Strengthening Exercises continued...
Squats strengthen muscles used in lifting with the legs (quads, hamstrings, buttocks), which reduces strain to the low back. Squats also activate the core muscles.
Squats are quite challenging for beginners. Only do a few repetitions to start. Beginners may wish to start with the chair squat or the wall squat. It is important that the knees do not go over the toes or go out to either side.
Basic Squat: Lower body exercise that targets quads & glutes, hamstrings, calves and the core.
|Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Toes should face forward or slightly outward if that is your natural stance. Arms can be at sides, or straight out in front to help with balance. Tighten abs. Keep back neutral (natural arch in lower back, shoulders down and close together). Look straight ahead, not at the ground. Slowly lower your body, moving buttocks down and backward, keeping your knees behind your toes, until your thighs are almost parallel to floor (bend less if it causes knee pain). Pause for 5 seconds. Squeeze the buttock as you return to start, pushing up with heels. Repeat 10 times|
TIP: Use a mirror to check your form when learning a new exercise. When doing a squat, use a mirror to make sure your back is not rounding - alternatively, place an outstretched hand over the small of your back to make sure your lower back remains neutral (keeps its natural arch).
If you are new to the squat exercise and are having trouble keeping your knees behind your toes, try using a chair until you get the feel for the exercise. Sit on edge of chair with neutral posture, feet facing forward, knees over ankles. Lean forward, keeping natural arch in lower back. Push with heels to stand up. Do not stand all the way up. Sit back down. Repeat 10 times.
The Wall Squat: Strengthening exercise for quads and glutes.
Stand with your back against a wall, heels about 18 inches from the wall, feet hip-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 -10 times.
Note: Adjust distance of heels from wall so that knees are lined up over ankles when knees are bent to 90 degrees.
The wall squat does not challenge balance like the regular squat but may be preferred by those with knee problems or beginners who are having difficulty keeping the back neutral.
Stationary Lunge Quads, glutes, hamstrings, core
Lunges, like squats, are quite challenging for beginners. Only do a few repetitions to start. It is important that the knees do not go over the toes or wander out to either side.
Stand upright with one foot forward and one foot back, with heel of back foot off floor. You many hold onto a fixed object (e.g. chair, table or countertop) for balance. Weight should be evenly distributed between front and back foot. Keep torso upright. Lower torso by bending both knees until the back knee is close to floor and front knee is lined up over front ankle. Do not let the front knee travel past the toes. The further the distance between the back and front leg, the more challenging the exercise will be (do not lower back knee as close to the floor if the legs are closer together as the back knee should not go past the toes). Do ten repetitions, switch sides and repeat.
back exercises continued...