EXPERT ADVICE – Men’s Journal
The Only 5 Moves You Need for a Healthy Back
More than 80 percent of American men will suffer at least one episode of disabling back pain in their lives. The culprit: A lifetime of sitting on their rears, says NCAA Division I baseball player turned pain specialist Patrick Mummy, president of San Diego’s Symmetry Health clinic.
Over the years your butt draws inward and your pelvis, which tilts forward naturally at about 10 degrees, levels out unnaturally. Your pelvis and your belly push out, your hip flexors tighten, and your lower back flattens. It all adds up to a slumped position Mummy calls the “suck and tuck.” His custom program, drawn from exercises like those shown here, attempts to reverse the damage.
Purpose: This lower-body strengthener is the glue holding all the previous exercises together. It takes pressure off the back (where it has settled after years of bad posture) and puts it on the legs and hips, where it belongs.
What to Do: With your lower back against a wall, slowly walk your feet forward. Keeping feet hip-width apart and straight ahead, slide down the wall until your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Press your lower back into the wall by shifting your weight to your heels and off your toes. Relax your abs and shoulders as your thighs burn.
Muscles Worked: Quads, glutes, hip flexors, hamstrings
How Long: 1-2 minutes
Purpose: Back pain is often caused by one leg riding higher than the other. This stretch loosens the hips to balance the spine.
What to Do: On your back with knees bent, feet hip-width, arms wide, bring your right ankle to your left knee, then pivot to the floor on your left. Press your right knee slightly away, stretching the outside of the right hip.
Muscles Worked: Hips, glutes, lower back
How Long: 1 minute per side
Purpose: Stretches your suck and tuck–shortened hamstrings, preparing you to walk and run in balance.
What to Do: Lie on your back with your legs straight up against a wall, spread hip-width apart. If necessary, scoot away from the wall slightly so that your tailbone and entire back are on the floor. Keep your feet flat, as if you were trying to balance a tray on your soles.
Muscles Worked: Glutes, hamstrings, lower back
How Long: 2 minutes
Purpose: Lengthens and decompresses your spine, making you stand taller and relieving painful pressure on squeezed discs.
What to Do: Sit in a chair with your knees bent at 90 degrees. Roll your hips forward. Interlace your fingers with palms up and extend your arms straight up until your elbows lock. Pull your shoulder blades together. Don’t lean back, and don’t let your arms bend. Allow your abs to relax, creating an arch in your lower back.
Muscles Worked: Lower and upper back
How Long: 1 minute
Purpose: Relaxes the hips and back, making the body receptive to the exercises to follow. (Note: This position can also ease sudden pain.)
What to Do: Lie on your back with both feet and calves resting on the seat of a chair, knees bent 90 degrees, and arms out to your side, palms up. Relax your back into the floor and breathe through your diaphragm.
Muscles Worked: Glutes, lower and upper back
How Long: 5 minutes