Dr. Phil Shares: 14 Exercises for Lower Back Pain

14 Exercises for Lower Back Pain

As with bedbugs and the national deficit, the source of lower back pain can be hard to trace. Sometimes it’s a sudden, jarring injury. Other times it’s due to long-term over- or underuse. Often the simple act of sitting (which most office workers do for an estimated 10 hours a day) is to blame for lower back pain, particularly if it emanates from around L1-L5, the vertebrae between your rib cage and your pelvis.

Unfortunately, strength and flexibility only do so much to prevent it.

“There are people who can twist themselves into a pretzel who have back pain because they lack endurance,” says neurophysiologist Chad Waterbury, author of Huge In a Hurry. “And there are people who are very strong who get back pain because they lack mobility, especially in the hamstrings, core, glutes, and hip muscles.”

The key to preventing lower back pain, says Waterbury, is building a combination of moves that improve your mobility and endurance so you can get some relief from the lower back pain you have—and avoid more of it in the future. That’s exactly what the moves below—broken into three escalating levels of intensity—are designed to do.

A few quick caveats: If your pain is intense (read: getting out of bed feels like you’re going one circle deeper into Dante’s Inferno), get cleared by a doctor before doing any type of exercise—these moves included.

If given the OK, avoid anything that causes or exacerbates pain in your lower back. This includes twisting or bending forcefully and sitting for hours on end. If you can, get up from your chair every 20 minutes, or better still, get a desk with a stand-up option.

If you feel pain doing the exercises below, shorten the range of motion or perform the moves more slowly. Still hurting? Follow the “if it hurts” modifications alongside each move. And if none of these changes help, save that move for another day. Remember you’re trying to alleviate your lower back pain… not make it worse!

14 Exercises to Help Relieve Lower Back Pain

LEVEL I: When your pain is acute, use these easy moves to gently mobilize — increase the pain-free range of motion — in your back.

Child’s Pose

Gently relieves tension in the lower back.

Source: 21 Day Fix, Yoga Fix

To Do This Exercise:
1. On a mat or blanket, kneel down, and, if possible, sit on your heels.
2. Lean forward, extending your arms in front of you, and rest your head on the floor in front of you.
3. Hold the position for 30 seconds to two minutes.

If It Hurts:
Cross your arms on the floor and rest on your forearms.

 

Cat/Cow

Easy stretch for forward and backward movement along the entire spine.

Source: 21 Day Fix, Pilates Fix

To Do This Exercise:
1. Assume an all-fours position, hands under shoulders, knees under hips, back in a natural arch, head in alignment with your spine.
2. On an exhale, slowly round your back towards the ceiling, lowering your head fully towards the floor.
3. Reverse the movement.
4. Keeping your arms straight, inhale as you arch your back, bringing your chest and belly towards the floor, your shoulder blades together, and your head up.

If It Hurts:
Reduce the range of motion and move more slowly.

 

Front-to-Back-Shoulder Squeeze

Increases range of motion in shoulder blades, helps reduce slouching.

Source: Ho’Ala ke Kino

To Do This Exercise:
1. Assume an athletic posture with your feet in a shoulder-width-and-a-half stance.
2. Keeping your back straight throughout the movement, cross your left hand over your right, press your palms together, straighten your arms, and point your fingertips towards the floor.
3. Press your palms together and round your upper back as if trying to touch the fronts of your shoulders together in front of you.
4. Hold for ten seconds.
5. Unclasp your hands, then interlace your fingers behind your back, straighten your arms and lift your chest high.
6. Hold for 10 seconds.
7. Alternate these two positions a total of 3-4 times.

If It Hurts:
Don’t stretch as deeply.

 

Clam

Supports healthy hip movement, which takes pressure off the lower back during everyday activities.

Source: Total Body Solution, Lower Back

To Do This Exercise:
1. Lie on your left side with your knees bent 90 degrees in front of you and your feet stacked.
2. Keeping your feet together and your hips vertical, lift your right knee as far away from your left as possible.
3. Hold for a moment, return to the starting position, and repeat for 15 reps.
4. Turn onto your right side and perform 15 reps.

If It Hurts:
Make sure your lower back doesn’t twist throughout the movement and limit the move to a pain-free range of motion.

 

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

Restores proper positioning of the hips, taking tension off the lower back.

