It’s been documented that approximately 80 percent of the population will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. There’s so many different factors that contribute to lower back pain as well – making it tough to identify the exact cause. Weak abdominals, poor lifting technique, muscular imbalances – any number of things can be the root of the problem.
For example, weak hamstrings allow the pelvis to rotate forward which contributes to lumbar lordosis – a painful postural condition. If both your hip flexors (psoas muscles) are weak, the stability of the lumbar spine is reduced.
Our bodies function as a kinetic chain. If one of the links (muscles) is weak, all the others are effected. Eighty percent of the population suffering from the same problem, that seems outrageously high. However, when you really think about it – and think about how inactive and overweight people are these days – the stats don’t seem that far fetched.
The best thing we can do to prevent low back pain is to take a proactive approach and incorporate specific strengthening exercises into our routines. In order to select the appropriate exercises, you first need to have a basic understanding of lower back anatomy.
Erector Spinae: The erector spinae muscle group basically extends the lower back. Think of it like this – if you were to pick something up off the floor while keeping your legs fairly straight, the erector spinae muscles would be responsible for extending your torso back up to an upright, standing position.
The erector spinae is also most efficient when you perform a posterior pelvic tilt. What the heck does that mean? Well, simply put, you just want to rotate your bum outwards. You should be doing this when you perform exercises such as straight leg deadlifts as it will reduce the risk of sustaining an injury.
Quadratus Lumborum: The Quadratus Lumborum provides stability for both the pelvis and the lower (lumbar) region of the spine. The Quadratus Lumborum – otherwise known as the “QL” – plays a role in lateral flexion. Lateral flexion is when your upper body bends to the side.
Exercises For Low Back – Strength Training
The spinal erectors typically work in conjunction with the glutes and the hamstrings throughout the execution of the majority of lower back exercises. The main exercise for the lower back is the deadlift. If you analyse the muscular recruitment through the different stages of the deadlift movement, heavy involvement of the quadriceps and hamstrings extend the legs and drive the body upwards while the glutes and lower back are also contracting throughout.
A variation, known as the straight leg deadlift, employs alternate movement mechanics designed specifically to increase the involvement of the erector spinae, glutes and hamstrings while reducing the recruitment of the quadriceps.
In addition to the deadlift, there are several other exercises designed specifically to strengthen the lower back. Back extensions, good mornings and supermans’ are among the most commonly executed. The utilization of an exercise ball allows the trainee to perform both dolphins and reverse extensions. Both of these exercises are performed by extending the legs to strengthen the lower back rather then the typical method of extending the torso.
So give these exercises a try. Just select an exercise from the navigation panel to your right to access a video clip and detailed step by step instructions.