Although I’m a very active person who trains four to five times a week, for the past year I’ve suffered from terrible lower back pain. This is partly due to the fact that the two discs at the bottom of my spine are degenerative, but what makes it ten times worse is the fact I’m sat down at a desk for the majority of the working day – and we all know how bad it is to sit for hours on end.
Previously, I’d spend a lot of time doing core exercises in my warm ups and, rightly so, as our core muscles act as a protective corset around the trunk of our body, providing spinal stability and balance. If it's weak, then our lower back can end up overcompensating to help with everyday movements, putting it under pressure and causing pain. But two other areas I also started to focus on were my glutes and hips.
"If your glutes are under active they don’t provide support for the pelvis, nor your lumbar spine, therefore placing increased pressure on the muscles of the lower back," says Laurence Plant, a chiropractor and owner of Henley Practice. "Tight hip flexors also pull the pelvis into an anterior tilt which leads to an increased curvature of the lower back and therefore increased stress."
For the past four months I incorporated these three exercises into my warm up routine to target my core, glutes and hips, and they have honestly helped so much. I can now get up in the morning without having to pull myself across the bed, run without being in agony afterwards and bend down without hobbling like an old dear. Intrigued? Here's what I've been doing...
Knee press deadbug
Deadbugs are one of the best exercises for strengthening those deep core muscles, they're beginner-friendly and and there's so many ways you can do them – with a resistance band, your bodyweight or even using a dumbbell or kettlebell. If bodyweight ones are too easy for you, a way to make them more challenging with no equipment is by pressing your hand into your opposite knee. A simple tweak, but one that left my core feeling rock solid afterwards.
- Lie on your back and bring your knees up into a table top position
- Tilt your pelvis forwards so that your back is completely flat to the floor
- Place your arms vertically in the air, then push your left hand into your right thigh (your core should feel really engaged)
- While continuously pushing your left hand into your right thigh, slowly lower your left leg and right arm, so that they both hover a few inches from the floor
- Hold here for a second, then slowly bring them back to starting position
- Do six reps on both sides for three sets
You've probably tried a regular plank on your forearms, but have you tried a Copenhagen plank? As well as having to squeeze my core very tight throughout this exercise, you're also squeezing your glutes, adductor and abductor muscles too – so it's a great all-rounder, especially for hip strength and stability.
- Lie on the right side of your body and have a weight bench lengthways to the left of you
- Place the inside of your left foot onto the bench and have your right foot resting directly underneath it, but underneath the bench
- Place your right elbow directly underneath your shoulder so that you're resting on your forearm
- Place your left hand on your waist and push your hips
- Lift your right foot that's underneath the bench so it's hovering a few inches off the ground and squeeze your core, glutes and the inside of your thighs to hold the movement
- Hold for 30 seconds on both sides and repeat twice
Sitting down all day for my job causes my glute muscles to turn off, because I'm not using them, so I need to switch them back on. I've tried lots of different glute exercises, but these glute taps – where you hinge at the hip and tap your foot behind your body across to the other side – are the only exercise that seems to get them fired up for me. You do feel like a ballerina doing them though.
- Stand tall with your right side closest to a wall/chair and place your right hand on it for balance
- With a soft bend in your knees and hinging at the hips (imagine trying to push your bum backwards to touch an imaginary wall), take your right foot and tap it behind and over to the left side of your body
- Hold here for a second, then take it back over to the right side and repeat
- Do 15 reps on each side two times