The erector spinae are a group of rope-like muscles that run along and down your spine. They are largely responsible for stabilizing the back and allowing us to rotate, bend and extend freely. According to Les Mills US presenter and trainer Deirdre Douglas, EDD, this column of muscles plays such an important role in good posture.
So, the next time you’re wondering about your round shoulders or overly subtle buffalo hump at the base of your neck and want to do something about it, Dr. Take a moment to strengthen your deep core stabilizers with something from Douglas. Below are the top-five erector spinae exercises.
But first: why strengthening the erector spinae is important
By now you know the basics: the erector spinae play an integral role in good posture. But here’s why. “Poor posture weakens these muscles, limiting support when standing and sitting,” says Dr. Douglas. “Aches and pains can present themselves when these deep core muscles are inactive, strained or immobilized for long periods of time.”
5 exercises to strengthen the erector spinae
1. Bird dog
Although this move is usually considered an abs exercise, your back will thank you too. Start on all fours in a tabletop position, with your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. While maintaining a neutral spine—meaning a natural curve in your lower and upper back—raise your right arm and left leg in the air and extend them long, and keep 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 floor. Hold there for a few seconds, remembering to breathe in the process. Then, lower down on all fours and repeat on the other side. Dr. Douglas recommends two to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions for the most relief.
I for one never look forward to this practice, but Dr. According to Douglas, this is an important movement to master for the well-being of your erector spinae and posture. Lie face down on the floor with your legs straight and arms extended forward. In a smooth and slow motion, raise both arms and legs a few inches off the floor. “Use your back muscles to do the work, not your leg and arm muscles,” Dr. Douglas said. Hold for a few seconds then lower to the ground. Repeat the movement for eight to 12 repetitions.
3. Good morning sitting
You don’t even have to stand to do a lot of good for your erector spinae. Sit on a bench or chair with hands behind your head, fingers interlaced and elbows wide. Draw your belly button toward your spine to engage your core, and then slowly hinge toward the hips until your upper body is parallel to the floor—be careful not to roll your shoulders forward, and keep your chin slightly tucked but resting on your chest. don’t take Stick your butt to keep the natural curve in your lower back as you lower your upper body. Pause there for a few seconds then slowly return to your starting position. “Repeat two to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions,” Dr. Douglas said.
4. Baby pose
(Find a demo at 5:40)
Sure, Child’s Pose is a relaxed yoga pose with a slightly more intense vinyasa flow, but it’s also a dynamic movement for the erector spinae. Start on all fours, then bring your palms in front of your shoulders. Keep your arms straight as you widen your knees, press your hips back, and sit your butt on your heels while lowering your chest toward the floor. From there, relax your shoulders toward the ground and aim to touch your forehead to the floor. “Rest the pose as long as needed,” Dr. Douglas says 45 to 90 seconds is usually a sweet spot. “Repeat as needed for relief,” she adds.
5. Child’s sitting posture
Looking for a movement you can do while sitting at your desk? Dr. Douglas says seated child’s pose is a great 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. Stretch your arms toward the floor with your hands resting on the floor or thighs between your legs or next to your legs.” Relax there until you feel relaxed. Again, 45 to 90 seconds usually does the trick.
“The erector spinae muscles work hard in our daily lives to help keep us upright,” Dr. Douglas said. “Because many of us sit for long periods of time and lean forward, these muscles can become weak. Strengthening these core muscles is important to help keep them in tip-top shape so we can bend and move freely in our daily activities.”