Keep Your Back Healthy With These 5 Exercises

Since last fall, I’ve been going great guns on my daily yoga practice. One month turned into three and then nine. On top of that I walk my dog every day; 3.5 miles is the norm. This routine seems to meet all of my physical and mental needs. I think I look pretty good and more importantly I feel good.

That was until I threw my back out, and no, it did not happen in yoga. I was bending over to pick up a stick; a freakin’ stick!

The doctor said I had overextended my sacroiliac joint due to an anatomical imbalance in my posterior chain. The sacroiliac joint, or SIJ, is the part that connects your sacrum to the pelvis. (You have two, one on each side of your spine. Put your hands on your low back and stretch to find it.) In laymen’s terms, he was nicely saying that while my core strength and flexibility were excellent (thank you, yoga), my backside could use some work.

Ouch.

5 Muscle-Strengthening Exercises for the SIJ

Balance, as always, is key. The SIJ is a finicky little bugger; it needs to move, but just a little. To hit that Goldilocks zone you need to have strong glutes and hams, good core stability and muscle flexibility, plus hip mobility. In other words, you’ve gotta have it all!

The following exercises are recommended to keep the SIJ stable and in good working condition:

1. Bear Crawls. Reciprocal or alternating movements (like the bear crawl) guarantee that both sides of the body put in the same effort.

2. Glute Bridge with March. If you sit all day, your whole body will love this hip-stabilizing exercise.

3. The Plank. On your elbows or with straight arms, do all the planks to strengthen your entire core.

4. Dead BugThis exercise works on coordination, strengthens the core and corrects muscle imbalance.

5. Squats/Split Squats. Our glutes are the strongest muscles in the body; they surround the SIJ and keep it and the pelvis stable.

As we age, we lose muscle mass and function; it starts in our thirties. Even if you work out every day, you’ll still lose some! It sucks, but it’s a fact of life. It’s estimated that 25 percent of all low-back pain is caused by the SIJ. Work these exercise into your regular routine to keep your back strong and pain-free.

Is your workout routine balanced? Since my injury, I have continued with my daily yoga (the benefits are too great to stop), but have added two days of strength training to my routine and have been pain-free ever since. —Karen

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7 Comments

  1. Great suggestions. Just make sure to listen to your body for back pain or any pain. I pushed though and paid the price, and once your discs get real bad there’s no going back. Your best point is about a balanced workout. Balance comes in several forms – front/back, left/right, top/bottom, slow/fast, hard/easy. Make sure to consider each one!

  2. Oh Karen, few things are more miserable than throwing out your back! And it’s been my experience that it usually does happening doing something simple–like picking up a stick. I hope you are feeling better. Thanks for sharing these back strengthening exercises. I’m am going to incorporate them in my workouts immediately!

    Thanks,
    Christie