Back and Spine Exercises
Previously we had a chance to introduce a number of back and spine exercises to bring relief from back pain and improve your posture. We continue with a new program of exercises (starting with Rolling Over) aimed at improving the overall flexibility of your back and spine and increasing movement precision. The target group for this program are office workers, or anybody who spends the majority of their day sitting. With prolonged sitting your waist increases in size, your muscles (crucial for spinal support) weaken and your joints lose their flexibility. Not only does your physical performance suffer, but you increase the risk for injuries, most notably, spinal injuries.
This exercise program tries to bring back the vitality to your joints, strengthen supportive core muscles and improve the flexibility and movement of your back and spine. Flexibility in your back will not only raise your everyday performance, but it is important for most sports, gymnastics, figure skating and even dancing. Increasing your flexibility can only be accomplished over time and can be a very difficult or very easy task depending on your body type.
Advance through the exercises gradually, progressing from the simpler to the more complex. We highly recommend you to follow our list below, starting from exercise #1, then #2 and so on, until you reach the final exercise. Go for mastery of one exercise before continuing to the next. Once you complete the program and master all exercises, depending on your lifestyle, you can decide to go through the entire routine each morning or before going to bed, or just two-three times per week. This will maintain your flexibility and the skills you’ve learned from the program.
Try to think of the exercises as mere stretches and never push yourself too hard – stretch in a controlled manner and stay focused; note how your body reacts to the exercise. If you are diagnosed with a spinal injury, ask your doctor if this program is suitable for you. Before we start with the exercises, let’s briefly review the spine’s anatomy and movement.
There are 5 different regions of the spine: Cervical, Thoracic, Lumbar, Sacrum, Coccyx. 33 different bones, or vertebrae, are working together to create movement and/or stability for you. 24 of these bones are movable, and 9 of them are immovable. The ones that do not move are part of the lowest point of the spine – your sacrum and the coccyx. Each vertebrae has a neural arch – where our spinal cord passes through – and pieces sticking out where our muscles and ligaments attach to.
Range of Motion of the Spine
We use our spine to move forward (flexion), sideways (lateral flexion), backwards (extension) and for rotation. Naturally, everyone is more able to move forward further than backward. But some people have a high degree of backward mobility. Flexion is produced by the sternocleidomastoid muscles and the scalene muscles. Extension is produced by lengthening the abdominal muscles while contracting the erector spinae and the gluteus maximus. Rotation is produced by the obliques, latissimus dorsi, iliopsoas and rectus abdominus.
Let’s start with the first exercise, Rolling Over. Enjoy!
The series so far:
- Exercise #1: Rolling Over (you are here)
- Exercise #2: Seal
- Exercise #3: Crab
- Exercise #4: Rocking Chair
- Exercise #5: Extended Legs Back Roll
- Exercise #6: Boomerang
- Exercise #7: Controlled Balance
- Exercise #8: Jackknife
Exercise #1: Rolling Over
Initial position. Sit on an exercise mat and, bringing your feet together, pull your knees to your chest to compress the whole body into a tight wad. Tilt the head to the knees as far as your flexibility allows. Firmly grasp the lower legs with your hands. Get your feet from the floor and hold the balance only with the buttocks. Then:
- Inhaling, gently roll over on your back;
- Exhaling, roll forward to return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.
Make Sure You:
- In the initial position pull in the stomach towards the spine and try to achieve a form like the letter “C”, starting from the head to the tailbone;
- At the beginning of phase 2, further pull in the stomach to tilt the pelvis backwards and going out of balance gently roll back. Do not try to roll back too far, the movement must end in the upper back;
- To facilitate the transition to the returning movement in the 3rd phase, use the leg extensor muscles in the hip and knees to try and take them further from the chest with the arms restricting the movement. The extensor arm muscles in the shoulders pull your feet in a downward direction. At the same time, by sinking the abdominal muscles even more, bend in the lumbar spine and torso forward;
- During the exercise, try to minimize bending angle changes in the hip, knee and elbow joints. The body should be rolled as a single compact entity. In order to achieve this, use the isometric contractions of muscles in the arms and legs, which create tension, but do not produce any visible movement. When bringing forward legs only slightly unbend in the hip and knee joints, as permitted by the hands. The hands, in turn, try to pull the ankles to the buttocks;
- Have in mind a mental image of yourself inside a large gymnastic ball that rolls back and forth, and your back and spine take the shape of its surface.
The articulation of the back and spine in Rolling Over is achieved by the action of many muscles. The aim in this case is to maintain a constantly bending back, so that each vertebra split comes into contact with the mat separately. This, in turn, necessitates you to activate different muscle groups and to respect the delicate balance created. All of these skills you learn here, you will need in many other exercises.
Put your hands on the ankles and spread your elbows apart. This will allow greater bend the spine in the lumbar region, but somewhat less in the chest.
We wish you a successful start and we hope you’ll enjoy this new back and spine exercises program.