Your lumbar spine can get stressed, whether you're sitting all day long at work or training half a day for a dance competition. Even though it is the largest and the most stable part of your spine, besides your sacrum, your lumbar spine can only take so much pressure before the surrounding muscles and tissues get stiff and fatigued. Stretching and strengthening your lumbar spine can prevent low back pain and improve how you move. So take a deep breath, stand up and stretch!
Standing Forward Bend
Stand with your feet together and inhale deeply as you raise your arms from your sides over your head. Tighten your buttocks slightly as you move.
Exhale slowly as you bend forward as much as you can and reach for your toes with your hands. Bend your knees slightly if you need to do so. Hold this position for one deep breath while you relax your body.
Inhale slowly as you roll your body up to resume the starting position. Repeat the exercise five to six times.
Put your forearms and elbows on top of a stability ball so that your elbows are below your shoulders and extend your legs behind you with your feet slightly apart. Support your legs by bending your toes. Tighten your buttocks a little and develop a steady breathing rhythm as you hold this position.
Move the ball in a steady, clockwise pattern by using your shoulders and elbows. Keep your body in alignment so that your head, torso, hip and legs are in a straight line.
Perform two sets of 10 to 15 reps. Rotate in a clockwise direction in the first set and rotate in a counter-clockwise direction in the second set.
Lie on the floor on your right side of your body with a firm cushion to support your head. Align your left shoulder with your right shoulder and align your left leg on top of your right leg.
Bend your left knee toward your ribs and place it on the floor in front of you. Hold your knee with your right hand to keep it in place.
Bend your right knee behind you and grab your right ankle with your left hand. You should feel a stretch in your right thigh. Do not rotate your torso very much as you reach with your left hand.
Take a deep breath and exhale slowly as you rotate your torso to your left, bringing your left shoulder down as low as you can without moving your lower body.
Stop turning when you cannot rotate without forcing your body to do so. Take another deep breath and exhale, which allows you to rotate a little more to your left. Repeat this breathing and turning pattern three to four more times. Do this exercise on the opposite side of your body.
- Once you're familiar with these basic exercises, try other exercises that can improve your lower back stability and mobility, for example, Child's Pose, Triangle Pose and Cat-and-Cow from yoga. Standing weight-training exercises, such as squats, shoulder presses, deadlifts and kettlebell swings, can strengthen your lower back as well as other muscles and joints near your lumbar spine.
- Do not continue to stretch if you experience pain in your lumbar spine. Check with your healthcare provider, such as a physical therapist or chiropractor, to address the cause of pain before starting or continuing to exercise.
Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.