Strengthening your core is the most obvious answer to relieving back pain. Think of your your abs and back as complementary body parts. When you have a strong core you’ll move through life and your workout with better posture—and this helps alleviate pressure on your lower back.
And, your back is technically part of your core, which includes your abs, hips, glutes, and back muscles. And a strong core makes exercise safer and more effective..
Here are four core-strengthening Pilates exercises she recommends for helping to reduce lower back pain.
1. Pilates 100s
This is a great exercise to include during a warm-up. It will connect you to your core while generating heat in your body. With your core completely engaged you will set your body up with a neutral spine. That will help reducing arching that can lead to pressure in your lower back.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent. Point your toes, squeeze your heels together, and extend your legs out to about a 65-degree angle, or lower to the ground for more of a challenge.
- Lift your head and shoulders off the mat and extend your arms by your side.
- Pump your arms up and down using your triceps, inhaling through the nose for five pumps and exhaling out of the mouth for five pumps.
- Continue and repeat the set of 5 inhales and 5 exhales a total of 10 times to complete 1 set of 100.
Once you’ve gained control over your core, you are challenged to move your limbs without losing that connection, as you do in this exercise., This leads to the body being able to rely solely on the abs for movement and prevents the lower back from taking over.
- Start on your back with your legs straight and arms reaching overhead.
- Extend the right leg toward the sky as you curl up off the shoulder blades and reach for the calf or thigh, grabbing behind your leg gently with both hands. Hover your left leg above the ground.
- Keeping your torso lifted, switch legs, so your right leg is hovering over the ground and your left leg is pointing upwards.
3. Hip Bridge
Lower back pain can come from a combination of weakness and tightness. When we strengthen our posterior chain (the backside of your body) it lessens the load on our delicate lower backs. Not only are we targeting the hamstrings and glutes in a bridge, but we are pressing through the triceps and back of the head which elongates the cervical spine.
- Start on your back with your knees bent and arms in low V by your hips. Your feet should be about hip-distance apart with your heels a few inches away from your butt.
- Push through your heels to lift your hips up while squeezing your glutes. Try to create one diagonal line from your shoulders to your knees.
- Pause for 1-2 seconds, then lower back down.
4. Bird Dog
- Start on your hands and knees in tabletop position with your wrists above your shoulders and your knees below your hips.
- Extend your right arm forward and left leg back, maintaining a flat back and square hips.
- For a more advanced version, add the crunch (as demonstrated in the GIF above) by drawing your right elbow and left knee to meet under your torso.