Whenever you exercise, you need to take steps to protect your spine from injury. Follow the tips below to ensure you’ll be able to keep your back safe at all times, whether you exercise at home or at the gym.
Avoid Rounding Your Back or Hyperextending
When you round the spine, you increase the amount of pressure that’s on the front of the spinal disks. This essentially moves the disks out of place and makes them susceptible to herniation. To protect your spine from injury, keep the abs pulled in, even when you’re doing a movement like a seated or standing forward fold, and focus on lengthening the spine rather than rounding it.
You also need to make sure that you keep the shoulders pulled back and the core tight in order to avoid the risk of hyperextending the spine. Remember, the low back is designed to handle just a small load, so if you overarch, you could change the shape of the joints, and that causes pain, stress fractures, and stiffness.
Don’t Raise the Hips
Another way to protect your spine from injury is by avoiding raising the hips. Keep in mind that the lumbar spine is actually the most vulnerable area within your back. This is where the ligaments are weaker and the disks are narrower. If the hips are high, you end up overstretching the joints, and that results in lower back pain and muscle spasms.
Focus on Squeezing the Glutes and Locking the Shoulders
Contracting the glute muscles will essentially lock the hinge between the lumbar region of your spine and the sacrum. This allows your hips and lower back to move as one. Whenever you do a plank or pushup, or whenever you have to push the hips forward, such as when you rise from a deadlift or a squat, squeeze the glutes.
It’s also a great idea to pull the shoulders back and down so that the shoulder blades don’t move. This braces the upper back and protects the spine as well.
It All Starts with the Core
When performing any exercise, focus on your core, keeping it tight and firm. If you tense up the muscles in your midsection, you can make your body as long and tall as possible, and that will help keep the lumbar region stiff. This will result in a natural arch, which is the best way to prevent overarching or rounding the spine.