"As a trainer, I hear the words 'Oh, my aching back' far too often. Frequently, back pain is a sign of muscular imbalances," celebrity trainer Kathy Kaehler says.
"Here's a test: Stand with your back to a wall, shoulder blades pressed against it. Can you hold the position for the length of the song 'Happy Birthday'? If not, you'll need to strengthen your back and core. This can help relieve and prevent back pain, and you'll improve your posture, too—making you look longer and leaner."
Here are four moves from Kaehler to help strengthen your back and boost your posture in the process.
Stand tall with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and back straight. Holding a 5- to 8-pound dumbbell in each hand, with palms facing in, hinge forward at the waist. Brace your core, then, with elbows slightly bent, raise the weights out to the sides and up as far as you can, squeezing your shoulder blades together; lower back down. Do 2 sets of 16 reps.
Holding a 5- to 8-pound dumbbell in each hand, stand with your feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent. Lean forward from your hips (not your waist), keeping your back flat; dumbbells should be in front of your knees. Pull dumbbells up toward the lower part of your chest, keeping upper arms and elbows next to your ribs. Concentrate on squeezing your shoulder blades together. Lower dumbbells slowly. Do 2 sets of 10 to 12 reps.
Start on all fours. Reach your right arm forward; at the same time, stretch your left leg back and flex your foot. Hold for 5 seconds, then release and repeat using the left arm and right leg. That's one rep. Do 10 to 15 reps per side.
Lie face down, stretch your arms overhead, point your toes, and lift your arms and legs about 6 inches off the ground. Hold for 1 count, imagining your legs being pulled out and back, away from your hips. Next, circle your arms out to the sides and behind you. Exhale and reach your arms toward your toes, palms facing in (shown). Hold for 1 count, then bring arms back to starting position and relax entire body to ground. Repeat 6 to 8 times.