Back-Strengthening Exercises for Home or the Gym

2 Mar

I mentioned a long time ago that I would post my physical therapy exercises for strengthening my back, so that you all could benefit from the big chunk of change I dropped to learn them. Last week, I had my last appointment. Not because I was no longer benefiting from my visits, but because my money tree was dead.

It took me this long to post the exercises because I was planning to post pictures of yours truly illustrating what to do. But then I realized that my pictures would be crap and that I might as well just post the exercises already. So without further ado…

Equipment You’ll Need:

Swiss Ball

Resistance tube or Cable pulley machine

Resistance Bands (You can tie the ends of a Pilates band together too, but the round resistance bands work better.)

Optional: Medicine Ball



Swiss Ball Squats

2 x 15 reps

With the ball behind your back, feet shoulder width apart, sit back as if you are trying to sit in a chair too far away. Make sure your knees don’t go past your toes.

Swiss Ball Abdominal Rollouts

2 x 15 reps

Kneel in front of the ball and place your forearms on the ball, your elbows bent at a little more than 90 degrees. Pull your belly button in towards your spine and roll forward, placing your weight on your forearms, back straight, and elbows underneath your shoulders doing a plank on the ball. You should feel your abs engage to stabilize you. To make it more challenging, roll out and lift one arm off the ball.

Swiss Ball Alternating Leg Lifts

2 x 20 reps           

Sit on the Swiss ball and roll out so that your upper back is resting on the ball, your hips are lifted, feet on the floor shoulder width apart, and your body is in a straight line, with your hands resting comfortably. Carefully, lift one leg, hold for 5 seconds, lower. Then lift the other leg, hold, lower. Repeat.

Swiss Ball Bridging

2 x 20 reps                                                             

Lie face down on the Swiss Ball, with your hands and feet resting on the ground. Pulling your belly button into your spine, raise your right arm and left leg together, hold for 5 seconds, lower. Then lift left arm and right leg, hold, lower. Repeat.

Lunges with Torso Rotation

2 x 10 reps

Step forward and lunge, keeping your knees at 90 degrees.  Rotate your torso to both sides and return to standing. Hold a Swiss or medicine ball in your hands as you twist to make these more challenging.

Straight Arm Pull Downs / Cable Pull Across

2 x 25 reps

Note: For these exercises, use either a resistance tube anchored above your head or a cable pulley machine on the top notch, with weight set low (7-10 lbs).

Pull Down: Stand up straight and pull your belly button in, facing the tube or machine. Grasp cables in both hands and keeping your arms straight (but not locked), pull down to your side, as if you were going to graze your thigh. Keeping your arms straight, release back to starting position. Repeat.

Pull Across: Take cable in your left hand, with the left side of your body facing the tube or machine. With a slight bend in your elbow, pull down and across your body to your opposite hip (as if you were dancing 70s disco-style).  Keeping the slight bend in the elbow, release back to starting position. Repeat, then do the same with the right arm, turning your body so that the right side faces the tube or pulley.

Monster Walk (this one is killer for the hips and glutes!)

2 x 30 reps

Place a resistance band around your ankles and start with your feet together. You will be moving laterally so make sure you have enough space. Step your left foot out, keeping your toes pointed forward, then step your right foot in, bringing your feet together. Step to the left again, bring right foot in again. Do 15 reps, then step right foot out, bring left foot in, for 15 reps. Repeat to the left and to the right again.

The next part is best explained with a picture:

After 15 reps (8 to right, 7 to left), do it in the reverse direction. So instead of stepping the left foot forward, you step it backward. Do 15 reps (8 on left, 7 on right) and repeat forward and backward again.


To keep my no-photo streak going, I made these No-Bake Granola Balls and this Chickpea and Kale Soup recently and they were both delicious. Kale was another green vegetable that I had written off as disgusting, but I was wrong! I honestly do not know what horrible recipes I used the first time I tried kale and brussel sprouts to make me hate them so much. Or maybe my tastebuds are just maturing as I get older? Whatever the reason, I like the result!

Have a great weekend!

Have you made any good recipes lately?

3 Responses to “Back-Strengthening Exercises for Home or the Gym”

  1. Lisa March 3, 2012 at 3:14 pm #

    Good exercise ideas! My home gym equipment is so limited that I actually have none of these things, but maybe I could start slowly peicing some together. Or, I could probably just do some of them AT the gym. I’m always afraid of looking stupid though when I try things out for the first time. Silly, I know.

  2. specialkkluthe March 3, 2012 at 3:23 pm #

    @Lisa – I totally understand about being scared to try new things. I find that talking to myself helps me feel less awkward. But it probably makes me even weirder. 😉


  1. Training Recap: 2/2 – 2/8 & Unofficial Half PR! « - April 9, 2012

    […] Tuesday: 3.04 mile tempo run (30:52; 10:09/mile) + 20 min strength/physical therapy exercises […]

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