Source: The Master’s Hammer and Chisel, Hammer Conditioning

To Do This Exercise:
1. Kneel on a mat or pad and step your right foot flat on the floor in front of you.
2. Keeping your torso upright and your back in its natural arch, lunge forward towards your right foot.
3. Press the top of your left foot into the floor behind you.
4. Hold the stretched position for 30–45 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.

If It Hurts:
Contract your abs and flatten the lower back as much as possible throughout the stretch. Also try shifting your hips back and coming out of the stretch a bit.

Downward Facing Dog with Alternating Heel March

Extends and loosens hamstrings, calves, and upper back.

Source: Ho’Ala ke Kino

To Do This Exercise:
1. Assume a push-up position: facedown, hands and balls of your feet on the floor, body straight from your heels to the top of your head.
2. Keeping your arms and legs straight and your lower back in its natural arch, fold at the hips and press your hips into the air.
3. With your feet parallel, slowly bend your right knee until you feel a deep stretch in your left calf, then hold for ten seconds.
4. Straighten your right knee, then repeat on the other side.
5. Continue alternating sides for a total of three reps per side.

If It Hurts:
Hold the downdog position without the heel march.

 

LEVEL II: Use these moves when your lower back pain is less severe. They can help strengthen and stabilize the core.

Bird Dog

Tones extensor muscles of the upper back, shoulders, and glutes, while teaching back musculature to work with greater coordination and ease.

Source: Tai Cheng, Function Test

To Do This Exercise:
1. Assume an all-fours position on the floor, hands directly below your shoulders, knees directly below your hips.
2. Slowly extend your right leg behind you as if kicking something with your heel.
3. Simultaneously extend your left arm forward, straight and parallel to the floor.
4. Hold for 10 seconds, slowly lower your right left and left arm, then repeat the sequence using your left leg and right arm.
5. Perform 3–6 reps per side.

If It Hurts:
Contract your abs and flatten your back as much as possible throughout the move.

 

Glute Bridge

Increases tone in the glute muscles.

Source: INSANITY: THE ASYLUM, Back to Core

To Do This Exercise:
1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
2. Flex your feet so the balls of your feet lift off the floor.
3. Drive your heels into the floor, squeeze your glutes and lift your hips as high as you can.
4. Pause for a one-count, return to the starting position, and repeat for 20 reps.

If It Hurts:
Limit the movement to a pain-free range of motion.

 

Plank with Forearm Run

Tones the six-pack muscles, relieving lower-back pressure.

Source: The Master’s Hammer and Chisel, 10 Minute Ab Hammer

To Do This Exercise:
1. Assume a plank position: facedown, forearms and balls of the feet on the floor, body straight from your heels to the top of your head.
2. Keeping your hips down, bring your right knee towards your chest.
3. Reverse the move and repeat on the other side.
4. Alternate sides for 15–30 seconds.

If It Hurts:
Slow the movement down. Perform the move from the push-up position (arms extended). Perform a static plank position (no movement in the legs).

 

Side Plank and Knee Up

Tones the core muscles on the sides of your torso, which help you to bend and twist more easily.

Source: The Master’s Hammer and Chisel, 10 Minute Ab Hammer

To Do This Exercise:
1. Assume a right-side plank position: right elbow and forearm on the floor, feet stacked with the outside edge of your right foot on the floor, body straight from your heels to the top of your head.
2. Place your left hand behind your head and point your left elbow towards the ceiling.
3 Draw your left knee up and towards your chest.
4. Reverse the movement, then repeat for 12–15 reps.
5. Turn over and repeat the movement on your other side.

If It Hurts:
Hold the side plank position without movement.

 

LEVEL III: Use these moves when you’re feeling good to develop more spine-sparing mobility and endurance and help prevent future lower back pain.

Front Fold

Relaxes and increases range of motion in your hamstrings, calves, lower and upper back.

Source: 21 Day Fix, Yoga Fix

To Do This Exercise:
1. Assume an athletic posture with your feet in a shoulder-width-and-a-half stance.
2. Inhaling deeply, slowly extend your arms directly out to the side.
3. Keeping your back flat and your knees slightly bent, slowly hinge forward at the hip joints as far as you can.
4. Cross your arms in front of you, slowly round your back forward.
5. Hold the rounded-forward position for 20–30 seconds.

If It Hurts:
Avoid the rounded-forward position: hinge forward at the hips and return to the starting position for 3–5 reps.

