In order to maintain good posture, you need to keep your core and back muscles engaged. Many of our LUMObackers (and LUMOback team members) report that they feel a bit sore when they first start trying to improve their posture and have asked us to recommend the best back strengthening exercises. Your wish is our command: We’ve worked with some of our favorite personal trainers to bring you a set of simple core and back strengthening exercises to help support (literally!) your quest for better posture.
Our favorite back strengthening exercises are easy to do at home, require no equipment, and, as LUMO intern Catherina shows below, can even be done in your normal street clothes! Try to perform them 3-4 times per week to build up your strength and help prevent pesky back pain.
1) Front Plank
The plank is a core-strength powerhouse that works your abs and obliques, while also helping you to strengthen your quadriceps, glutes, and shoulders. Building strength and endurance in your core will help protect your lower back from injury and strain.
How to do it: Lie on your stomach then slowly raise yourself up onto your elbows and toes. Keep your back straight and your head and neck in line with your back, shoulders directly above your elbows. Pull your abs in tight (think of drawing your belly button in toward your spine) and be sure to keep your hips down. Sticking your bottom up in the air is cheating! Aim for 2 repetitions, starting with 20-30 seconds each and working up to a minute.
How to modify it: If you have trouble holding a plank on your toes with good form, try dropping down to your knees instead, as Fiona demonstrates to the right. Keep a straight line from your shoulders to your knees and remember to keep your core sucked in tightly!
2) Side Plank
The side plank, like the front plank, is great for all-over strengthening of your core. It is particularly good for tightening your oblique abdominal muscles.
How to do it: Start by lying on your side with your feet stacked on top of each other. Keeping your elbow under your shoulder, push yourself up onto your forearm. Keep your body in a straight line from shoulder to toes, and make sure that your hips are square. Hold this position for 20-40 seconds then switch sides, aiming for a total of 2-3 repetitions per side.
How to modify it: Like the front plank, you can make this a bit easier by doing it from your knees instead of your feet. Once you’re a pro, make it harder by lifting your top leg straight up.
The Superman is one of the best back strengthening exercises, focused on improving your lower back strength.
How to do it: Begin by lying straight and face down. You can either place your hands by your ears, as Catherina demonstrates above, or extend them out in front of you so that you look like Superman flying – that’s where the exercise gets its name, after all! Simultaneously lift your arms, chest, and legs and hold your body in the raised position for 2-5 seconds. Exhale as you lift your arms and legs, then inhale as your lower yourself down into the starting position. Aim for 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions.
How to modify it: In addition to straightening your arms like Superman, you can also modify this exercise by lifting one limb at a time. Alternatively, you can choose to move your upper body and lower body separately – keep your feet on the ground and lift your chest and arms for one set, then switch and raise your legs while resting your upper body on the ground.
The bridge exercise serves several purposes, making it an awesome all-around strengthener. As a back bend, it helps counteract the stress that sitting all day places on our bodies. The balance element helps you gain stability, which protects against injury. You’ll also work lots of muscles including your abs, glutes, and lower back, which all work together to help stabilize your spine and ward off back pain. Finally, it stretches out your hip flexors – stretching and lengthening your hip flexors helps to ease back pain, so we definitely recommend working to increase your flexibility in those muscles!
How to do it: Lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground and hip-width apart. Relax your arms by your sides and squeeze your gluteal muscles as you lift your hips up toward the ceiling, creating a straight line from your knees to your chest. Be sure to keep your knees parallel to each other – don’t let them splay out to the sides. Hold yourself up for three counts, then gently lower yourself back to the ground. Aim for 10-12 repetitions.
How to modify it: To make it harder, lift one leg straight up so that your foot points toward the ceiling. Keep your hips even and flex your foot. This makes the bridge substantially harder, so start with a few reps and build up to a full set. Be sure to do both sides to keep your body even and balanced.