Let’s Talk About Posture! (part 2)

How can we strengthen our back?

 

A strong back is a key component to tall and beautiful posture. 

Your back is a beautifully complex structure of nerves, bones, cartilage, tendons and muscles.

It’s easy to take it for granted! After all, we use it automatically in every single thing we do. So there’s no need to actively think about it.

However, in this mini blog I will present some thoughts and evidence to show that we can do a little more these days to really look after our back and keep it strong.

This will be relevant to you especially if you have a job where you sit down a lot!

 

What does the back do for posture?

Your back is supported by muscles. These help hold the body upright and allow the trunk of the body to move, twist and bend in many directions.

Some of these muscles, called the back extensor muscles, are attached to back of the spine and enable actions like standing and lifting objects. These muscles include the large paired muscles in the lower back, called Erector Spinae.

The Erector Spinae helps hold up the spine for beautiful upright posture!

 

Why does our back get weaker?

If we’d live like our hunter-gatherer ancestors, we’d always have a super strong and upright back. No questions asked!

Walking a lot, picking up heavy things, squatting, sitting on the floor without a back-rest are all movements that our bodies are designed to do and that keep the Erector Spinae muscles engaged.

We did these every day and most of the day, before office chairs and sofas were invented…

 

Is your office job weakening your back?

We all know that muscles get bigger and stronger when you use them. And, vice-versa, it is the same! They will start to weaken when there are long periods of disuse.

So just think about the position your back is in most of the day at work. Are you reclining onto a chair? And are you then you’re sitting in the car, reclining? And then when you come home, do you spend a few hours reclined on the sofa?

(No judgement from me, I’m sitting on an office chair while I’m writing this! And as I wrote this last sentence I found myself sitting up taller, away from the backrest!)

Yes, I know, we have to work. And for the vast majority of us we can’t avoid computer work!

But there are a few things we can do to counter-act this effect.

 

What does the research say?

I looked at what’s available on Google Scholar, and found many studies showing the benefits of exercise and yoga for improving low back pain (Anheyer et al., 2022; Owen et al., 2020).

That’s great! It partly shows us that these exercise modalities can help strengthen the back.

However, low back-pain is a much more complicated phenomenon than back strength alone, as it includes tightness in other muscles and psychological factors as well.

I was interested to find studies measuring actual back strength!

And I found one study of 193 office workers that did measure back strength, along with a host of other measurements (Genin et al., 2018).

When comparing those who regularly took part in the office exercise programme (2-3 times a week), to those who did not, the active group had statistically significantly higher back strength.

So the active office workers had managed to maintain a stronger back, despite their sedentary job, by regularly doing exercise 2-3 times a week.

 

Three yoga poses for a strong back!

Now, you know I am a big fan of yoga!

Personally, I have needed to keep my back super strong over the last two years to survive the physical demands of having a baby (now toddler)!

Picking up a young child from the floor and lowering them into a cot are very demanding for the back!

My strategy for surviving this time injury-free, was to really focus on back strength in my yoga practice. And I am happy to say, that it worked!

Some of my favourite poses for improving back strength are:

  • Locust Pose: Lying face down, lifting your upper back and legs from the ground just a little.
  • Side Plank: One hand (or elbow) on the ground, reaching high with the other arm. Side edges of the feed on the ground.
  • Upright big-toe hold: Standing up tall holding one foot up in front of you, maybe with the leg straight or knee bent, working on keeping the back straight.

You don’t even have to have a super long session to get the benefits of these poses.

A 10-15 minute routine that includes these poses would be beneficial for back strength, if done frequently.

If you’re thinking “That’s interesting, but I don’t know where to start!”

Then read on…

 

Want some help?

Do you want to see if you can strengthen your back with yoga? Well, I have something exciting coming up!

In September I will be launching a 28-day challenge to help improve posture!

This will involve a daily 15-minute class. That’s achievable – right?

Watch this space for the up-coming challenge!

Up for the Challenge?

Would you like to be updated when this challenge is available?

Then please put enter your email address below.

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Want to read more about posture?

This mini blog is the third in a 3-part blog series. Why not take a moment to read the other two?

Part 1 went into detail about shoulder flexibility and Part 3 talks about how to reduce or avoid the ‘Neck-Hump’!

Enjoy your reading!

Love,

Jolanthe x


References

Anheyer, D., Haller, H., Lauche, R., Dobos, G., & Cramer, H. (2022). Yoga for treating low back pain: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Pain, 163(4), e504-e517.

Genin, P. M., Dessenne, P., Finaud, J., Pereira, B., Dutheil, F., Thivel, D., & Duclos, M. (2018). Effect of work-related sedentary time on overall health profile in active vs. inactive office workers. Frontiers in public health, 6, 279.

Owen, P. J., Miller, C. T., Mundell, N. L., Verswijveren, S. J., Tagliaferri, S. D., Brisby, H., … & Belavy, D. L. (2020). Which specific modes of exercise training are most effective for treating low back pain? Network meta-analysis. British journal of sports medicine, 54(21), 1279-1287.