Trunk Twist

Increases rotational range in rib cage, allowing you to turn and twist more comfortably.

Source: P90X3, Eccentric Lower

To Do This Exercise:
1. Lie on your left side with your bottom (left) leg extended and your right knee bent towards your chest, inside of your right knee on the floor.
2. Extend your arms straight out in front of your chest, left arm on the floor and palms together.
3. Keeping both arms straight, your right knee and your left arm and shoulder blade on the floor, lift your right arm up towards the ceiling.
4. With your eyes on your right hand, rotate your right arm back towards the floor behind you as far as you can without pain.
5. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat for 15 repetitions.
6. Lie on your right side and repeat.

If It Hurts:
Place a pillow or block underneath the knee of your top leg and always rotate only as far back as you can without pain.

C-Sit Tap:

Increases strength and endurance in your six-pack muscles and improves rotation in your upper back.

Source: 21 Day Fix, Pilates Fix

To Do This Exercise:
1. Sit on the floor with your knees bent, feet flat.
2. Lean back so that your torso forms a 45-degree angle to the floor and extend your arms in front of you, palms together.
3. Keeping your torso long, lean back slightly, rotate your right arm and shoulder back, and tap your right hand to the floor.
4. Reverse the movement, return to the starting position, and repeat the movement, this time turning to your left.
5. Alternate sides for 15 reps on each side.

If It Hurts:
Hold the “up” position without moving.

Lunge to Hip Extension

Strengthens glutes and lengthens hip flexors to improve posture and lower body strength and stamina.

Source: Active Maternity, Get Stable

To Do This Exercise:
1. Assume an athletic posture: feet shoulder width and parallel, knees slightly bent, shoulders square.
2. Step your right leg about two feet directly back.
3. Keeping your torso upright, bend both knees until your right knee comes close to the floor.
4. Reverse the move and return to the starting position.
5. Shift your weight onto your left foot, contract your right glute, and lift your right foot off the floor behind you.
6. Lower your right foot back to the floor and repeat the movement for 10-12 reps.
7. Switch your legs and repeat on the other side.

If It Hurts:
Lower your back knee only about halfway to the floor and keep your back foot on the floor throughout the movement.

BY:  @ Beachbody.com

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health Guelph

Dr. Phil Shares: 10 of the Best Ab Exercises That Aren’t Crunches

10 of the Best Ab Exercises That Aren’t Crunches

Let’s get real: when it comes to ab workouts, there’s nothing more boring than churning out crunches. Set after set. Workout after workout. That’s why the best ab exercises aren’t crunches.

And ditching (or at least cutting down on) crunches might do more than eliminate your workout’s yawn factor. It could actually boost your fitness results, explains strength coach and physical therapist Michael Roncarati, P.T., D.P.T., C.S.C.S., director of rehabilitation for the Atlanta Hawks. After all, while crunches zone in on your rectus abominis (aka “six-pack”) muscles, they come up short when it comes to training your transverse abdominis and other deep-lying core muscles. Those are the muscles that stabilize your spine, keep your pelvis, ribs, and shoulder girdle in proper alignment, and help you transfer forces between your lower and upper body for improved exercise performance, Roncarati says. Yeah, you could say that your core is kind of important.

What’s more, research shows that crunches can contribute to low back pain by compressing the discs of the lumbar spine. “Depending on your current back health, it’s important to be aware that typical crunches can exacerbate problems,” strength coach Todd Durkin, C.S.C.S., who has trained top athletes including the NFL’s Reggie Bush and snowboarder Shaun White. He notes that crunches can trigger back pain by increasing tightness in the hip flexors—which, in most people, especially desk-bound exercisers, tend to already be pretty tight. Tight hip flexors tug on the pelvis, tilting it forward. That, in turn, increases the strain on the lower back. No bueno.

So if you aren’t training your core with crunches (or at least with crunches alone) what ab exercises should you use to hit your six-pack fitness goals? Start with 10 of the best ab exercises listed below.

10 of the Best Ab Exercises (No Crunches!)

1. Pallof Press

Secure a resistance band to a sturdy object at navel height. Stand next to the anchor point with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. (In his position, the band should be at sternum height.) Hold the resistance band’s handle against your sternum with both hands. There should be no slack in the band – it should have some tension. From here, brace your core and press the handle straight out in front of your torso, making sure your body doesn’t turn to one side. Once your arms are fully extended, pause, then slowly reverse the movement to return to start.

