Weight Lifting and Back Pain

Strengthening Exercises for Your Spine

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To help you get started, below are a few examples of weight lifting and back strengthening exercises that may help decrease or prevent back pain.

These exercises and the number of repetitions are just suggestions. Talk to your doctor before you incorporate these exercises into your routine. Remember to listen to your body and stop immediately if something doesn't feel right.

Asian man performing a proper push up exercise

Push-ups
Push-ups help strengthen the back, chest, arms, and core muscles. All you need is your own body weight as resistance. To do this move:

  • Position your body in a straight line from head to toe, with your face looking toward the ground.
  • Your hands should be wider than shoulder-distance apart. Walk your hands out so they're a few inches higher than your shoulders
  • Balancing on your toes and hands, while keeping a straight back, lower your body to the floor by slowly bending your elbows until they're at a 90-degree angle.
  • Push back up using the strength of your arms, upper back, and chest muscles.
  • Do 3 sets of 10 push-ups every day. As you become stronger, you'll be able to do more repetitions.

Chest Flies
Chest flies are excellent for building muscle in the upper back and chest. You'll need a set of dumbbells, but you can also do this move on certain exercise machines for your upper body. To do this move:

  • Lie on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground.
  • Extend your arms out to either side of your body, and let them rest on the floor.
  • Using a dumbbell in each hand, raise the dumbbells so they meet at the top of your chest at the same time, while keeping a slight bend in your elbows.
  • Lower your hands to the ground, and repeat.
  • Repeat this exercise 15 times, at least 3 times a week. You can gradually build up to doing more repetitions as you get more familiar with the movement.

Lateral Raises
Lateral raises help strengthen the entire back. All you'll need is a set of dumbbells. To do this move:

  • Stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Arms should be at your side.
  • Holding a dumbbell in each of your hands and with a slight bend in your elbows, slowly raise your arms to the side until they reach shoulder height. Keep your core engaged during the entire movement.
  • Once you reach shoulder height, slowly lower the dumbbells, then repeat.
  • Repeat this exercise 15 times 3 times a week. As you become more familiar with the movement, you can build up to doing more repetitions.

As with other weight lifting and strengthening exercises, these exercises should be performed slowly. You can gradually build up to doing more complex movements and lifting heavier weights. Also, remember to breathe naturally. Holding your breath during these exercises can make muscles tense—the opposite of what you want to achieve.

It's also important to note that doing weight lifting exercises incorrectly can actually lead to more back pain, so be sure you're doing the exercises correctly. If you experience any pain while doing these exercises, stop and call your doctor or physical therapist immediately.

Before adding weight lifting or strengthening exercises to your routine, talk to your doctor about exercising with back pain. He or she may let you know if there are specific movements you should avoid.

Updated on: 11/14/17
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Tai Chi: Harnessing the Power of Body and Mind to Combat Back Pain
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Tai Chi: Harnessing the Power of Body and Mind to Combat Back Pain

"In 2009, I had back pain for a long time. I tried many types of therapy, but nothing worked. My friend said, ‘Try tai chi, it is a gentle exercise.’ I refused at first because my back was sore, but eventually I tried it." It helped relieve my back pain.
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