Strengthening Exercises: focused on your back, stomach, and leg muscles.
Plank: strengthening exercise for back, abs and neck (also strengthens arms and legs)
Lie on your stomach, with your elbows and forearms on floor. In a push-up position, balance on your toes and forearms. Keep your back straight and legs straight. (Like a plank) Tighten your abs. Hold position for 10 seconds. Relax. Repeat five to ten times. If this exercise is too difficult, use balance on your knees instead of your toes.
Side Plank: strengthens the obliques (side abdominal muscles)
Lie on your right side. Place your right elbow and forearm on floor. Tighten your abs. Push up until shoulder is over elbow. Keep your body in a straight line – feet, knees, hips, shoulders, head aligned. Only forearm and side of right foot are on floor (feet are stacked). Hold position for 10 seconds. Relax. Repeat five to ten times. Repeat on left side. If this exercise is too difficult, balance on stacked knees (bend knees and keep feet off floor) instead of feet or stagger your feet rather than stacking them.
Wall Squat: strengthening exercise for back, hips and quads and, surprisingly, this exercise is great for the core.
Stand with your back against a wall, heels about 18 inches from the wall, feet shoulder-width apart. Tighten abs. Slide slowly down the wall into a crouch with knees bent to about 90 degrees. If this is too difficult, bend knees to 45 degrees and gradually build up from there. Count to five and slide back up the wall. Repeat 5 times.
Leg and arm raises: strengthening exercise for back and hip muscles.
Lie on your stomach, arms reached out past your head with palms and forehead on floor. Tighten your abs. Lift one arm (as you raise your head and shoulders) and the opposite leg at the same time (ex.right arm and left leg at the same time), stretching them away from each other. Hold for 8-12 seconds. Switch sides.
As I said above, I never realized just how important a strong core is. I would highly recommend taking a Pilates class in addition to your current regimen.
Basic Crunches: upper abdominal exercise
Lie on back, knees bent. Do not anchor feet. (Anchoring the feet or keeping the legs straight along the floor can strain the lower back). Arms may be folded over your chest or be held beside your ears with elbows out. Tighten your abs. Keep the lower back flat on the floor and neck straight. Keep chin tucked - looking at ceiling helps prevent tilting head up or down. Exhale when raising your torso off the floor, and inhale when lowering. Just raise your head and shoulder off the floor –3 to 6inches is enough. Sitting up all the way is hard on your lower back. Do 10 repetitions.
Be very careful not to pull on your neck or you could overstretch a neck muscle. Keep your elbows out to the side to help avoid pulling neck forward. Don't start out doing too many crunches - the number of crunches performed should be increased slowly.
Move slowly when performing crunches. Do not rely on momentum.
Bicycle Crunch: obliques exercise (sides of the abdomen)
Lie flat on your back, knees bent, feet flat on floor. Bring your feet off the ground and bend knees to a 90 degree ankle. Place hands behind ears and reach right elbow to left knee, then left elbow to right knee. Legs should be moving toward each elbow and back in a bicycle motion.
Reverse Crunch: lower abdominal exercise
Lie flat on your back, feet in the air. Bend knees 90 degrees. Place hands under buttocks for support and make sure your lower back remains flat on the floor. Tightening your lower abdomen, lift your buttocks a few inches off your hands. Hold for a moment and lower back down. Do 5 to 15 repetitions.
Leg Lifts: lower abdominal exercise
Lie flat on back. Bend one knee and keep foot flat on floor. Tighten abs. Lift opposite leg about 45 degrees. Hold for a count of 3. Repeat 10 times. Switch sides.
Stretching Exercises: to keep your muscles and other supporting tissues flexible and less prone to injury
Always warm up before stretching exercises. Five minutes of walking, or exercise bike, elliptical trainer, or even marching on the spot is enough. Not warming up before stretching leaves your back susceptible to injuries, causing back pain. Warm muscles are more flexible than cold muscles and are less likely to tear.
Runners' Lunge: hip flexor stretch (low back pain is often caused by overdeveloped or tight hip flexors)
Step into a lunge position. Keep your toes pointed forward and your upper body straight. Support your weight on your thigh, then press down with your hands and extend your hips forward until you feel a stretch from the front of your hip. Hold 15 to 30 seconds, then switch sides. This can also be done from a kneeling position.
Pelvic Tilt: lower back stretching exercise (also strengthens abs)
Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on floor. Tighten your buttocks and abdomen, flattening the small of back against the floor. Hold for a count of 5. Slowly relax. Repeat5 - 15 times.
Knee to Chest: gluteal stretching exercise
Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on floor. Grasp your left leg behind the knee/back of thigh and pull knee towards left shoulder. Hold for a count of five. Switch sides. Repeat 5 times.
Piriformis Stretch: stretches Muscles that lie beneath gluteal muscles
Sit on a chair Place your left ankle over your right leg, just above the knee, and lean forward. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on other side.
The Cat /Cow: (from yoga) back stretching exercise
Begin on all fours, hands directly under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips. Inhale as you drop tummy towards the floor and look up over your head. Exhale as you bring your tummy back up, rounding your back as you tuck your chin in and tuck your tailbone in. Move slowly back and forth between these two positions pausing on each pose. Repeat about 5 times.
The Cobra: back and chest stretching exercise
Lie flat on your stomach, forehead to ground, with your arms bent and palms down on the ground under the shoulders. Push downward with arms as you raise your upper torso and arch your back. Hold for 3 full breaths before slowly bringing the upper torso back down to the ground.