Posted by: Anon | 2004/10/30


Hi Doc,

I cannot afford to go to gym but need to strenghen my back muscles.

Could you please suggest home exercises.

Thanking you.


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Our expert says:
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Hi Anon

You must avoid any exercises that involve bending down and picking up heavy objects - this would include weight training using free weights and some machines. Then, cycling may be possible, but you need to be very careful with your position on the bike, as incorrect saddle position can really aggravate back pain. The same applies for rowing. You should be able to do theses exercises, but will need to take extra precautions to avoid further injury.

Then, there are a number of exercises that you can do to strengthen the back muscles. I can describe some of them, but remember that it is important to have good technique and to make sure that you don't aggravate the condition further. One does not want to begin a general strengthening or stretching routine when a muscle or joint is injured, especially the neck and back, as this can be particularly dangerous and cause unpleasant long term effects. I think that the first step is to have the injury checked out by a doctor or chiropractor - they can diagnose the severity of the problem. Then, if it is ready for strengthening, then you can begin to do specific exercises. Once again, however, these exercises depend on the nature and severity of the injury, and so are best done in a supervised rehab programme prescribed by the same doctor who diagnosed the problem.

To ensure good posture and help prevent back injuries, you need strong abdominal and back muscles. When your postural muscles are both strong and flexible, they will not fatigue so easily during the day and you will be able to sit better and avoid back injuries.

Stabilisation exercises

Exercise 1:

Lie on your back with your knees bent at right angles and suck in your belly button to your spine. It helps to make a ”sssssss” sound while you are trying to tighten your lower tummy.
Imagine that you have put on weight around your belly and you need to pull up the zip of a pair of tight jeans. Make sure you have mastered this position before you advance on to the other exercises.

Tip: Try activating these deep abdominal stabilising muscles in a standing position too.
It is a good idea to be aware of activating your stabilisers during your activities of daily living,
for example, while walking, picking up or carrying objects, washing and sitting.

Exercise 2:

In the starting position, lift one leg at a time off the floor and do little “marches” with your heels only slightly touching the floor. Make sure your back keeps flush on the floor, and does not arch up. March with alternate legs 10 times each.
Exercise 4:

Lie with both knees bent up and your feet flat on the floor, shoulder width apart. Tighten your abdominal muscles, lift buttocks and straighten one leg out with your toes pointing up towards the ceiling. Lift the straightened leg up and down slowly. Keep your pelvis level at all times. Repeat 10 times each side.

Here are 3 different abdominal exercises that you can try.

Crunches: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Rest your hands next to your ears. Slowly lift your shoulders off the ground, tightening your abdominal muscles. Hold the position for 3-5 seconds. Do 10 to 15 reps.

Crossover crunches: Do abdominal crunches as above, but touch your opposite knee with your opposite elbow. Keep your upper body raised off the floor and keep the movement slow and controlled. Ensure your hips do not rock off the floor. Do 10 to 15 reps

Combined crunches: Position: Lie on your back, with your hips and knees at right angles and your ankles crossed. Rest your hands next to your ears. Perform an abdominal crunch by moving your elbows and knees towards each other. Hold that contracted position for 3-5 seconds before releasing it back to the start position. Do 10 to 15 reps

Here are 4 back stretches that you can try:

1. On all fours. Round your back by pushing as far upwards as possible with your hands and knees remaining on the ground.

2. Lying on the ground with your body extended. Slowly bring your knees to your chest and hug them. You can then hug your right leg only, hold for 30 seconds and then change over and hug your left leg only.

3. Back - standing: Standing upright with your back straight, feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent. Link hands in front of you and slowly lift upwards and forward, as if to separate the shoulder blades. You should feel the stretch in your upper back.

4. Lower back and buttocks: Sit with your back straight up and hug your right knee across to your left shoulder. Look over your right shoulder to increase the stretch. Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times, alternating with the opposite knee and shoulder.

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

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