How to Protect Your Back When Exercising At Home

Watching your weight and sleeping well are two of the most recommended ways to keep your spine healthy. However, when you’re in the middle of a health crisis and feeling forced to spend all your time in your home, you might start to experience stress and anxiety that may prevent you from sleeping well or lead to unhealthy habits that could cause weight gain. Because of this, exercising will be a very important part of your stay-at-home routine, and you should implement this if it’s not already part of your daily schedule. Doing so will allow you to sleep better and prevent weight gain. Of course, it’s also important for you to be aware of the ways you can potentially hurt your back and spine, as well as strengthening exercises, in order to keep yourself safe and in good shape.

Protecting Your Back

It’s easy to exercise in ways that may end up causing harm to your back and spine health, especially if you’re doing so at home. However, it’s even easier to follow these tips for exercising safely while still protecting your back and spine.

First of all, remember to stretch before you get into your work out routine. Having tight muscles can add stress to your spine and joints, and this will increase your risk of causing damage. Stretching your muscles daily will help avoid this by keeping your spine healthy and increasing your flexibility.

When you do create your at-home work out routine or your work out routine in general, focus on exercises that will strengthen your core. Your lower back muscles need to be strong because they support your entire upper body. This places a huge amount of stress on this area, as well as your spine, so strengthening your core muscles will provide some help. Exercises that will improve your posture will help as well because poor posture takes a toll on your spine.

If lifting weights is part of your routine, make sure that you’re lifting correctly. Twisting and bending while carrying a heavy load is one of the worst things you can do to your spine, so make sure to avoid that. You can do so by remembering to lift with your legs, never your back, and using proper form at all times.

Some exercises you should avoid include stomach crunches, toe touches, and anything else that involves twisting or bending your spine while keeping your legs straight. When bending over, get into the habit of using the correct form, even if you’re not bending for exercise. This means bending from the hips and knees while keeping your back straight. It will also help to keep your feet shoulder-width apart as you bend.

Finally, it’s also important to know your limits, and know when you may be pushing yourself too hard. Even if you follow all these tips and use the correct technique, you can still injure yourself by trying to do more than your body is able.

Exercises to Improve Your Posture

Improving your posture is beneficial for your back and spine health as well, and will you help when performing other exercises. The following are just a few examples of exercises that will help in improving your posture, and may even help reduce back pain.

  • Reverse high five. Stand tall, shrug your shoulders up toward your ears and relax them back down. Then turn your palms so they are facing behind you, and press your hands back as if to give someone a high five. Repeat this 10 times.
  • Goalpost Squeeze. Sit upright and lift your arms up into a goalpost position. Keep your elbows even with your shoulders and bent at a 90-degree angle. Relax your shoulders down and pull your elbows toward the back of the room. Release and repeat this exercise 10 times. Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes, and do 3 sets.
  • Side plank. Lie on your side and keep your elbow directly under your shoulder. Tighten your lower abdominal muscles, then lift your hips into the air, trying to create a straight line from your head to your toes. Start on your knees if you need to modify this exercise. This exercise will also increase stability in your lower back.
  • Neck flexion. Lying face up, gently tuck in your chin and lift your head 2 inches off the ground. Hold the position for 5 seconds, then gently lower your head back down, keeping your chin tucked. Do 10 reps.
  • Chest opener. Clasp your hands behind your back and push them toward the ground while reaching your arms away from your body. Open your chest while lifting your head and you will feel a stretch across your chest. Hold for 5 breaths, and release. 

Find more examples of posture-improving exercises here and here.

Exercises to Strengthen Your Core

Strengthening your core will not only protect your back and spine when exercising, but it will also improve your spine health overall. There are plenty of exercises that can be done for the purpose of strengthening, but here are a few to help you get started.

  • Plank. This exercise involves supporting your body with your forearms and toes while keeping your body in a straight line, which uses your core muscles for support. Depending on your level of expertise, you can make it easier by resting on your knees, or more difficult by supporting yourself only with your hands rather than your forearms.
  • Dead bug. While lying on your back, lift your arms straight toward the ceiling and raise your legs, keeping your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Then, lower your right arm and left leg at the same time until they hover just above the floor, and return them to your starting position. Do the same with the opposite limbs. 
  • Bridge. Lie on your back with your knees bent. Make sure to keep your back in a neutral position and avoid pressing it into the floor or arching it. Then, tighten your abdominal muscles and, without tilting, lift your hips off the floor until they align with your knees and shoulders. Hold this position for three deep breaths, return to your original position, and repeat.
  • Single-leg abdominal press. Keeping your back in a neutral position, lie down with your knees bent. Tighten your abdominal muscles, and raise your right leg off the floor so your knee and hip are bent at a 90-degree angle. Then, rest your right hand on top of your right knee, and push your hand against your knee while using your abdominal muscles to pull your knee toward your hand. Keep your arm straight and hold this position for three deep breaths. Return to your starting position and repeat with your left hand and left knee. 
  • Superman. Lie on your stomach with a rolled-up towel or small pillow under your hips for back support. You may also want to use another folded towel to support your head. Tighten your abdominal muscles, and raise your right arm off the floor. Hold this position for three deep breaths. Lower your right arm, then repeat this with your left arm. Do the same with each leg.

These are only a few examples, but you can learn about more core strengthening exercises here and here.

Staying active plays a huge role in your spine health, so the last thing you want to do is avoid working out. However, following these tips and exercises will help you avoid hurting your back and keep your spine healthy while you navigate exercising from home.

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