Eighty percent of men and women in the United States experience lower back pain at least once in their lives, according to the website IdeaFit.com. One of the reasons for back pain includes repetitive motions such as lifting objects. Men in particular should strengthen their lower back and supporting muscles because they often lift heavy objects more frequently than women, Mary Yoke states in "A Guide to Personal Fitness Training."
The cobra is a beginner exercise that strengthens the abs and lower back. The transverse abdominis muscle that runs the length of the abdomen works to stabilize the spine and lower back. The cobra is an effective exercise for this area because it targets the transverse abdominis and the muscles of the spine and lower back, which are called the erector spinae. To perform this exercise, begin by lying on your stomach with your legs straight. Bend your arms and place your hands on the floor next to your armpits. Then, slowly press your arms straight and lift your upper body away from the floor. Allow your back to arch and keep your stomach and lower body in contact with the ground.
The front plank, or modified plank, works the erector spinae and the transverse abdominis -- but because it is a more difficult exercise than the cobra, the rectus abdominis muscles are engaged as well to stabilize the torso. The rectus abdominis is the six-pack muscle. To perform the front plank, bend your elbows and place your forearms at shoulder-width distance apart on the floor with your palms face down. Step your feet back so that your legs are straight and your toes support your lower body's weight. Adjust the height of your hips so that your body forms a straight line from head to heel. The neck should be in line with the spine as you look down. The abs are squeezed tight to support your back. Simply maintain this position for as long as desired.
The cat stretch is an exercise designed to lengthen the erector spinae. This stretching exercise is also a yoga pose and a Pilates exercise. Begin on your hands and knees on the floor or a mat. Place your hands in line with your shoulders. The spine begins in a neutral, straight position. Then, squeeze your abs and round your back as high as you can without moving your hands or knees. Let your neck relax and drop down to increase the stretch.
- IDEA Health & Fitness Association: Pilates for Low-Back Pain
- A Guide to Personal Fitness Training; Mary Yoke, MA, and the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America
- American Council on Exercise: Cobra
- American Council on Exercise: Front Plank