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If you’ve ever thrown out your back, you know the importance of protecting it. The National Institute of Health reports that most people will experience back spasms or back pain at some point in their lives, and practicing back exercises is one of the best ways to reduce the likelihood of pain or injury. Women who do back exercises will also enjoy greater flexibility, strength, endurance and range of motion.

Hip Bridge

Women with desk jobs may often feel the effects of hours upon hours sitting in a chair. Doing regular hip bridges can’t entirely counteract that discomfort, but it can provide some relief by strengthening the lower back muscles. Personal trainer, Roberta Lenard, recommends hip bridges because they stretch the hips while strengthening the glutes and lower back. To do the move, lay flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Lay your hands by your sides and lift your hips off the ground as high as you can get them, keeping a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Pulse up and down for several sets of eight to 12 reps.

Pull-Up

Pull-ups target your lats but have the side benefit of working your biceps, deltoids, traps, pecs and a host of spinal stabilizers. If you don’t have a pull-up bar to practice, try using a high bar at the gym or even the monkey bars at the playground. In a complete pull-up, you should begin with arms fully extended and then pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar. Lower down slowly. If you can’t do a pull-up, try starting with a slight jump or lowering the bar to shoulder height so that you can stand during the move, putting gradually less and less pressure on your feet.

Dumbbell Row

Rows and other free weight exercises are great for their versatility – as your back grows stronger, you can begin to use heavier and heavier dumbbells. To begin, hold a weight in each hand and hinge forward at a 45-degree angle with your hips, keeping knees very slightly bent. Move your shoulders back and down and arch your back slightly. Elbows should be bent, with weights by your sides. Reach the weights in front of you with arms fully extended and then slowly squeeze your shoulder blades together to bring the weights back to start. Do two to three sets of 10 to 12 reps, making sure not to let your back curve upward.

Stretches and Safety

Stretching your back muscles regularly can be just as important as strengthening them. During your warm-up or after you’ve been sitting for a long time, try spinal twists, the cat/camel yoga stretch or spine-lengthening stretches. Before you begin any new exercise routine, get approval from your doctor, especially if you struggle with chronic back pain or have had a back injury in the past.

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