The spinal erectors are a rope-like group of muscles that run up and down the sides of the spine. They are largely responsible for stabilizing the back and allowing us to freely twist, bend, and extend. According to Deidre Douglas, EdD, presenter and instructor at Les Mills US, it is this column of muscles that plays such a vital role in good posture.
So the next time you find yourself staring at your rounded shoulders or the not-so-subtle buffalo hump at the base of your neck and want to do something about it, take a moment to strengthen your deep core stabilizers with some of Dr. Douglass. The five best exercises for the erector spinae below.
But first: Why is it important to strengthen the erector spinae?
By now you know the basics: the erector spinae plays an integral role in good posture. But here’s why. “Poor posture causes these muscles to weaken, limiting support when standing and sitting,” says Dr. Douglas. “Soreness and soreness can present when these deep core muscles are inactive, tense, or immobile for long periods of time.”
5 exercises to strengthen the erector spinae
1. bird dog
Although this move is normally considered an ab exercise, your back will thank you too. Begin on all fours in tabletop position, with your knees below your hips and your hands below your shoulders. While maintaining a neutral spine, this means a natural curve in your upper and lower back, lift your right arm and left leg into the air by straightening them and keeping your shoulders and hips parallel to the floor. Lengthen the back of your neck and tuck your chin in slightly to look down at the ground. Hold there for a few seconds, remembering to breathe in the process. Then, lower your back to all fours and repeat on the other side. Dr. Douglas suggests alternating between sides for two to three sets of eight to 12 reps to get the most relief.
I for one never crave this exercise, but according to Dr. Douglas, it’s an important movement to master for the well-being of your erector spinae and overall posture. Lie face down on the floor with your legs straight and your arms stretched out in front of you on the floor. In a smooth, slow motion, lift both arms and legs a few inches off the ground. “Use your back muscles, not your leg and arm muscles, to do the work,” says Dr. Douglas. Stay there for a few seconds and then lower yourself back down to the ground. Repeat the movement for eight to 12 repetitions.
3. Sitting good morning
You don’t even have to stand up to do your erector spinae much good. Sit on a bench or chair with your hands behind your head, fingers interlocked, and elbows open. Draw your navel toward your spine to engage your core, and then slowly rotate toward your hips to lower your upper body toward the floor until parallel; be careful not to roll your shoulders forward and keep your chin slightly tucked in but not resting on your chest. Stick your butt in to maintain the natural curve in your lower back as you lower your upper body. Pause there for a few seconds and then slowly return to your starting position. “Repeat for two to three sets of eight to 12 reps,” says Dr. Douglas.
4. Child’s pose
(Find a demo at 5:40)
Sure, Child’s Pose is a relaxing yoga pose to fall back into when a vinyasa flow gets too intense, but it’s also a mobilizing move for the erector spinae. Start on all fours, then walk with your palms facing forward of your shoulders. Keep your arms straight as you spread your knees wide, press your hips back and place your butt on your heels as you lower your chest toward the floor. From there, he relaxes his shoulders towards the ground and tries to touch the ground with his forehead. “Rest in the pose for as long as you need to,” Dr. Douglas says, noting that 45 to 90 seconds is usually a sweet spot. “Repeat as needed for relief,” he adds.
5. Sitting Child’s Pose
Looking for a move you can make while sitting at your desk? Dr. Douglas says that the seated child’s pose is an excellent option for strengthening (and relieving) the erector spinae. “Sit on a chair or bench with your knees and feet hip-width apart or slightly wider,” she says. “Lower your torso and forehead between your knees. Extend your arms toward the ground between your feet or along your legs with your hands relaxed on the ground or your thighs. Relax there until you feel relief. Once again, 45 to 90 seconds is usually enough.
One more thing
“The erector spinae muscles work hard in our daily lives to simply help us stay upright,” says Dr. Douglas. “Since many of us spend long periods of time sitting hunched forward, these muscles can become weak. It’s important to strengthen these core muscles to help keep them in tip-top shape so we can bend and move freely in our daily activities.”