Last Update: March 12, 2020
You put your back through a lot on a daily basis—whether it’s sitting at a desk for too long, using less-than-ideal form when lifting heavy objects, or failing to hold in your abs during workouts. Over time, these minor offenses can create imbalances that could result in injuries or persistent back aches and pains.
And because few things are as debilitating as back pain, why wait until your back rebels to show it some love? These four simple exercises were developed by certified health coach and nutritionist Michelle Pellizzon with the understanding that a strong back (and supporting muscles such as the abs, glutes, and hip muscles) can withstand more stress—and help to prevent injuries. Tack the moves onto your existing workout or do them on their own to keep your back in prime shape.
The only piece of equipment you’ll need for this series is a set of 10-pound dumbbells (or a 5-pound set if you’re new to weight-training).
Got your weights? Let’s get started!
Do: 10 reps, rest for 5 seconds, repeat 3 times
This move hits your deltoid, rhomboid, and trapezius muscles. Begin with your feet nearly touching and hold one dumbbell in each hand. Bend slightly at your knees, making sure they don’t extend past your toes. Keeping your back completely flat, hinge your upper body forward at the hips. Keep a slight bend in your elbows with your arms directly in line with your chest, palms facing each other. Keep your core tight and squeeze your shoulder blades together as you open both arms straight out to the side until your hands are in line with your shoulders. With control, slowly lower the weights back to the starting position.
Do: 20 reps on one side, then switch and repeat
You’ll only need one dumbbell for this move. Start with your legs apart, slightly wider than hip-width, with both feet facing the same direction as your hip bones. Pivot your left foot about 90 degrees so it’s perpendicular to your right foot, which should be angled forward slightly to protect your knee. Grip the dumbbell in your right hand and extend your arm straight toward the ceiling so that your wrist and shoulder are in one line. Keep your left arm at your side, in front of your leg, with your fingers pointing toward your left foot. Keep your right arm lifted and in line with your right shoulder as you hinge at the hips to bring your left fingers to touch the floor near the inside of your left foot. Tighten your core muscles to bring yourself back to the upright starting position.
Do: 30 reps
You can ditch your dumbbells for the rest of the work. Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet hip-width apart—but don’t get too comfortable. This next move will not only strengthen your lower back, but also help tone your core and glutes. Relax your arms down by your sides with your palms flat against the floor. Squeeze your glutes as you push your hips up off the ground until your knees, hips, and shoulders form a line. Slowly lower your hips back toward the floor.
Do: 40 reps, alternating
This final move may feel awkward at first—and after the first few reps, it’ll be pretty evident that this one works your core as well as your back. Start on all fours with your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees. Draw your belly button up toward your spine and hold it there. This will help you keep your balance once you get going! Keep your spine in a neutral position as you extend your right leg straight back until it’s in line with your hips. At the same time, reach your left arm directly in front of you until it’s in line with your shoulders. Feeling like you’re going to topple over is completely normal—power up those core muscles to keep yourself steady. Slowly return to the starting position, then repeat the motion on the other side, extending your left leg back while reaching your right arm forward.
Melinda writes about health, wellness, and food for the Thrive Market blog. She started her career as a financial journalist in NYC and has written for Where Magazine, Worth, Forbes, and TheStreet.com. When she's not reading or writing, she enjoys working out, sketching, and playing with her daughter and mini-dachshund, Goliath.
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