When that lower-back pain hits, the last thing you want to do is work out. But exercise, chosen carefully and done properly, can actually alleviate lower-back pain and help build strength that can keep those twinges at bay. Whether the pain is from an injury, poor posture or hours on end sitting on your end, check with your doctor first to get her go-ahead to do exercises like the Dead Bug.
Importance of Core Strengthening
Performing exercises like the Dead Bug exercise will strengthen your core muscles, specifically your abdominals and obliques. It's important to focus on building strength in your midsection because it's at the center of every activity you perform. Whether your core is transporting kinetic energy from one end of your body to the other, or simply stabilizing your frame, it's always the hub. Strengthening your core makes everyday actions you never even think of possible and will support your back, an essential detail for those who suffer from lower-back pain.
Be the Bug
The Dead Bug exercise is performed lying on the floor on your back. Your knees should be bent with your feet flat on the floor and your arms at your sides. Contract your abdominal muscles and keep them taut as you raise your arms up toward the ceiling and lift your feet from the floor, keeping your knees bent. Hold the position for one count then bring your left arm down to the floor over your head. Keep your right arm extended upward, while at the same time you straighten and lower your right leg to the floor. Hold for one count then bring your left arm and right leg back to their previous positions and perform the exercise on the right arm and left leg. Although you'll keep your abs tight, remember to breathe throughout the exercise. Repeat the movements to execute 10 to 12 repetitions on each side.
When you're first starting out with the Dead Bug exercise, you can do a variation that doesn't require you to keep one arm extended upward at all times. The beginner's variation involves the same opposite arm and leg movements, but has you bend your arms at the elbows and rest your fists on the floor just above your head. Instead of extending your arm over your head when you move the opposite leg, you'll bring it up so you're holding your fist above your face, arm still bent.
Additional Recommended Exercises
Dr. Harry Herkowitz wrote the book on the lumbar spine. He noted that when treating athletes for lower-back injuries often he could get them back up and running (or jumping or whatever it is they needed to do) without having to put them in a brace if they participated in a lumbar stabilization program. His program was made up of eight types of exercise, starting with the Dead Bug exercise right in the number one spot. The other seven exercises included in the program to strengthen the core and support the lower back are partial situps, bridging, prone, quadrupedal, wall slides, ball exercises and aerobics.
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.