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Health & Fitness: “Aimed Excercise: Your Back”

Have you ever experienced chronic back pain?
Even if you haven’t, back exercises can make the rest of your exercise program run more smoothly, and will set the stage for a healthier you.

Have you ever experienced chronic back pain?
Do you need to sit down after loading a sinkful of dishes into the dishwater? The spine and the muscles surrounding it are far more vulnerable than most of us would care to admit, and much of the back pain experienced by adults is due to a lack of proper muscular development.

Aimed exercise is usually targeted at areas of the body that make us feel unattractive. The buttocks, thighs, abs and calves receive most of the workout because they can balloon up and trim down from one season to the next. However, if you want to make exercising easier and more productive, you’ll target your back muscles as well.

From Top to Bottom
 When you decide to use aimed exercise to target your back, it’s easy to focus on the area that causes you the most discomfort. For example, if you are always experiencing pain in your lower back, you’ll probably seek exercises that target the lower back. However, the back muscles all work together, and discomfort in one area can actually be indicative of a weakness in another area.

The best way to shape this type of exercise plan is to find exercises that will benefit as many of the back muscles as possible, which usually means a wide variety of simple exercises. Furthermore, these exercises are most beneficial when observed on a daily basis, and in as little time as possible. Just carve out a fifteen-minute niche in your day, and dedicate that time to back exercises.

Simple Lower Back Stretch
 To exercise your back, start by stretching the lower quadrant of your spine in preparation for more difficult movements. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet planted on the floor about hip-width apart.

Slowly lift your right knee and pull it to your chest, lacing your fingers around the knee and holding for 10-15 seconds. Then release slowly back to the floor and repeat with the left leg. As you grow more comfortable with this exercise, lift both knees at the same time. Additionally, you can lower both knees to one side or the other, rotating the muscles in your back for further stretch

Arch Exercise
 Continuing with the lower back, lie down flat on the floor like in the previous exercise, with your knees bent and your feet planted squarely on the floor. Lift your pelvis toward the ceiling, tightening your lower back muscles and without using your feet to push your body upward. Your buttocks should not come off the floor, but it will create an arch in your middle back. Hold for 10 seconds.

Next, lower your pelvis back to its natural position, then stretch the other way, pushing your lower back toward the floor as tightly as it will go. Hold again for 10 seconds. This back exercise increases flexibility and will, as an added bonus, work your abdominals.

The Bridge
 Remaining in the same position on the floor, we’re going to try a yoga position next. This time, rather than arching your back away from the floor, you’re going to lift your lower back and buttocks until your body creates an inclined “ramp” from shoulders to knees. Essentially, this back exercise will stretch out the entire back, while providing some strength training at the same time.

This exercise should be held longer than the previous two, usually for three or four deep and relaxing breaths. When you release yourself from the position, do so slowly-never flop back onto the floor. For this to work properly, keep your arms slightly spread and flat on the floor during the entire exercise.

Moving Forward
 The three exercises above are simple and are meant to help introduce you to the world of back exercises, which can increase in complexity. The goal, however, is not to develop rock-hard back muscles, but to provide your body with the flexibility it needs to accurately perform other forms of exercise. Once your back is strong and dependable, you’ll find your entire exercise program runs more smoothly.

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