If you're like most people these days, you use a computer and spend the majority of your day moving less and sitting more. Prolonged sitting and poor posture can weaken your erector spinal muscles, which start at the base of your skull and run along the entire length of your spine to your pelvis, and increase your risk of back injury.
When the erector spinals are strong, your spine stays properly aligned along its natural curves and keeps you from hunching over. When they're weak, the other structures in your spine, including the vertebral discs (the fluid-filled pads between the vertebrae), ligaments and other muscles, have to work harder to compensate for them when you move your back. Keeping them strong relieves this burden.
The lying back extension targets the erector spinals and is a favourite of physiotherapists. Doing this exercise daily will not only reduce your risk of injury, but will also allow you to sit and stand taller and for longer periods of time without fatigue. You'll also find your energy level increases as your posture improves.
If you don't have a stability ball or prefer to start without one, lie face down on a mat or the floor and do this exercise as directed. Performing it while lying on a stability ball requires greater balance, stability and strength in the back muscles, and works your hip and leg muscles at the same time.
Lying back extension
1. Lie face down on a stability ball, draping your hips, stomach and rib cage over the top. Extend and straighten your legs and place your toes on the floor about hip-distance apart. Keep your arms alongside your body with your palms facing in toward your legs.
2. Tuck your chin in, pulling your shoulders down and away from your ears. Beginning with the back of your head, exhale as you lift your chest up and away from the ball. Lift your back as if you were creating a letter "C" with your spine. Look forward as you reach your fingers toward your heels and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Pause at the top and inhale (see image).
3. Exhale as you lower slowly to the starting position. Remember to breathe and allow your breathing to set the pace.
Repetitions and sets
Do 10 repetitions at least every other day – daily if you're able. As you get stronger, work up to three sets of repetitions. If you want more of a challenge, move your feet in closer together.
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