To Your Health
December, 2009 (Vol. 03, Issue 12)
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Progression: Kneel over a stability ball with thighs and stomach in contact with the ball and head and shoulders dipping over the front of the ball. With your back straight and parallel to the floor, position the lumbar spine in neutral and then set your hips so they do not move.

Allow the chest to drop and fall over the ball, flexing the upper back. Place your hands at the sides of the head, elbows bent. From this position, lift your chest up, extending your upper back until it is higher than at the starting position. Maintain abdominal contraction throughout to fix the hips and limit hyperextension of the lumbar spine. 10-20 reps, 2-3 sets.

Gluteal Bridge: This maneuver has many progressions. Start by lying on the floor with your knees bent. Squeeze your gluteals and then push your hips up until there is a straight line through the knee and hip to the upper body. Shoulders should remain on the floor. Beware of raising up too high or flaring the ribs, which pushes the back into hyperextension. Hold this position for an increasing length of time, up to a maximum of one minute. After you can hold this pose steady for one minute, bridge up and down repeatedly concentrating on squeezing the glute muscles and not using the lumbar spine for hip motion. 2-3 sets of 1 minute per set.

Progression 1: Progress to lying with your upper back and head on the floor with your heels on the top of the stability ball, hip-width apart to aid stability. Suck in the abdominals and squeeze up from your gluteals, lifting your hips until there is a straight line from heels to upper back. Shoulders and head should stay firmly on the floor. Take care not to lift the hips too high or flare the ribs so that your back hyperextends. Build up to holds of 30 seconds and lower. 2-3 sets of 30 seconds per set.

Progression 2: Progress to bridging with your back and head on the top of the stability ball. Hold the back in a static table-top position with the feet on the ground (hip-width apart), the knees bent 90 degrees. Squeezing up from the gluteals, lift hips until there is a straight line running through the knees, hips and shoulders. Do not lift the hips too high or flare the ribs so that your back hyperextends. Hold for a count of five and lower. 15-20 reps.

Progression 3: Combine the stability ball and a small weighted ball: Hold a light weight medicine ball between your palms and keep elbows straight. Keeping both arms straight bring arms back behind your head, and back up to the starting position. This re-establishes proper scapular glide and promotes thoracic extension.

Quadruped Birddog: The quadruped opposite arm/leg raise is effective for the lumbar and thoracic portions of the erector spinae muscles. This exercise also requires co-contraction of the abdominal wall muscles to stabilize the pelvis. Start with hands below shoulders and knees below hips. Set your low back into neutral and brace your abdominals slightly. Slowly slide back one leg and slide forward the opposite arm. Ensure that the back does not slip into extension, and that the shoulders and pelvis do not tilt sideways. Hold for two slow breaths in and out. Slowly bring your leg and arm back and swap sides. You can progress to using resistance bands around the hands or ankles. Build to 15-20 reps per side.

stability ball push-ups - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

One-Arm Rotational Row: This is a strength exercise that you'll feel throughout your back, torso, shoulders, and arms. Use an anchored resistance band with a handle to a low point near the floor. Kneel perpendicular to the anchored point, with your right knee and left foot on the floor. With your right hand, reach across your body to grab the handle, turning your hips and shoulders. Now rotate your right shoulder back and pull the handle to your right hip. Maintain a tall spine. Slowly reverse the motion. 12 reps per side.