If you have ever suffered from severe backache you will know just what a central part the back plays in our lives. Even something as simple as squeezing a tennis ball in your hand can be extremely painful as the action uses not only the muscles of the forearm, but also the biceps, the latissimus dorsi muscles and other back muscles.
The latissimus dorsi muscles, or 'lats', are the large muscles that run down each side of the upper body and are what gives a man his triangular shaped.
Just about every sport requires strong back muscles to act as a 'pillar' to support the main limbs in movement and also to provide balance, movement, speed and coordination.
Here are a few easy exercises to help to both stretch and strengthen those important back muscles. The majority are best performed on a firm, but not hard, surface as, while you work the muscles, you don't want to put undue pressure on bony parts of the body.
Knee to Chest
Lie on your back and clasp your hands behind one of your thighs. Pull your thigh slowly up toward your chest, while being careful to keep the other leg flat on the ground. Hold this position for five seconds before lowering the leg and repeating the exercise with the other leg. Start will about 10 repetitions of this exercise and slowly build this up over time.
Lie on your back with your knees together and raised so that your feet are flat on the floor. With your arms extended close the body, and your palms flat on the floor, lift your feet a couple of inches off the ground and rotate your trunk by moving your knee, first to the left and then to the right.
At first, don't strain yourself by trying to rotate your knees too far but, as you become more flexible and build strength, you can increase your range of movement. Ultimately, you should be able to touch your knees to the floor.
Once again lie on your back with your knees raised and your feet flat on the floor. Push the small of your back into the floor and hold it there for a few seconds while you feel the tension in your lower abdominal muscles. Vary the action by moving your feet together and performing the exercise and then repeating the exercise with your feet slightly apart.
This time lie on your back with your knees raised, your feet flat on the ground and your arms crossed over your chest. Keeping your legs and knees together, raise your buttocks a couple of inches off the floor and hold the position for a few seconds. Then, lower your buttocks slowly back onto the floor, count to two, and repeat the exercise again.
Okay last one! Get down on all fours and raise your head so that you're looking straight ahead. Lower your arms and, at the same time, arch your back. Hold this position for a couple of seconds and then resume your starting position.
Next, slowly extend one leg, as near parallel to the floor as you can and hold it up for two or three seconds before returning it to the floor. (If this particular exercise results in pain in the back, hip, or leg you should stop immediately.) Switch legs and repeat this exercise about ten times for each leg at first and gradually increase the number of repetitions over time.