Lifestyle and Back Health
Ladies, it doesn’t matter whether you are a fitness junkie or have never worked out a day in your life, back pain affects at least 80% of us at some time in our lives.
Most of the time all it takes is a simple movement, like bending over to pick up a pen, for back pain to kick in. Of course it’s not the bending over that has caused the back pain directly – the biggest influence on back pain in women is lifestyle.
Take modern working life for example. The majority of working roles in Dubai, for both men and women, involve several hours a day sat a desk. Sitting for long periods of time tightens the hip muscles so when you get up to move, your hips are restricted by muscle tightness. If your hips are too tight when you go to the gym movement will have come from somewhere else, like the spine, to compensate.
As much as we love our beautiful handbags and dressy shoes, fashion can affect a healthy back for ladies too! Carrying a heavy handbag everyday on the same shoulder can curve the spine and wearing heels on a regular basis tilts the body forwards, taking a woman’s spine out of it’s natural alignment.
Lifestyle factors that affect a ladies’ posture over time are probably the main culprits of back pain but next to this is muscle strength.
Strong back muscles are essential for good posture and back muscles play a crucial role in how our body functions in everyday life tasks e.g. shopping, cooking, carrying children etc. This is because our back muscles not only support the spine, but they are connected to our hips, abs, butt, chest, shoulders and neck. We all know the importance of maintaining things like a healthy diet but the importance of strengthening our back muscles is very often underrated.
Key Elements of a Healthy Back
The key elements for maintaining a healthy back are as follows:
1. Hip Mobility
Having good hip mobility and flexibility will take the pressure away from the lower back. If the hips can move normally, the spine will not have to compensate.
2. Core Strength and Stability
The abdominal muscles are key supporting muscles of the lower back. Strong, well-balanced core muscles can prevent lower back pain. Core stability exercises are often prescribed by physiotherapists to relieve lower back pain.
3. Strong Posterior Chain Muscles (Glutes + Hamstrings)
If these muscles are too weak to do their job (to extend the hips and push the body forwards whilst running/walking) the lower back muscles will have to compensate, which can increase the risk of an injury.
4. Shoulder Mobility and Flexibility
Gradual onset upper back pain is common in people that sit repetitively at a desk for long hours. To help maintain a healthy posture and prevent back, neck or shoulder pain it is important to open up the chest and stretch out your shoulder muscles regularly.
5. Strong Lats
Lats or ‘latissimus dorsi’ are the largest muscles in the upper body and are responsible for moving, rotating and extending the arms, as well as pulling the arms back. It is weak Lat muscles that often lead to a hunched posture. Strengthening these muscles can be accomplished by adding in some more ‘pulling exercises’ into your exercise routine, such as TRX rows, pull ups etc…
Now that you know the key elements for maintaining a healthy back, team Curvalicious have chosen 5 very basic exercises to help get you started! None of these require any equipment and can easily be done at home as part of your daily routine, or whenever you have some spare time.
We’ve included some YouTube videos and links to help paint a clearer picture of each exercise, as well as some guidance on sets and repetitions.
Remember, nobody should have to wait until their back starts hurting one day to get started. If you really want to transform your lifestyle, looking after your back should be up their on your list of priorities – your future self will thank you forever!
5 Basic Exercises for a Healthy Back
1. Hip flexor stretch with T-Spine rotations
This is a great pre-workout dynamic stretch that will stretch your hips, glutes, engage the core and warm up your thoracic spine (upper back) all in one go.
Keep the core tight as you crawl out to a full plank position and bring your elbow as close to the floor as possible to increase the stretch on the Glutes.
Repetitions: Aim for around 5-8 as a warm up
2. Plank variations
The plank is a great exercise for strengthening core and back muscles together as well as the shoulders, arms and glutes.
There are many different variations you can do to challenge yourself but it is important to have good form to really reap the benefits of this exercise (back straight, hips low and tucked in, abs engaged).
Follow this link for plank exercise ideas and tips on having the perfect form: Perfect Plank
Repetitions: Aim to hold for 30 seconds for each set initially and slowly progress to 1 minute
3. Shoulder blade or Scapular push ups
This is a great exercise for correcting and strengthening upper back posture for those of you that have to sit at a desk for long hours.
Similar to the plank there are many different variations you can do to make the exercise easier or more challenging:
Medium: Scapular push on knees
Repetitions: Aim for 8 – 12
4. Chest Stretch
If you’re spending a lot of time seated during the day, taking short breaks to stretch out your chest and mobilize your shoulders can help prevent back, neck and shoulder pain.
There are many different stretches you can choose from, check out these chest stretches for ideas.
Sets: Whenever you have a spare moment
Repetitions: Hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds and then release each time
5. Back Extensions
Back extensions are one of the simplest back strengthening exercises that you can do outside of the gym. This exercise targets muscles in the lower back as well the core to improve strength and mobility.
Back extensions should be performed after you’ve warmed up your back with another exercise such as the T-spine rotation example above. If you include back extensions into your gym routine, schedule them at the end so that your lower back muscles are not fatigued for the session ahead.
Repetitions: Depends if you are doing a back extension hold or dynamic back extensions. Aim for 1-2 holds per set otherwise 8 – 10 repetitions for dynamic back extensions.
This is only handful of basic exercises that you can do to look after your back. Of course if you have access to gym equipment, there are countless more options for back exercises available to you. If you are dedicated to your fitness, a strong back will not only help protect you from injury but it will also help you to excel in all of your movements from running to yoga to weightlifting and more!
Remember, we are constantly using our back muscles not just when we are lifting objects, but also while walking, standing and even just sitting still! So the main take home point is whether you work out regularly or not, looking after your back health should always be a top priority.
Ladies, if you are looking for a private place to train in Dubai or are totally new to training and would like expert guidance to help you reach your goals, team Curvalicious are always happy to talk. Just fill in your details below and we will be in touch!