Maintaining a Strong Back
Gaining strength has always been a bit difficult for me. I have always wished I could be one of those people who gains muscle easily, but I’m not. I have to work extremely hard every day and eat a healthy diet to maintain and improve my strength level.
This is especially the case when it comes to my back. My back has always been on the more flexible side, but when it came to strength, I had to work and work and work. When I was younger, my teacher would remind me during class and rehearsal every day to hold my back. We are often told that movement begins from our back. As a dancer, when you have a strong back, your movement will become more solid and powerful, giving you freedom to do more. Another added benefit of a strong back is it brings a certain look of confidence.
I have put in many hours at Pilates, Gyrotonic, and yoga studios in addition to working with a personal trainer to attain greater overall strength. There are a few exercises and stretches I do every day to uphold the level of strength I have in my back and today I want to share some with you. Of course, overall strength comes with working out each muscle in your body, but these are geared specifically to the back. It is always a good idea to balance back exercises with abdominals and many of these actually work both areas at the same time.
As always, with practice comes improvement. Enjoy 🙂
– Begin with a 10-15 cat stretches to warm up the spine. This is when you kneel on all fours, hands under shoulders and knees under hips, and then arch and curl your spine.
– Remain on all fours, maintain a straight back, and hold your abdominals. Keeping your head and neck aligned with your spine, extend you right arm forward while at the same time, extending your left leg straight behind you. Return to your starting position and then repeat with the opposite arm and leg. Do 2 sets of 12.
– Sitting cross legged with your back straight, hold a thera-band with both hands. (depending on your strength level, adjust your hands closer or farther apart) Reach your arms over your head, palms facing forward, and slowly pull your arms out and down toward your sides, feeling the resistance of the thera-band. For those of you who often go to the gym, this is like a lat pull down. Perform 2 sets of 20.
– Planks are one of the most versatile exercises out there because it works the muscles in your abdominals, back, shoulders, chest, and legs. All you have to do is lay on your belly and place your elbows under your shoulders with your arms at a 90 degree angle. Then, lift your hips and stomach off the ground and come onto your forearms and toes. Keep your body parallel to the ground and hold for one minute at a time. Repeat 2 more times. (You can also do side planks)
– Now, place your palms down right under your shoulders and lay down on your stomach. Slowly reach up through the top of your head toward the ceiling using your back muscles. Try not to put too much weight into your hands. Come up as high as you can while keeping your feet together and on the ground. Release back down and repeat until you have done 15.
– Remaining on your stomach, extend your arms overhead. Lift your legs and arms off of the floor at the same time and begin to flutter as if you were swimming. Continue this for 30 seconds and repeat twice more.
– Laying on your stomach, place your elbows under your shoulders and palms facing down, legs straight out behind you. Come up into a slight arch and then reach your right leg out and toward the ceiling making sure the leg is directly in line with your hip and has not swung out to the side. Your leg should ramin straight the entire time with energy reaching out through your toes. Hold at the top for 5 seconds and then release. Repeat on the left side. Do 2 sets of 10 raises.
-To stretch out, push back into child’s pose.
– Finally, I like to finish by rolling out my back on my foam roller. If you do not have a foam roller, I strongly recommend investing in one. Here is a link for my favorite one: Trigger Point Therapy – Foam Roller