Late in his career, Max Weinberg was struck with excruciating lower back pain hours before he was about to go onstage with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. “I was literally knocked off my feet with muscle spasms,” says the drummer. Injections of a muscle relaxant provided temporary relief–the pain came from two herniated disks the drummer suffered years ago in a car accident—but long hours sitting on the set of NBC’s Late Night with Conan O’Brien only worsened his condition. Surgery proved unsuccessful, so his doctor recommended Pilates. Spending long periods of time behind a drum set (or a desk) compresses your spine, and Pilates is a strengthening and stretching workout that focuses on the core muscles—abs, lats, traps—that take the strain off the back. After 10 months of two hourlong workouts a week at True Pilates New York, Weinberg can finally sit comfortably and has noticed abdominal, back, and leg muscles he didn’t know he had. Here are three exercises that returned the snap to Weinberg’s sticks. And if you’re struggling with lower back pain yourself, be sure to check out our comprehensive report on the matter.
Lie faceup on a mat, chin to your chest and arms (palms down) by your sides. Bend your knees to your chest, then extend your legs at a 45-degree angle. Lift your arms 4 inches off the mat and pump them up and down without raising them higher than 4 inches, while inhaling for 5 seconds and then exhaling for 5 seconds. Continue until you complete 100 arm pumps.
Sit on the floor with your knees bent toward your chest and your hands holding the backs of your thighs. Flex your abdominal muscles and use them to slowly roll your back down until your arms are straight. Now pull yourself back up with your abdominal muscles. Repeat 5 times. This exercise should be executed so slowly that you don’t use gravity and momentum (as in the situp) to ease the muscle strain on your abs.
Sit on the floor with your legs spread slightly wider than your hips and your knees slightly bent. Extend your hands in front, parallel to your legs. Inhale and sit as erect as possible, stretching your spine toward the ceiling. Drop your chin to your chest and exhale while slowly rounding your spine forward. Reach as far as you can. Pause and inhale deeply before reversing the stretch to an upright position. Repeat 6 to 8 times.
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