3 exercises that will help you build a strong spine

WWhen most people think about the benefits of exercise, they think about how exercise strengthens your muscles. While that’s certainly true, especially if you’re considering resistance training, exercise can also be beneficial for strengthening your bones. All weight-bearing exercises will get you there, but especially when it comes to exercises to strengthen your spine, you’ll want to try strength training.

While some amount of bone loss is expected as you age, you can help prevent it from happening prematurely and strengthen your spine with consistent exercise. For more information on building a strong spine and the best exercises to strengthen your spine, we spoke with Nick Voci PT, DPT, a physiotherapist at Manchester Physical Therapy.

First, the risks of a weak spine

The spine is made up of 33 vertebrae that are divided into different areas: seven cervical vertebrae in the neck, 12 thoracic vertebrae in the upper and middle back, seven lumbar vertebrae in the lower back, five fused vertebrae, which make up the sacrum, the part of your spine that connects to your pelvis, and the coccyx. Keeping these bones of the spine healthy and strong is vital for maintaining posture, function, mobility and overall health.

“Weakness in the bones in your spine, or vertebrae, can be far-reaching due to the proximity of important structures such as nerves and their role as a support for most other muscles and limbs to pull out,” explains Dr. Voice out. “Some of the risks include things like osteoporosis [a medical condition characterized by weakened and porous bones, increasing the risk of fractures and breaks]chronic pain, postural abnormalities such as kyphosis [a spinal disorder that causes an abnormal forward curvature of the upper back, leading to a hunched or rounded appearance]loss of movement, loss of function and balance problems.

Dr. Voci says any of these spinal issues can lead to decreased activity levels and function, which spill over into a more sedentary lifestyle and deteriorating health outcomes.

Common Symptoms of a Weak Spine

While mild weakness or bone thinning in the spine may not be detectable at first, Dr. Voci that weakness in your spine will show a host of signs and symptoms once it becomes severe enough. “There can be many signs and symptoms associated with weak vertebrae, such as increased fractures, postural abnormalities such as kyphosis, loss of height, increased back stiffness, including rib stiffness and difficulty breathing, and an increase in back pain.”

How to strengthen your spine with exercises

The good news is that Dr. Voci says exercise can be a powerful and effective tool for strengthening the spine.

“First of all, our bodies respond to the demands placed on them, so to improve bone density we want to stress those bones by both introducing muscle to the bone and adding weight to the bone,” he says. “For this reason, weight-bearing or standing exercises are best because they engage many of your core muscles, which in turn pull on your bones and make them stronger.” Adding load by using free weights or resistance bands increases the bone-building power of movements.

Dr. Voci says there are several types of exercise that can improve bone density in the spine, and incorporating a combination of different types of exercise into your fitness routine is the best way to have a healthy spine.

“Walking is a great exercise for cardiovascular disease [fitness] that also improves bone density due to weight bearing, and should be done daily,” Dr. Voci says. .”

Aside from cardio exercises for bone density, Dr. Voci that weight-bearing strength training exercises are among the best types of exercise to increase bone density, because strength training puts stress on the muscles and bones. He recommends that everyone do weight-bearing strength training two to three times a week to support a healthy spine.

Best resistance exercises to strengthen your spine

Dr. Voci walked us through three of the best strength-training exercises to build a stronger spine.

1. Romanian Deadlift (RDL)

“This exercise strengthens the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back muscles, all of which pull on your pelvis and vertebrae directly or through fascia to promote bone growth,” explains Dr. Voice out. “It’s also a weight-bearing exercise, which stimulates bone growth.” You can perform RDLs with free weights such as barbells – beginners can start with just body weight.

How: Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent, holding a dumbbell in each hand at your side. This is your starting position. Hinge at the hips and push your butt back as you bend your knees slightly, lowering your torso toward the floor until your weights are in line with your shins — don’t arch or round your back. Return to the standing position by tightening your hamstrings and glutes. That’s one rep. Repeat for 8-12 reps. (You can also do this with a mini resistance band by placing one side of the loop under your feet and holding the other end with both hands.)

2. Curved rows

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Dr. Voci says rows strengthen the rhomboids in the upper back and the smaller muscles that run along the length of the spine. These muscles pull on your thoracic, cervical, and lumbar vertebrae to promote bone growth.

How: Start standing with your feet under your hips, holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms straight. Keeping a gentle bend in your knees, then hinge at the hips, lowering your torso to a 45-degree angle or parallel to the floor. Bend both elbows straight back and pull the weights narrow to the bottom of your ribcage. Extend your arms again. That’s one rep. Repeat for 8-12 reps.


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Squats are a basic exercise for strengthening the lower body, but because it’s a weight-bearing exercise, it also helps strengthen the spine. “This exercise strengthens the hamstrings, glutes, and quads, all of which pull on your pelvis and vertebrae directly or through fascia to promote bone growth,” says Dr. Voci.

How:Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing straight ahead. Hinge at your hips and push your buttocks back as if you were sitting back in a chair. Keep your weight back to your heels, but balanced between both feet. Bend your knees to lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor, making sure to keep your back straight (avoid rounding or arching). Make sure your knees are in line with your toes. Push through your heels to straighten your legs and extend your hips as you return to the starting position. That’s one rep. Repeat for 8-12 reps. (You can choose to hold hand weights to increase the intensity of the exercise once you get your form under control.)

How to get the most out of back strengthening exercises

Be sure to start with light weights and build up gradually, advises Dr. Voci. “We want to expose our body to a gradually new level of stress and allow it to adapt,” he says.

Dr. Voci also says you shouldn’t experience any pain with any of these moves. If so, you should work with a fitness professional or physical therapist for an individualized back strengthening program or to help you work on form and technique.

“Many of ‘the best’ exercises are technical exercises that require some training before they get the best results,” says Dr. Voci. “Consultation with a physical therapist can yield the best exercises based on your available range of motion and strength. They are best trained to modify and adapt these exercises to minimize the risk of injury and adapt them to specific needs.

But if you’re not experiencing pain, doing these exercises two to three times a week — as well as cardio like Dr. Voci described – helping you build a stronger spine in no time.

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