Massage therapists need a strong, balanced core: The job requires long periods of time on your feet, sometimes bent over, which can eventually lead to back pain. The following are simple exercises you can do to help strengthen your core. They don’t require any equipment, and can be done in the comfort of your home or practice.
Start with one set of 12 repetitions of each exercise, and work your way up to three sets as you progress. As with any exercise program, take it slow to get the form and movement down first.
1. Tummy tuck
Lie on your back with your arms at your side, palms facing down. Draw your navel down toward the floor. Tilt your pelvis so your buttocks lift off the floor. Hold for 10 seconds and release. Repeat 12 times.
2. Side leg raise
Lie on the floor on your side. Place one arm beneath you to support your torso, which is positioned at a 45-degree angle. Engage your side abdominals and lift your top leg as far as you can, but no more than 90 degrees. Repeat 12 times and switch sides.
3. Alternate knee tuck
Lie on your back with your arms on the ground, palms down and legs extended flat. Bend your right knee and bring it toward your chest. Then straighten the right knee and lower it as you bring your left knee toward your chest. The motion will look like you are pedaling a bicycle. Bring each knee to your chest 12 times.
4. Simple plank
Assume the standard push-up position, making sure your arms are straight and your hands are aligned directly underneath your shoulders. Your body should be in a straight line from your heels to the crown of your head. Pull your navel into your spine and hold the position for five seconds. Release fully and relax onto the floor. Repeat 12 times.
5. Single leg raise
Lie on your back with your arms at your sides, palms down and legs extended flat on the ground. Engage your abdominals, ensuring that your low back maintains contact with the ground, and raise one leg off the ground at about a 45-degree angle. Lower it and repeat with your other leg, raising and lowering each 12 times.
6. Double leg raise
Start in the same position as the single leg raise, but raise both legs to 45-degree angle from the floor at the same time. Repeat 12 times.
7. Forearm side plank
Lie on your side, supporting your upper body with your forearm on the ground, perpendicular to your torso. Engage the side abdominals and lift your hips toward the ceiling, balancing on the outside edge of your bottom foot and the forearm on that same side. Hold for 10 seconds; repeat 12 times on each side.
Keep back pain at bay
By consistently practicing these seven simple self-care exercises, you can achieve a balanced core, which will help prevent back pain.
Photos by David Zanes.
About the Author
Todd Sinett, D.C., a chiropractor in New York, New York, brings a three-pronged approach to treating back pain, addressing structural, emotional and dietary factors. Sinett is author of the newly released book 3 Weeks to a Better Back (October 2015), and creator of the BackBridge™ System, a device developed to improve spine health.