Back pain and tension are still a consequence of a lack of movement in everyday life. Our tips from the pros show you how to easily integrate back training into your workday. You can do these simple back exercises with or without an office chair in just a few minutes. They prevent back pain, keep you fit all day and promote correct sitting.
Our health is the most important thing of all! But evenin 2022, back pain is still the number 1 widespread disease in Germany. Our Aeris Home-Office Study has shown: The main cause of back pain, muscle tension and headaches is too little movement in everyday life and sitting rigidly for hours at a time during work. In addition to the health consequences, sitting incorrectly in the office and in the home office often also has a negative effect on the work-life balance and general well-being. People are more stressed, tire more quickly and their performance drops rapidly.
Explained by the expert: 6 exercises against back pain
But how can you keep moving in your everyday working life? And how do you train your back to prevent back pain and muscle tension in the long term? The solution: 6 quick and effective back exercises for in-between.
Our expert, Nike trainer Cecilia Zonta, explains the best back exercises step by step. The experienced fitness trainer shows you effective exercises that strengthen the back, improve the mobility of your spine and stretch the ligaments and tendons ideally. This activates the entire upper body from the lower back to the arms. This keeps you active and fit.
You can easily do this back workout at your desk in the office or in your home.
And the best thing is: "You can easily do this back workout at your workplace in the office or at home. The exercises all work with your own body weight. What's more, each back exercise can be done in just a few minutes and you don't need any equipment except your office chair and a mat," says Cecilia Zonta.
A tip to get you started: We recommend that you do the following exercises at least twice a week. It is best to try to integrate this short training session into your daily work routine.
Exercise 1: The C-bend - without office chair
The focus of this first exercise is on the mobility of your spine. In addition, the C-bow exercise loosens the shoulder muscles and activates breathing.
First sit on your mat and make sure your back is straight. Then bend your legs about 45° and place your hands on your knees (see picture 1.1). Inhale deeply. Exhaling roll the back backwards and form a C-shaped arch (see picture 1.2). Inhaling again straighten the back. Do 15-20 repetitions. Then take a short break - about 30 seconds is enough. Repeat the exercise set 2 to 4 times, depending on your personal fitness level.
The C-arm exercise improves the flexibility of the spine. First sit upright - figure 1.1. Then form a C-shaped movement with your back - figure 1.2. Repeat this movement several times.
Pro tip: If you are already advanced, you can also alternate 1 set of C-bends and 1 set of side bends (exercise 3) for your targeted back training.
The C-arm exercise in summary:
- Focus: Mobility of the spine and upper back muscles
- Bend knees and place hands on knees
- Inhale: Back straight
- Exhale: roll back in a C-shape
- 15-20 repetitions per set
- 2-4 sets
Exercise 2: The butterfly - with office stool
A note in advance: Cecilia uses our Aeris Swopper for the exercise. The active office chair is ideal for back training thanks to its mobility and convex seat. Of course, you can also use another office stool for your workout. If necessary, place a cushion underneath.
With the butterfly exercise you can train and strengthen the shoulder and back muscles as well as the muscles in the hip area.
First lie with your chest on the stool and stretch out your legs. Make sure that the legs are really stretched out. Keep the head straight. The arms hang down on the left and right (see Figure 2.1). Inhale deeply and raise both arms slowly and evenly to the sides. Make sure that the thumbs are pointing upwards and the hands are not bent. The shoulder blades move in the direction of the spine. Hold this position for about 2 seconds (see figure 2.2). Then lower the arms and exhale in a controlled manner. Do 10-12 repetitions per set. Depending on your training level you can repeat the exercise 3-4 times. Important: Take a 30-second break between each set.
The butterfly exercise is an ideal way to strengthen the back muscles. Start as shown in picture 2.1 and then raise both arms in parallel - picture 2.2. The Aeris Swopper that Cecilia uses, you can see in detail here.
Pro tip: With this exercise it can happen that you overdo it right at the beginning. Therefore, start with one set and increase continuously.
The butterfly exercise in summary:
- Focus: Strengthening back and shoulder muscles
- Lie with the chest on the stool
- Stretch your legs
- Inhale: Raise arms evenly to the sides (hold for approx. 2-3 sec.)
- Exhale: lower the arms evenly
- 10-12 repetitions per set
- 3-4 sets
Exercise 3: The side bend - without office chair
Here we come to the exercise already mentioned, which you can do in alternation with exercise 1 - the side bend. This exercise is similar to a yoga exercise and improves your spinal mobility, especially in the lower back.
First sit cross-legged on the floor. Make sure you are in a comfortable position and keep your back straight. Hold the arms to the side of the body (see Figure 3.1). Now, while inhaling, bend the back to the left and bring the right arm over the head to optimally support the lateral stretch. Hold this position for 1-2 seconds (see picture 3.2.) On the exhale return to the starting position. Then repeat this in the opposite direction, to the right (see picture 3.3.). Repeat the exercise 5 times per side and then rest for 30 seconds. You should repeat this set 2-3 times.
