Lower Back

Bring Back the Jack

Jun 1, 1997
Outside Magazine

Mike Teti, coach of the U.S. men's rowing team, has become something of a reluctant expert on backs. A 12-year national-team rower, Teti competed in three Olympics — and was suffering with herniated discs during two of the Games. "Your lower back acts as a lever in rowing, transferring the force generated by the legs up to the arms," Teti says. "Rowing improperly or training too hard can easily hurt your back." Recently, though, Teti's lower back has remained trouble free, thanks to a simple stretching and strengthening program he developed with team physicians. Teti and his rowers do the following four exercises before and after every water workout.


Arm and Leg Salute
Strengthens back extensors. Start on all fours, your back flat and your head in line with your spine. Lift your right arm and left leg simultaneously until they're straightened and parallel to the floor. Hold for five seconds, then lower. After one set, repeat with opposite limbs.

Back Extension
Strengthens back extensors. Position yourself on a hyperextension bench with your lower abdomen against the pad so that your torso can hang down freely. Arms folded across your chest, raise your upper body until your back is in line with your legs — and, contrary to the bench's name, no further. Hold for five seconds and lower slowly, keeping your back plank-straight all the while.

Knee Tuck
Strengthens back extensors, hip flexors. Lie on your back with your legs extended. Lifting your neck slightly, grasp your left knee with your hands and pull it tightly to your chest. Hold for 15 seconds and lower to starting position. Repeat with other leg. Finally, hug both knees to your chest and hold for 15 seconds.

Pelvic Rotation
Strengthens back extensors. Starting on all fours with your back flat, tighten your abdominal and gluteal muscles. Slowly arch your back like a cat, tuck your tailbone under, and drop your head. Then let your back slowly sag toward the floor, below the starting position, rotating your tailbone the other direction. Return to the neutral position between reps.

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