Best Ab Exercises - Pallof Press

2.Feet-Elevated Stability Ball Plank

Get on the floor on all fours with your shoulders stacked directly over your wrists, and a stability ball on the floor behind you. From here, brace your core lift one leg off of the floor to place your shin on top of the ball. Repeat with the opposite leg so that our entire body is parallel with the floor. Don’t let your hips sag or your butt stick up in the air. Brace your core to maintain this position. Hold for time. Lower each knee back to the floor, one at a time, to return to start.

Best Ab Exercises - Feet-Elevated Stability Ball Plank

3. Deadbug

Lie flat on your back on the floor with your arms and legs bent at 90 degrees like you are sitting in a chair. Press your low back into the floor and brace your core to maintain this flat-back position throughout the entire exercise. From here, slowly lower your right leg and left arm to within a few inches of the floor (your arm should end up above your head, not out to the side). Only go as low as you can – your low back should not come off the floor. Pause, and then squeeze your abs to slowly reverse the movement to return to the starting position. Repeat with your left leg and right arm. Continue alternating sides.

Best Ab Exercises - Deadbug
 4. Stability Ball Rollout

Place your hands on a stability ball and kneel with your knees hip-width apart and your toes on the floor for stability. Keeping your back flat and core braced, and without moving your knees, slowly roll forward so the ball comes to your forearms, until your body forms a straight line from your head to your knees. Pause, then roll back to the starting position.

Best Ab Exercises - Stability Ball Rollout

5. Mountain Climber

Get in a high-plank position with your shoulders stacked directly over your elbows and hands, and the balls of your feet on the floor, spaced hip-width apart. Your body should form a straight line from head to heels. From here, bend one knee to pull it toward your chest slowly and under control. Make sure to maintain the same straight-body position as you do so, not letting your hips pike up toward the ceiling. Pause, then extend your leg back to start. Repeat on the opposite side.

Best Ab Exercises - Mountain Climber

6. Low-to-High Dumbbell Chop

Grab a dumbbell with both hands (one hand on each end), and lower into a quarter-squat position. Hold the dumbbell to the outside of your right knee, your arms fully extended and diagonal from your body. Your torso should face the weight. From here, keeping your arms fully extended and torso facing the weight, squeeze your abs, pivot to the right and release the right heel as rotate your hips to pull the dumbbell up and across your body until its above your left shoulder. Pause, then slowly reverse the motion to return to start. Repeat on the opposite side.

Best Ab Exercises - Low-to-High Dumbbell Chop

7. Band-Resisted Bird Dog

Get on your hands and knees with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Place a resistance band handle around one foot, and hold the other handle with the opposite hand so that the band is taut. From here, simultaneously extend your banded arm in front of you and your banded leg behind you. Keep you core braced and back flat. Repeat on your opposite side.

Best Ab Exercises - Band-Resisted Bird Dog

8. Alternating V-Up

Lie face-up on the floor with your arms and legs fully extended so that your body forms one straight line from hands to feet. Press your low back into the floor, and brace your core to maintain this flat-back position. From here, squeeze your abs to lift both your torso and legs off of the floor – this is the starting position. Raise your right leg and your left arm, and twist to reach your hand to your toes. Keep your leg as straight as possible and don’t letting your shoulders hunch forward. Return to start and repeat alternating sides.

Best Ab Exercises - Alternating V-Up

9. Standing Band Rotation

Secure a resistance band to a sturdy object at navel height. Stand next to the anchor point with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Hold the handle with both hands, arms fully extended in front of your chest and torso rotated to face the station. From here, brace your core and rotate your torso so that you face away from the station, arms still extended in front of your chest. Pause, then slowly reverse the movement to return to start.

Best Ab Exercises - Standing Band Rotation

10. Boat Twist

Sit on the floor, balancing on your butt with your feet raised, knees bent, and arms fully extended in front of you. Your feet and hands should each be pressed together. Keeping your core braced, rotate your torso to your right as you reach back with just your right arm to touch the floor behind you, bringing your hands outside your hip. Return to the starting position, and repeat to your left. Continue alternating sides.

Best Ab Exercises - Boat Twist

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health

Dr. Phil Shares: 10 Essential Bodyweight Exercises

10 Essential Bodyweight Exercises

Bodyweight exercises are crucial to a well-rounded training routine because they’re versatile and can be done anywhere. They also teach you to control your body and help develop solid movement mechanics.

