs will respond well. Now you will be able to pick up things, carry them, reach for things, pick up your kids and grandchildren and all the necessary functions of life without having the concern of “throwing out your back”.

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