Your lower back is the anchor of the core support system for the entire body. Keeping it strong and stable isn't just about looking good - it's about making sure that you have adequate strength to bend, twist, and lift. A bad back can come about from simply lifting a heavy box incorrectly, so ensuring that you keep those thick muscles strong can prevent mishaps. The lower back is considered the area from about the middle of your spine down to the top of your glute muscles. It's a thick network of muscles that encase your lumbar spine and provide support for every day tasks like standing, lifting, and bending. There are many exercises for the lower back that are simple and hugely beneficial to your body. These exercises for the lower back are simple to do and may be modified depending on your fitness level. You may choose to perform these on a yoga mat to prevent slipping and add a bit of comfort, but do not lie on anything much thicker. This ensures you are working the correct muscle combinations. As with any exercise program, consult with your primary physician before starting.

Partial crunches

This type of small sit up, known as a partial crunch, not only helps strengthen your back but is great for the stomach muscles too. Lie on your back with your legs bent, feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Put your hands on the base of your head, or crossed in front of your chest. Breath in to begin. As you exhale, tighten your stomach muscles and lift your shoulders up off the floor, careful not to lead with your elbows. When performing this movement, make sure to lead with your chest and fully engage your core. Hold the raised position for a two-count second and then return slowly to the floor as you inhale. Repeat 8-12 times. Your lower back, tailbone, and feet should stay on the floor throughout the exercise.

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Knee to chest

A gentle beginning to your routine of lower back stretches is the knee to chest exercise. Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and hands on your sides. Breath in to begin. Breathing out, and keeping your lower back pressed into the floor, bring your right knee to your chest while keeping the other foot flat on the floor. Lower your knee and repeat on the left leg. Do 2-4 sets on each leg. You should feel a gentle pulling along the lowest of the muscles, right above your tailbone. Try not to let your hips lift off the ground as you bring the knee to your chest.

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Pelvic Tilts

Pelvic tilts are an isometric exercise - that is, there's more tension going on inside your body than yo necessarily see on the outside. This is a subtle hip movement intended to improve lower back strength considerably. Begin this exercise lying on your back with your arms by your sides and your knees bent, and your feet are hip-width apart, flat on the floor. This is the resting position. Tighten your core stomach muscles first, when you feel this happening, only then should you press your lower back into the floor and tilt your pelvis and hips back. Your pelvis should rotate along a small angle - imagine tucking your tailbone underneath you. Hold this position for 10 seconds, breathing in and out evenly before releasing the hips back and releasing the stomach muscles. Repeat this 8-12 times.

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The Glute Bridge

A great exercise to follow from the pelvic tilt is a glute bridge. Assume the same resting position as the pelvic tilt - knees bent with feet hip-width apart and flat on the floor. In your resting position, engage the core stomach muscles, squeeze the buttocks and push your heels into the floor. As you squeeze, lift your hips off the ground until you have a straight line from knees to the hips and then the shoulders. Only your feet, shoulders, and arms are touching the floor. Hold for 5 seconds and slowly return the hips to the floor and rest. Repeat this exercise 8 -12 times.

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Hamstring Stretches

The hamstrings are long and ropey, and can often get tight from sitting or standing in one position for too long. To increase lower back strength, flexibility, and reduce joint stiffness, perform hamstring stretches. To being, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Straighten the right knee as you lift your right foot towards the ceiling. Lightly hold the back of your knee or your calf and pull the leg towards yourself. You should feel a stretch down the length of the back of your leg. Hold this position for up to 30 seconds and gently release. Repeat on each leg 2- 4 times. You can also loop a rolled up towel under your foot and use it to pull your leg towards you.

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Wall Sits

This is a deceptively simple exercise. You can modify this one with a yoga ball to increase difficulty. The wall stretch is intended to increase the strength of your legs, glutes, and lower back. To begin, stand eighteen to twenty-two inches (the distance will depend on your height) from the wall and lead back until your back is flat against it. Imagine you are poised to sit in a chair, without the chair. Slide down the wall until your legs are bent at a 90-degree angle, just as if you were sitting flat on that chair. Hold this position for the count of 10. Carefully slide yourself back up the wall and rest. To make this more challenging, or if you have difficulty sliding, use a yoga ball in the small of your back and roll along that. Repeat 8-12 times.

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Press-up Back Extensions

To lengthen the spine and increase flexibility in your core and lower back, perform press-up back extensions. To begin, lie on your stomach with your elbows bent, and hands placed flat on the floor underneath your shoulders. Your legs are straight out behind you, toes curled under. From this position, push with your hands, lifting your shoulders off the floor. Hold this position for several seconds and release down to the floor again. If this is too difficult, place your elbows on the floor directly under your shoulders, your forearms straight out in front and hands flat on the floor. Push up on your elbows instead. Lengthen the spine and feel the stretch from your chest through the small of your back. Exhale, holding for 4 seconds, then return to start. Repeat 8-12 times.


Bird Dog

Working your stomach muscles again to stabilize the lower back, this time, begin on your hands and knees: a tabletop position. Using your core and tightening your stomach muscles, lift and extend your right leg behind you. Keep your extended parallel to the floor if you are able. In this position keeps your hips aligned with the ground and your neck straight, eyes looking at the floor. Hold for five seconds before returning the leg to the tabletop position. Repeat on each leg 8-12 times. Don't raise the leg higher than the level of the back. When the leg is extended, you should have one long line from the toe to the head.

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Cat and Cow

After the bird dog, here's another animal duo to stretch that lower back. This is a dynamic and satisfying back stretch that increases flexibility and range of motion. Starting on all fours again, go into the cat pose, by rounding the back up towards the ceiling and tucking the head to the chest and the pelvis under. Imagine looking like a scary Halloween cat with its back arched. Slowly, engaging your core and your back muscles, bring your spine from concave to convex. Imagine you are a sway-backed cow. Arch your back the other way, look up with the head and chest and tilt the pelvis, so the buttocks want to point to the ceiling. Hold each position for only a few moments and do not overstretch in these positions. Repeat 4-6 times.

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Butterfly Sitting Pose

This is a very gentle position to encourage and strengthen the back. It also relieves pressure after completing your lower back workout to be able to sit and breathe while in a beneficial position. The butterfly-sitting pose comes from a yoga exercise of the same name. Sit on the floor with your back straight and legs in front of you and bend your knees to bring your feet in towards your pelvis. The soles of our feet should be touching, knees spread as wide as you are able, with legs open to the floor. Holding your feet with your hand, or your ankles or calves if you can't reach your feet, breathe in. As you exhale, press your knees further towards the floor. Do this by using your elbows to put weight on the side of the knee. Bending forward extends the stretch. Release and rest. Repeat this stretch a few times.

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