The side bend mainly improves mobility in the lower back. First sit upright cross-legged - Picture 3.1. Then bring your right arm over your head and bend to the left - Picture 3.2. Now repeat this in the other direction - Picture 3.3.
Pro tip: If you cannot sit cross-legged on the floor - for example because of knee problems - then place your legs in front of you at a slightly bent angle.
The side bend exercise in summary:
- Focus: mobility of the spine in the lower back
- Sit cross-legged, back straight
- Bend sideways to the left, stretch right arm above head
- Bend sideways to the right, stretch left arm above the head
- 5 repetitions per side
- 2-3 sets
Want more home fitness exercises from our expert Cecilia Zonta? Follow the Nike trainer on Instagram.
Exercise 4: Superman - with office stool
The Superman is an extension of the butterfly exercise. With this workout you activate your core and improve the strength of the spine muscles. It also trains the thigh muscles and shoulders.
First lie on your stool with your chest up. Make sure your legs are fully extended and your neck is straight. Look towards the floor (see figure 4.1). When you have built up enough body tension, you are ready to begin: Take a deep breath and raise your right arm straight up. At the same time lift the left leg (see picture 4.2.). Hold this position for about 1-2 seconds. While exhaling let your limbs slide back to the starting position. Make sure you maintain control of your core position and body tension. Then do the movement with the left arm and the right leg (see picture 4.3). Repeat the exercise 5 times per side, doing 3-4 sets. Rest for at least 30 seconds between each set.
First assume the starting position - figure 4.1. When you have built up body tension, extend the right arm and the left leg - figure 4.2. After holding the position for approx. 1-2 sec. switch and extend the left arm and the right leg - figure 4.3".
Pro tip: If you are already more experienced, you can try to hold the Superman position for several seconds. This has a significant effect on the muscles.
The Superman exercise in summary:
- Focus: Strengthening the spine, thigh and shoulder muscles
- Lie with the chest on the stool
- Build up body tension, legs straight, neck straight
- Alternately lift right arm and left leg and left arm and right leg in parallel
- 5 repetitions per side
- 3-4 sets
After doing two exercises each for the strength of your back muscles and the flexibility of your spine, we now focus on stretching. Regular stretching of ligaments and tendons is extremely important. It improves posture and flexibility and also helps to prevent back, hip and leg pain.
Exercise 5: The lateral stretch - without office chair
Stand in a doorway or against a post (if there happens to be a post in the office) for the lateral stretch. Joking aside. Start by standing straight in the doorway. Your feet should be close together and parallel (see picture 5.1.). Then cross your legs. To do this, place one leg on the doorpost over the other. Now grasp the door frame with the hand near the frame at the bottom and the other hand above your head. In our example back exercise, grasp the door frame with the left hand above your head. Now push the body - the hips do the main work here - towards the opposite side of the door (see figure 5.2). Hold this position for about 25 seconds. Then turn around and stretch the other side. Repeat the stretching exercise if necessary. Important: Breathe deeply during the stretching exercise.
With this exercise you can stretch ligaments and tendons in the hip area. Stand in the door frame as shown in picture 5.1. Then push your hips outwards and push yourself away from the door frame with your hands - Figure 5.2".
Pro tip: After each stretch, shake your arms out briefly to loosen the muscles. Then repeat the stretch on the other side.
The Lateral Stretching Exercise in summary:
- Focus: Stretching the tendons and ligaments in the hip area
- Stand straight in a door frame, feet parallel
- Cross feet
- Reach over the head with the arm and hold on to the door frame
- Push the hips to the other side
- Hold position for approx. 25 seconds and then switch
Exercise 6: The L Position - with Office Chair
For this quick office exercise you can use any conventional chair you have available. With the L-position exercise you stretch your entire spine as well as the hamstrings, the tendons and ligaments in the back of the knee and the calves. The stretch goes once through the whole body.
First place your hands flat on the desk chair and then take 2-3 steps back, depending on your height. It is important that your back is straight and your legs are also straight. Your body now forms an L-shape (see figure 6.1) and you feel the pull from the back, over the thighs and back of the knees down to the calves. Hold this position for at least 20 to 30 seconds and breathe deeply in and out. If necessary, repeat the exercise. If you are not yet able to stretch so deeply at your chair, you can alternatively start this back exercise at your desk.
With the L-position you stretch all areas from the spine, through the back of the thigh and the back of the knee, to the calves. To do this, stand on a chair as shown in Figure 6.1.
Pro tip: The less distance you leave between your legs, the stronger the stretch. If you are practised, place your legs very close together and stretch your ligaments and tendons even more effectively.
The L-position stretch summarised:
- Focus: Stretching the spine, thighs, back of the knees and calves
- Put your hands on the desk chair
- Take 2-3 steps back
- Straighten arms and back
- Stretch your legs
- Hold position for at least 20-30 seconds
- Repeat if necessary