A simple upper back strengthening exercise.

The lower back is one of the most commonly injured or pain inducing areas of the body.  Lower back injury and pain can be brought on by many factors; weak core, tight lower back, poor posture, too much sitting, weak and tight upper back muscles, poor form when exercises, etc.  When I am working with clients to alleviate low back pain one of the things we work on is increasing upper back strength and doing exercises with really good form.  

An exercise that often brings on low back pain is any type of extension from a prone position (face down).  The reason clients feel their low back in these type of exercises is a lack of upper back engagement and then the body weight ends of being transferred to their low backs and is very compressive, creating too much tension and loading.  We can take away that pain by using the muscles of the upper back and lessening the range of motion. 

How to do a simple superman (upper body only!):

1) Start lying face down on a mat.  Place your hands underneath your shoulders or a little wider than your shoulders.  Relax through your lower half.  Draw your shoulder blades down away from your ears and keep your focus down towards the floor.  Think about keeping the back of your neck wrinkle free.  Press yourself up to the bottom of your ribs by engaging your upper back.

2)  Once you are lifted to the bottom of your ribs, lift your hands to check in and make sure you are holding yourself in the hover position using your upper back muscles more so than your hands.

3)  Keeping yourself lifted, extend your arms forward without lowering your shape and WITHOUT letting your shoulders rise up.  Pull arms back into sides using your latissimus dorsi muscles (your side back muscle) while keeping your body lifted.  Repeat, 2 sets of 10.  If you feel your form suffering lower down in between each repetition.