Back strength is a vital inclusion in all training programs. Approximately 90% of adults suffer back injury or pain at some time in their lives. Weakness, immobility, poor posture and activities of daily life predispose humans to back problems. Back strengthening is sometimes given less time and emphasis than would be ideal. This is possibly because back strengthening can be awkward, poorly performed or exercise choice is limited. Unfortunately, also, some clients and instructors are more concerned with anterior muscle groups, giving less emphasis to important posterior anti gravity, postural muscles.
Not only do we need healthy strong backs for lifting and safe exercise, but also to protect our backs during every day life activities such as sitting at a desk for prolonged periods, frequently reaching and turning, or basic tasks like bathing the baby. So many of these activities put our backs under subtle but constant stress and create postural problems. With a back ground of poor posture and movement technique, superimposed on weak spinal musculature, it is not surprising that back injuries are so common.
To date, common back exercises include extensions lying prone on the floor, The back extension "machine", awkward positioning for upper back extension or posterior shoulder strengthening and few exercises adequately focus on lower back and gluteal strength.
The fitball provides a multitude of new, well performed, innovative and effective back strengthening exercises. Using the ball as a base of support, the fitball allows well supported, full range upper and lower back exercises as well as important associated muscle groups such as rhomboids, posterior deltoid, gluteals, and so on. A variety of back extensions choices enable us to prescribe appropriate exercises for any individual; being able to progress from supported gentle exercises, through to more challenging or intense choices. Rotation can be combined with extension on the fitball effectively training a very important compound movement which is used so frequently in daily activities. So many back exercises are applicable, following are a few very simple extensor ones.
Fitball Back Strengthening Exercises
Ball is under pelvis, feet on the ground. Holding the upper back slightly inclined and still, the arms are raised laterally with emphasis on drawing the scapulae in and downwards. Weights are varied to suit individuals.
- Ensure neck is in line with spine i.e. client looks down and ahead rather than up.
- Avoid jerking into extension; slow, controlled movement is ideal.
With the fitball under the pelvis the legs and upper body move simultaneously down and then extend to horizontal.
- The body and legs should go to horizontal, no higher.
- Hands are on the floor for balances only, do not push with the arms. Resting just the finger tips in close to the ball decreases the risk of "cheating".
Back extensions are performed at various levels:
- Both hands on the ball for slight assistance are used for weaker backs.
- Alternating raising of one arm with the back extension are slightly harder.
- Raising the back with both arms up and out, a la "super man" position.
- Superimposing shoulder external rotation (palms up) and scapula retraction places extra emphasis on rhomboids with back extension.
- Lifting up then reaching forward with arms to increase lever length is increasing intensity.
- Extending and rotating (slightly) is valuable and functional exercise.
- Maintain simplicity and quality rather than adding incredible weights or complexity. The exercises are truly effective if done appropriately.
- Always ensure neck is held in the neutral position
- Range of movement requires careful monitoring, these are controlled back extensions, not hyperextension stretches.