Reverse bad posture with these gentle exercises to get your spine out of that slump.
The most common posture problems are perpetually slumped shoulders and a tucked pelvis. This happens when we spend long hours sitting or staring down at our smartphones, and if this pattern continues, the spine could be at serious risk for injury.
Fortunately, studies show that strengthening your back muscles can help stabilize the spine, improving posture. (1) It’s easy to forget about the back of our body, but strong back muscles are just as important as core muscles.
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The back muscles and abs work together to support the movement of the body. These muscles can weaken as we age, which is why it’s important to strengthen them with a daily exercise routine.
The exercises below focus on the three groups of back muscles that support the spine: the extensors, flexors, and obliques are muscles that work together to support healthy back function and movement. (3) Ultimately, strong back muscles can help heal the most common types of back pain and with mindful daily activity, you can help relieve pain. (4)
Use these seven exercises to give your spine a tune-up in less than 10 minutes. We recommend that you perform this routine four times per week to strengthen your back, prevent injury and work towards stronger posture. You just need a yoga mat to get started!
The 7 Best Back Exercises for Spine Health
Standing Side Bend | 5 breaths per side
Always start with side bends before any backbends – it helps create more space in the vertebrae. It’s less about how far to the side you go and more about the length you create in the torso before bending.
- Stand with your feet hip-width distance apart, hands on hips.
- Reach your right arm above your head and inhale to get tall. Exhale bend over to the left side.
- Hold for 5 breaths, coming out of the pose a little on the inhale and going deeper on the exhale.
- Come back up to standing and repeat on the other side.
Chair Pose | 5 breaths
This yoga pose is great for strengthening the lower back muscles. I recommend doing it after long hours of sitting to fire up the muscles and feel energized.
- Stand with feet hip-width distance apart, toes facing forward.
- Send your hips down and back like you’re going to sit down in an imaginary chair. Set your hands on your thighs and push down to lengthen the front of the body. Then bring your elbows out to the sides in “cactus arms”.
- If you can, lift all ten toes off the mat. Engage your abs and arch your lower back.
- Hold for 5 breaths, inhaling to get longer in the spine and sit a little lower on the exhale.
Note: It is key to hug your belly button in and up! This action activates the transverse abdominals which support and lengthen the spine. If you feel any compression in the back, try to lengthen the sides and front of the body even more as you sit back.
High Lunge Arch | 5 reps per side
This version of a high lunge strengthens the abs, legs and back as they all work together to support the movement of the spine.
- Stand with feet hip-width distance apart, hands on hips.
- Bend your knees and step one foot back, placing the ball of your back foot on the ground. Arms come to cactus pose.
- Inhale to activate your abdominals, lengthening the arms up and arch your back. Exhale and return to cactus arms.
- Continue breathing as you repeat for 5 reps.
Balancing Table | 5 breaths per side
This pose can be tricky! Be sure to keep your abs engaged to support the lower back and reach energetically through the fingers and toes in opposite directions.
- Come to all fours, with hands directly under your shoulders and knees underneath your hips.
- Reach your right leg out behind you. At the same time, send your left arm forward at shoulder height.
- Hold for 5 breaths, lengthening on each inhale.
- Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
Upper Back Rises | 5 reps
Focus on your breath as you move through this serious back-strengthener.
- Lie on your belly with your legs extended behind you at hip-width distance.
- Place your hands in line with your shoulders and widen your hands to the edges of your mat.
- Inhale to raise your chest and hands off the ground, squeeze your shoulder blades together. Exhale to lower back down.
- Complete 5 reps.
Cobra Pose | 3 reps
To avoid crunching the lower back, use your hands on your mat to pull your chest forward. It’s more important to create length in the spine than to make a big back arch.
- Remain on your belly in the same starting position as above.
- This time, keep your hands on the ground and grip the ground with your fingertips as you inhale to raise your chest up. Keep your elbows bent as your back comes into a bigger backbend.
- Exhale to lower back down.
- Continue for 3 full reps.
Locust Pose | 3 reps
This cream-of-the-crop pose targets all the muscles of the entire back body, including the glutes and hamstrings. Be sure to focus on lengthening the entire body in each stage to get the most out of this exercise.
- Lie on your belly with your arms extended along the sides, palms facing down.
- Inhale to lift your arms, legs, and torso off the ground. Use your abdominal muscles to avoid any crunches in the spine.
- On an exhale, lower everything back down to the ground.
- Repeat for 3 reps.
(Your Next Workout: 7 Yoga Poses to Build Spine Strength and Flexibility)