These 10 fundamental bodyweight exercises help you strengthen your joints, activate your core, target the correct muscles and sync all the muscles in your body appropriately.

1. SINGLE-LEG BOX SQUAT

The single-leg box squat strengthens your quads, improves your balance and builds powerful legs. By isolating each leg, single-leg squats also help correct leg-strength imbalances to lessen injury risk — for example, if you can do 8 reps on your right side and only 5 on your left, you’ll know to work on making the left leg stronger.

How to do it: Sit near the edge of a bench, then stand up facing away from that bench. Lift one leg and keep that leg up the entire time. Sit onto the bench and drive yourself up with the opposite leg. Once that gets easy, lower the height of the bench or elevate your feet. Then, add resistance by holding a pair of dumbbells in front of you or wearing a weighted vest.

2. SKATER SQUAT

This is a unique variation on the single-leg squat because it activates your hips and trains you to sit back on your heel to emphasize the glutes and hips.

How to do it: Start standing and lift one leg then bend it down behind you in a one-legged squat while trying to touch your bent knee onto the ground behind the standing leg. Lean your torso and reach your arms forward as you descend. If you can’t reach the ground with your knee, that’s fine — just go as low as you can.

3. HIP/THIGH EXTENSION

The hip/thigh extension helps to build strength in your all-important glutes.

How to do it: Lie on your back in a bridge position and bend one knee so that it makes a 90-degree angle to the floor and stick the opposite leg straight out — knees aligned. With your bent leg, squeeze your glute, push through your heel, push your hips up and keep your hips level as you rise. Keep your straight leg extended throughout the exercise and keep it inline with your torso.

4. PUSHUP

The pushup is one of the best upper-body exercises. It’s a must-do to strengthen your shoulders, target your chest and core and improve the health of your shoulder joint and girdle.

How to do it: Keep your elbows in as you descend, then at the top, when you think you’ve pushed all the way up, push just a little more and feel your shoulder blades roll around your ribcage.

5. PIKE PUSHUP

Use this pushup variation to target your shoulders and train your overhead-pressing muscles.

How to do it: Start in a pushup position and raise your hips until you have a straight line going from your hands to your hips. Keep your elbows in as you descend, drive yourself back up and keep your hips up the entire time.

6. INVERTED ROW

Most athletes benefit from doing more pulling exercises like the inverted row than pushing exercises like pushups. It helps develop a strong, wide back, healthy shoulders and good posture.

How to do it: Do these on a Smith machine, a power rack, a TRX suspension trainer or rings. As you row, focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together. At the bottom, sink your chest just a little to let those shoulder blades slide along your ribcage.

7. PLANK

Planks build your core and trains you to keep your torso stable against a variety of forces (essential for avoiding injuries). To do the exercise correctly, make sure to activate your core and spine and push through the floor to engage your shoulders.

How to do it: Instead of “bracing your core,” keep your ribcage down like you’re doing a mini-crunch and tuck your pelvis like you’re trying to round your lower-back — your core will turn on automatically. Then hold that position.

8. PULLUP

If you want to add “armor” on your frame and increase the size of your torso, go straight to the source with an essential bodyweight move that targets your lats, the largest muscle in your upper body.

Pullups also strengthen your grip, which carries over to many different exercises. At the top of a pullup, squeeze your shoulder blades and try to drive your chest to the bar, keeping your neck inline with your spine.

9. BEAR CRAWL

The crawl is a fundamental exercise that builds great movement patterns and targets the muscles deep inside your core. As a warmup, it’ll open your joints; as a finisher, it’ll improve your conditioning in a safe environment.

How to do it: Get on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips; keep your knees an inch above the ground. Crawl forward by taking a small step with your right arm and left leg at the same time and alternate. Keep your hips low and your head up.

10. HARD ROLL

The hard roll is an obscure exercise, but if you’re looking to improve movement and avoid pain, the hard roll is essential.

How to do it: Lie on your back with both arms overhead and both legs straight. Reach your right elbow to left knee as if you were pinching a ball in front of your chest. Now, turn your head toward your left armpit and use your head to “pull” the rest of your body until it falls onto the left side. Then, turn your head toward the right and pull your body back to the starting position. Do a few reps and then switch sides. Keep your arms and legs relaxed; it’s your core that should do all the work.

By Anthony J. Yeung

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @Forward Health Guelph