Jan. 14, 2013 at 6:13 PM ET
If you are one of the estimated 31 million Americans suffering from back pain, this resistance band workout—created exclusively for iVillage by back pain specialist and physical therapist Yoav Suprun, DPT—can help. Doing this workout up to three non-consecutive days a week can improve posture and alignment and counteract the stress we put on our spine, says Suprun, owner of Sobe Spine in Miami Beach, Fla. The result? Less neck and back pain.
The workout is based on the McKenzie method, which combines physical therapy and specific directional exercises (such as the extension of the spine) that focus on the function and movement of the back to centralize pain and facilitate self-healing. Suprun recommends that anyone suffering from back pain first be evaluated by a McKenzie-trained therapist in order to ensure this program is appropriate for your body. (And always check with your doctor before you start any exercise program).
“A strong back and good posture are very important to help avoid back or neck pain, and these exercises will help you not only to strengthen your spine but also increase your awareness of your posture throughout the day,” says Suprun.
Warm Up: Standing-Back Extensions
Target: This joint-specific move helps with lower back pain and stiffness.
How to do it: Place your hands on the back of your hips and keep your knees straight as you gently bend back as far as possible. Do up to six repetitions, trying to extend slightly farther back each time.
Target: This movement helps develop strength in the deep abdominals and spinal rotator muscles that help support and stabilize the spine.
How to do it: Anchor the center of the resistance band securely around a doorknob. Hold the ends of the band and step back until your arms are fully extended and there is tension on the band. Brace your abs in tight and rotate your torso to the left, keeping your arms centered in front of your body as you twist. Return to the center position. Do 15 repetitions and then repeat on the right. Aim for three sets of 15 reps on both sides. Make it easier by standing closer to the band’s anchor point or harder by stepping farther away.
Target: This exercise opens up the chest and improves posture. “We slouch all day, which separates the [shoulder] blades and contributes to neck and back pain,” says Suprun. “The retraction of the shoulder blades during this exercise helps develop the upper back strength needed for supporting good posture.”
How to do it: Anchor the center of the resistance band securely around a doorknob, extend your arms out straight and step back until there is tension on the band. Pull your abdominals in and bend your elbows, pulling the ends of the bands to the outside of your ribcage. Hold for one count and then slowly release back to start. Do three sets of 15 repetitions. Make it easier by standing closer to the band’s anchor point or harder by stepping farther away.
Single-Leg Stance Lateral Raise
Target: The single-leg stance (SLS) lateral raise provides a healthy challenge for the spine, as your core and glutes have to kick in to help you balance while also strengthening your shoulders.
How to do it: Put your left foot onto the center of band, holding on to one end with your right hand. Engage your abdominals and bend your right knee, lifting the right foot slightly off the floor. Lift your right arm up to shoulder height (arm should be fully extended, elbow soft, not locked) with the palm facing down. Hold for one count and lower. Do three sets of 15 repetitions on both sides. Make this easier by giving your band more slack or harder by standing on the band closer to the end you’re be lifting.
Target: This pelvis extension exercise strengthens the glutes, which are important in providing trunk stability.
How to do it: Start on your back with knees bent and feet hip-width apart. Pull the resistance band tight over your pelvis. Press your arms down into the floor and draw your abs in. Lift your hips up as high as possible. Hold for one count and then lower. Do a total of three sets of 15 repetitions each.
Trunk Extension with Arm Abduction
Target: This move works the erector spinae, which are muscles that support the torso. The extension motion, or bending backward, is a direction we rarely move in on daily basis.
How to do it: Start facedown with legs hip-width apart and arms extended in front of the body about shoulder-width apart, holding onto the band. Extend your spine and lift your arms, chest and thighs off the ground as you pull your arms wide, increasing the tension on the band. Slowly lower and return to start. Be sure to focus your eyes on the floor to keep your neck in line with your spine during the exercise. Do a total of three sets of 15 repetitions each.
Resisted Opposite Arm and Leg Reach
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.