While the muscles in your upper back allow you to move your neck and coordinate with your shoulders to lift objects, the muscles in the middle part of your back help you to bend forward. The muscles in your lower back work in concert with your obliques to stabilize your spine. At-home exercises can help you to stretch and strengthen the different regions of your back muscles, improving your posture and preventing injury.
Mind Your Midsection
Stabilization exercises for your lower back and core can be done at home with no weights and little space, and are particularly helpful for conditioning your back muscles after sitting for prolonged periods. Such exercises include the bird-dog exercise, bridges and trunk rotations. For example, begin the bird-dog exercise by getting on all fours with your hands aligned under your shoulders and knees beneath your hips. Exhale and slowly lift and extend your right arm in front of you and your left leg behind you. Your raised arm and leg should form a straight line with your body. Hold the peak position for a few seconds, inhale and then return to the starting position. Perform six to seven reps on each side.
Move Like a Cobra
Back extensions mimic the way a cobra arches its head upward and can build the muscles in your lower back. For example, begin the prone cobra, an advanced exercise, by lying face-down with your torso draped over a stability ball. Extend your legs behind you, bracing your feet against a wall or digging your toes into the floor for stability. Hold a pair of dumbbells near your chest with elbows flared out. Exhale and lift your upper body several inches off the ball. While holding the top position, rotate your upper arms and raise the dumbbells toward your ears. Keep your upper arms parallel to the floor and maintain the same angle of your elbows. Inhale and lower the weights to your chest and then lower your chest to the ball. Complete 10 to 15 reps for one to two sets.
Aim for the V-Shape
Strengthening exercises, such as reverse flyes, bent-over rows or pullovers, for the upper-back muscles, or lats, can help you to achieve the classic "V" shape. For example, perform a reverse fly on an exercise ball at home. Begin by lying on your chest on the ball with your legs extended behind you. Hold a pair of dumbbells with a neutral grip, palms facing each other, and allow your arms to hang by your sides. Exhale and lift your arms in a sweeping arc to your sides until they reach shoulder level. Hold the peak position for a second or two, inhale and then slowly return to the starting position. Perform 10 to 15 reps for one to two sets.
Mimic a Cat and Cow
If you're sitting at a desk for many hours, your trunk is spending most of its time in a state of flexion. When you stand up and lean backward or sideways, you can feel the tightness in your back. Perform a variety of stretches, such as back extensions, trunk curls or side bends, to improve the flexibility of your back. For example, begin a cat and cow stretch by getting on your hands and knees. Arch your back up like a frightened cat, tucking your hips under and dropping your chin to your chest. Hold the top position for four seconds and then slowly reverse the movement by pushing your hips back, lifting your head and lowering your back. Hold the bottom position for four seconds. Perform six to eight reps.