I recently talked with someone who gets low back pain about strength and stability training and exercises for low back pain, but was politely brushed off with “I know what I need to do – I need to strengthen my abs”.  Later, I wished I had had the opportunity to make the following suggestions:

  1. Stretch your hip flexors

Why a hip flexor stretch as an exercise for low back pain?  

Because the psoas (one of the hip flexors) attaches at the low back.  For those of us who work at desks, this muscle tends to feel tight.  When the hip flexor is tight, it can tilt the pelvis forward, which can lead to extending the low back when walking.  Think about how many steps you take in a day – that’s a lot of extensions!  So give your back a break with a little hip flexor stretch. Take 8 to 12 deep breaths while you do the stretch. 

2. Strengthen the glutes

Get a better butt, and you will probably have less back pain.  This isn’t universally true, but the glutes are a big muscle in the middle of the body and can really do a lot of heavy lifting, meaning your back doesn’t have to. There are lots of options for strengthening the glutes, and glute bridges are a great way to start. Try this two-leg glute bridge, making sure to really focus on engaging your glutes. Go for 8 reps, holding each rep for 5 seconds. If you can’t feel the glutes, check this post out as it might help you get the glutes going.   

3. Get someone to screen you using the Functional Movement Screen (FMS)

Technically this is not an exercise; it’s a series of exercises to help select a great exercise program for you. We use this tool with our clients at Custom Strength because it makes it easy for us to see what movements are painful (and thus we avoid or work around), where there is room for a little extra work (more sretching or maybe more ab exercises), and where there are funky movements happening (like shifting to one side in a squat). If you don’t have access to this, then try to keep a key concept of the FMS in mind with whatever exercises you do: If an exercise hurts, it’s probably not a great choice, so see if you can find another option, or get some coaching help because a little form tweak may be all you need to go from painful to not.

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