Back Strengthening Exercises for Seniors
Back strengthening exercises can help improve balance, strength, and mobility in your back. Exercise properly to prevent back problems in the future!
When working out your back, make sure to maintain a stable base using plenty of core stabilization exercises. These exercises include planks, side planks, and squats. Additionally, add weight to the opposite side of your body with each set you do to target your oblique muscles.
Remember to breathe properly when performing these exercises! For a more complete workout, consider incorporating stretching into your routine as well. Stretching helps reduce inflammation and restore movement and flexibility in the spine.
The Best Back Strengthening Exercises for Seniors
Strengthening the muscles which support your spine helps to combat several of the factors that lead to weak back pain and muscles, including muscle atrophy, bone loss, poor posture, and inactivity.
- The spine is supported by a whole system of muscles including:
- Extensor muscles – the muscles in the back e.g. traps, lats, and the glutes.
- Flexor muscles – muscles attached to front of spine e.g. abdominals. The extensor and flexor muscles are intrinsically linked: as one lengthens, the other shortens.When it comes to building a strong and stable spine, strengthening these muscles is just as important as strengthening the back muscles.
- Obliques – muscles to side of spine
Good spine health can be improved through exercises that strengthen the hamstrings and hip flexors. These muscles play a crucial part in maintaining pelvic alignment, which can have a direct effect on the alignment of the lower spine.
With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of low-impact exercises designed specifically for seniors. These simple back strengthening exercises use bodyweight and resistance bands to target the hamstrings and hip flexors without putting an excessive strain on the body. Participants should begin by doing 10 reps of each exercise before slowly building up to three sets of 10 reps over time.
The superman is one of the best lower back strengthening exercises for seniors. It also works the abdominals, and erector spinae. Focus on recruiting the lower back and core muscles to power this movement, rather than on speed.
Start by laying on your front on the ground. Relax your neck and extend your arms forward.
Slowly lift your chest and arms off the ground by contracting your lower back.
Hold this position for the count of 3 then slowly return.
Cobra Lat Pulldown
This exercise works your latissimus dorsi, the largest muscles in your upper body. The lats start below your shoulder blades and stretch from your spine to your sides, and helps to stabilise both the spine and the shoulders.
Lay on your front and place your arms out to your side, elbows bent at 90 degrees, so your forearms are parallel with your spin.
Relax your head and neck, then extend your arms forward.
Pause before pulling your arms back to the starting position. Focus on drawing your lats back to really drive this movement.
Seated Torso Twist
Seated torso twists recruit almost all the muscles in the core and back. It both strengthens and stretches these muscles, so it’s good for both building a strong core and improving mobility.
Sit down on a chair, feet flat on the floor, and spine tall.
Raise your arms while keeping a 90 degree bend in the elbow, so your upper arms are in line with your shoulders, and your forearms are parallel to your body, with your palms facing forward.
Brace your core and then slowly rotate your torso to the left as far as you can comfortably go.
Pause, then bring your body back to the middle (neutral), before rotating to the right.
Rotate back to neutral. This is one rep - repeat for 10 reps.
Make sure to focus on using your core and back muscles to control the movement, rather than aiming for speed.
Seated Banded Pulldowns (Two Variations)
Resistance bands are a great way to build strength. This exercise has two variations; the first works the lower traps and lats, while the second activates the upper traps more. You can alternate between the two or carry them out separately.
Secure the resistance band around a door frame, squat rack, or sturdy frame.
Sit down on a chair so you’re facing the resistance band. The bottom of the band should sit above your head.
Grab the band with both hands and pull it down below your chest, keeping your elbows tucked in tight to your torso.
Return the band back to the start and repeat.
For the second variation of this exercise, pull the band until it’s in line with your upper chest, and allow your elbows to lift up and out, rather than keeping to your sides.
Glute bridges work your hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and core, and are great for combatting poor posture and weak muscles caused by excessive sitting.
Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor, knees bent facing the ceiling.
Brace your core and push your hips up towards the ceiling while squeezing your glutes, until your shoulders, hips, and knees are in a straight line.
Hold for the count of 3 while squeezing your glutes.
Slowly return to starting position.
This exercise works the lower back, glutes, abdominals, erector spinae, and shoulders, and it helps to improve balance and stability too.
Start on your hands and knees, with hands under shoulders and knees under hips. Your spine should be neutral.
Engage your core, pull your shoulder blades together, and tucket your chin into your neck.
Slowly raise your left arm while extending your right leg, until they are both parallel with the floor.
Hold this position for a second before lowering back to the start.
Repeat on the other side.
Having strong abs helps to maintain good spine health, but it’s important to avoid hyperextending the spine in any ab exercises. If you find that sit ups hurt your neck, it’s likely that your abdominal muscles aren’t strong enough to lift your weight, so other muscles are having to compensate. Rock ups have a smaller range of motion than sit ups and can be used to build up your core strength without straining the spine.
Lie on your back, feet flat on the floor and knees facing the ceiling. Place your hands across your chest and engage your core.
Focus on using your abdominals to lift your shoulders off the floor.
Once your shoulder blades raise up, return back to the starting position.
Reverse crunches are another exercise which targets the abs without placing pressure on the spine. Try these by themselves, or superset them with rock ups.
Lie flat on your back, feet flat on the floor with your knees bent at 90 degrees.
Lift your legs off the floor so your thighs and torso are at a 90 degree angle, and your shins are parallel with the floor.
Place your hands behind your head – this helps to counterweight your legs. You can also hold on to an anchor behind your head if needed.
Brace your core and then focus on using your abs to pull your hips off the floor and bring your knees towards your chest.
Slowly return back to the start and repeat.
Is Walking Good for Strengthening your Back?
Walking is often overlooked as a form of exercise, but it should not be discounted. As a low-impact activity, it provides numerous health benefits for seniors. Walking regularly helps to maintain bone density, improve blood flow and strengthen the muscles supporting the spine, which can reduce back pain caused by excess weight. It also helps to maintain a healthy weight and can positively impact overall health.
We’d recommend walking in conjunction with back strengthening exercises, rather than a standalone solution. Swimming is also an excellent low impact option for aerobic exercise.
Back pain is a pain, but it doesn’t have to be. Strengthening the supporting muscles through resistance training will help to build a strong and stable spine, and can help to improve bone density too. Once you’ve built up a good base strength with these exercises, you can move on to using dumbbells and resistance machines to further strengthen your back muscles.