Trainer tips: 3 ways to tackle back pain with exercise
March 30, 2022

Trainer tips: 3 ways to tackle back pain with exercise

Rachel Wadsley, PhD
Trainwell trainer Devyn

Did you know exercise and movement can significantly reduce back pain? According to Devyn, “anytime you have pain, you want to look above and below the source of the pain because all the body parts influence one another.” 

He broke down three causes of back pain and offered up some go-to exercises to help you out. So let’s explore how your core, upper back, and hips contribute to back pain and what to do about it. 

Super charge your core

Trainwell (formerly CoPilot) trainer Devyn said, “lack of core strength is the most common thing I see that causes back pain during workouts.” You might associate core strength with sit-ups and abs. However, the core supports your body all the time and plays a massive role in back pain and spine health. 

The bent-over row is a move Devyn uses to spot core strength issues. When he sees a bent back or rounded back (sticking that butt out) he knows the core is weak. Picture how your spine looks during the cat/ cow move in yoga. That’s what you want to avoid. 

Aim for a straight line from the tip of your head to your butt. He suggests looking in the mirror or performing these moves in front of your fitness trainer to see how your form is. 

Check out these Devyn approved core strengthen moves. And remember never to strain (this goes for all exercises). If you’re feeling discomfort, ease off. Repeat them 8-12 times. 

  • Plank: You can do planks kneeling, with your legs fully extended, or upright using a counter or wall. Make sure to squeeze your glutes!
  • Superman: Tap into your inner superhero. Lay face down on the floor with your arms extended in front of you, engage your core and glutes, lift your arms and legs off the floor, hold for 1 second, and return to the starting position. 
  • Bird dog: Start on all fours, tighten your core, lift the left leg and right arm, hold for 6 seconds, lower, and switch to your other arm/ leg. 

Stiff as a statue

According to Trainwell trainer Devyn, “Your upper back helps you twist, pick things up, and reach up to grab items off the shelf. Not moving a lot and sitting at a desk stiffens your upper back. Because your body still needs to move, your lower back tries to pick up the slack, which leads to stress on your spine and pain.”    

Exercise to improve back mobility:

  • Cat cow: Stretch and “moove.” Start on all fours, inhale and arch your back for cow pose, and exhale and round your back for cat pose. Repeat for 5-10 breaths. 
  • Chest opener: Lay on the right side of your body with your knees stacked and arms out to the side. Keep your legs/ hips on the ground while you twist your torso and left arm to the left. Come back to the beginning position and repeat. When you're done do the same on the other side.
  • Single-arm toe touch: Stand with feet should width apart, bend and twist the right arm to the left toe (leaving left arm extended to the side, come upright, and repeat on the opposite side.

It’s all in the hips

Much like your upper back, your hips can get stiff from sitting or not moving around, and your lower back has to step in again and help you move. Devyn said, “The muscles in your lower back go, whoah this isn’t our job. We’re here to maintain stability, and they really tense up and can lead to spasms and aching.” 

Channel your inner Chubbs from Happy Gilmore and loosen up your hips with these moves. Repeat 10x on each side:

  • Kneeling fire hydrant: Start on all fours, keep your knee bent at 90 degrees and lift up your left leg up to the side of your body (like you're a dog excited to see a fire hydrant), lower your leg, and repeat on the other side.
  • Standing hip rotation: Stand with feet under your hips, lift one knee to hip level (or as high as you can), rotate your leg to the outside of your body, lower it to the ground, and repeat on the other side. 
  • Straight leg donkey kicks: Start on all fours, engage your core, straighten one leg behind you, lift the leg straight up until it’s parallel to the floor (squeeze those glutes), and lower down. Remember to watch your form! Don’t arch your back or lift your leg so high it causes lower back pain.  

Like all of our fitness trainers, Devyn is a certified personal trainer and knows his stuff. If you’d like to get real time feedback and a custom workout plan, click here to try trainwell for free. 

Written by Rachel Wadsley, PhD

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