When it comes to your health you gotta have your back’s back. If you don’t, no one else will. A strong back is one of the most important aspects of total-body fitness, and it helps you keep up with all that life throws at you. Without a healthy back, it’s almost impossible to play with your kids, go out with friends or take part in your favorite hobbies -- shopping included. Instead of suffering through back pain or waiting for it to come your way, head it off at the pass by doing simple, at-home exercises for your upper and lower back.
Back Strength Basics
Think for a minute about everything you do that involves your back. Better yet, try and think of an activity that doesn’t involve that area. Your back connects your upper and lower body and makes moving possible. Walking, running, sitting, standing, throwing, bending, twisting -- all involve your body’s core. Because you use it so often, you can hurt your back easily, especially if your muscles are weak. Without enough strength, you’ll have underdeveloped muscles prone to strain if put under high stress or held in awkward positions.
You don’t have to have a gym membership if you want to work your upper back. All you need is a good set of dumbbells or a hanging bar. By using dumbbells, you can work the muscles of your upper back by doing bent-over dumbbell rows either from a standing or seated position. The best way to target the upper back, though, is by doing pull-ups and chin-ups on a hanging bar. These target the upper back more effectively than rows and are two of BodyBuilding.com’s top five exercises for your lats.
Your lower back is where most back injuries occur, which is why you have to keep it strong and stable. Working your lower back at home is easier than working your upper back. While dumbbells are helpful, you can even get a powerful workout without using any weight at all by doing supermans and quadruped one-arm and leg raises. If you do have dumbbells, though, don’t toss them aside. Dumbbell rows can strengthen your lower back as well, and you can also use them for deadlifts, which are highly effective at training the lumbar area.
Training your back can be risky, especially if you’ve had trouble with the area in the past. Make sure you know how to do each exercise before you attempt it, and maintain good form throughout the workout. When you’re doing rows, keep your back straight and your abs tight to keep from putting too much pressure on the area, and even when you’re not working it out you can help your back simply by maintaining good posture. And, as with all new exercises, check with your doctor before beginning to improve your chances for positive results.
After graduating from the University of Kansas with a bachelor's degree in sports information, Jill Lee served for 10 years as a magazine editor for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Also a published author, Lee now works as a professional writer and editor focusing on fitness, sports and careers.