We all know people who think that the challenges of everyday life are enough to keep their backs pain-free. Sadly those people will start appreciating the value of a preventative exercise strategy after a shearing back injury. Perform this morning exercise for back muscles as well as your gluteal and hamstring muscles regularly and you’ll see results in just a few weeks.
Injury often arises from a simple movement like picking up a box from the floor at work, sitting for a long time, turning around in the car to get something in the back seat, or just plain old fatigue. That doesn’t mean that all back injuries can be avoided, but the risk of a serious injury from day-to-day or weekend sport activities is considerably lower if the back, gluteals and hamstrings are strong.
However, a sloppy exercise form could itself be responsible for the pain you’re trying to avoid, so proper technique is vital for back health.
Structure and function of the lower back
A good morning exercise should activate the back, hamstrings and gluteal muscles. The long head of the biceps femoris muscle of the hamstrings attaches to the ischial tuberosity, which are the bony parts of your posterior pelvis that you sit on when being in a chair. The fibers of the short head of biceps femoris start on the lower one-third of the femur bone just above the knee. Both heads of the biceps femoris muscle fuse into a thick tendon, which crosses the lateral side of the knee joint to attach to the fibula bone (and some ligaments). The semitendinosus muscle fibers of the hamstring group attach to the ischial tuberosity and insert into a cord-like tendon that crosses the knee joint posteriorly to anchor on the medial side of the superior part of the tibia bone. This hamstring muscle crosses the knee and the hip joints posteriorly and can both extend the thigh at the hip joint (which is its major role in the morning exercise below) and flex the leg at the knee joint.
The gluteus maximus is the largest and thickest of all the hip muscles and strongly activated by the morning exercise. Its muscle fibers attach on the ileum of the hip bone, and the sacrum. It inserts on the posterior part of the femur bone of the thigh and on the iliotibial band of the fascia latae, a tough band of connective tissue running from the hip down the lateral side of the thigh to the knee. The gluteus maximus extends the thigh.
When the thigh is fixed and the hip joint is free to move as it’s in the morning exercise below, the gluteus maximus muscle can also help to extend the lower back. The smaller gluteus medius and gluteus minimus muscles abduct the femur (brings the thigh to the side) and provide important stabilizing functions during the torso flexion and extension parts of this workout. The erector spinae muscles, and particularly their attachments in the lower back area are also activated by the morning exercise. This muscle group extends the vertebrae of the backbone.
The iliocostalis muscle is the most lateral of the erector spinae group. It starts from the iliac crest of the hip bone, and inserts into the ribs. The longissimus muscle runs nearly the whole length of the back, from the lateral bony projections of the vertebrae referred to as transverse processes, to transverse processes of vertebrae, which are more superior. The spinalis muscle runs up the center of the back. It arises from the spinous processes (small projections that lie straight in the center of the vertebrae) in the lumbar and lower thoracic regions and they attach on the spinous process of the thoracic and neck (cervical) regions. When weak, the erector spinae muscles contribute to back pain and poor posture. The erector spinae group acts as the first mover to extend the back at the hip and move the torso upward and it controls the downward movement to the final position.
Nevertheless, the gluteal and hamstring muscles are both strong hip extensors and they’ll also be very active in this workout. After you complete the set, take the time to stretch your gluteal and hamstring muscles. You can do this by standing, straightening your knees and trying to bring your head and chest toward your thighs for 4-5 stretches held for 10 seconds each.
If your hamstrings are very tight (for example due to sitting a lot throughout the day) this could also contribute to lower back pain; nonetheless, if you stretch between sets, this will relieve the tightness. Both the up and down phases of every repetition has to be performed in a slow and controlled way.
After only a couple of weeks, you will notice that this morning exercise has revitalized your lower back with the bonus of firming your gluteals and forming more shapely hamstrings. Your back stiffness and fatigue that you get from sitting at a desk for extended periods of time will all but vanish. Moreover, your risk of injury will be considerably lowered, and this is a great health benefit.
Don’t be one of those people who wish they had performed some direct back exercises, but only to realize their mistake after it’s too late, and they have hurt their back. You can do something good by performing the exercise below at whatever time of the day you exercise, and so avoid becoming a statistic for back pain or injury.
EXERCISE THAT WORKS YOUR BACK, GLUTEAL AND HAMSTRING MUSCLES
- Put a light barbell across your upper back. Make sure that the bar isn’t positioned over the neck. Take an overhand grip on the bar to hold the bar in place.
- Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend the knees just a little and then lock them in this position.
- Flex the torso forward at the hips without bending your knees. Continue bending forward until your upper body is parallel to the ground. Keep your eyes and head up throughout the forward flexion.
- 4. Stop for 1-2 seconds at the position with your back parallel to the ground, then reverse the movement by extending the trunk to return back up to initial position.