Pain in the lower back is a potentially debilitating problem that tends to affect many active individuals at some point.  A major downside of low-back pain is that it can make exercise extremely difficult, which in turn can affect your fitness goals. Thankfully there is an exercise or two that can help to reduce low-back pain and even help to flatten the stomach. The plank exercise is a well-developed exercise that can help to alleviate low-back pain, as is the standing two-arm press.

While the two-arm press usually requires a cable machine to work, as well as some movement to facilitate the exercise, the plank uses minimal movement while still allowing you to contract your abdominals. Both exercises help to strengthen your core, which can then help to reduce your back pain. The stronger your abdominal muscles become, the tighter they will be.  When you learn how to properly execute a plank position you will also begin to strengthen your hip, shoulder, and upper-back muscles.

Here is how to perform an effective plank:

*Keep your elbows under your shoulders and line your wrists up with your elbows.

*Elevate your body into a pushup position and keep your chin close to your neck.

*Tighten your abdominals, contract them and tuck your tailbone while tightening your thighs as you breathe normally.

*Hold this position for at least 20 to 30 seconds.

*Rest for about a minute between reps, it is usually recommended to do three to five reps.

Try to avoid these common mistakes when doing planks:

*Don’t allow your head, hips, or shoulders to drop.

*Keep your hands apart, don’t let them get too close.

*Do not hold your breath.

*Keep the contraction time to around 20 to 30 seconds, don’t go longer.

Here are a few exercises to consider when doing planks:

Plank with hip flexion/extension

*Start in a high-plank position

*Raise your right leg about six to eight inches, hold for five seconds, and then alternate legs. Do about three to four reps.

Plank with Thoracic Spine Rotation

*Start in high-plank position

*Press your right hand into the ground and then rotate feet and hips to the left while raising the left arm off the ground. Rotate back and repeat for the right side. Perform three to six reps per side.

Side Plank with Full Extension

*Going from a side position, press the right hand to the ground and then extend the other arm while at the same time pushing both legs together and keeping the side of the right foot pressed into the ground. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds and then alternate with the other side.

Plank-up

*Start in high-plank position

*Drop your right arm down to the right elbow, then the left to your left elbow and hold for three seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat for three to five reps.

This next exercise will require a cable machine and should be done at a gym.

Standing Two-arm Press from Cable Column

*setting the column to a chest-high setting, set your feet and push the bar away from you to simulate a standing plank.

*Hold this position for up to ten seconds and perform six to eight reps.

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