Back pain is one of America’s most chronic problems. But a morning exercise routine can help keep it at bay. And decrease your back pain when you do suffer.

So, “do what’s most important first thing in the morning” doesn’t mean check your email. Or scrolling through Twitter and Instagram. It means performing some morning exercises. You’ll feel energized and your back will feel better too.

Men’s Journal asked fitness experts including elevate’s Tim Hampton to suggest eight essential AM exercises. We’ve adapted and added our team’s thoughts to the article.

Both Tim and our physical therapy team suggest slowly doing four or more of these morning exercises. And doing them before you even brush your teeth.

  1. Bird Dog

Why you should do it: “Doing this simple exercise first thing in the morning will activate your full body. A focus on the muscles and tendons running along your spine helps to build better posture.” Lesley Bell a NASM-certified personal trainer based in Santa Monica noted in Men’s Journal.

Our PT Team notes that It also helps increases lower-body stabilization throughout your day. This reduces the risk of back pain. Ant it makes climbing stairs and walking feel easier and more efficient.

How to do it: Start on hands and knees. Squeeze glutes, draw stomach in, pull your shoulder blades down, and keep head in line with spine. Holding the position, lift the right arm and left leg so that each reaches a straight extension. Bend your right arm and left leg, bringing right elbow to left knee. Hold for three seconds, then extend and repeat. Do 10 reps, then repeat on the opposite side.

  1. Cat-Cow

This is a favorite at elevate. It’s great for your back. As Tim noted in Men’s Journal, “in the morning, this move is a great way to wake up every part of the spine. So, it’s prepared for the activities you’ll perform during the day.”

How to do it: Start on hands and knees with hands directly below your shoulders and knees right under your hips. Inhale, dropping your chest as you push your hips and shoulder blades back into cow position. Lift your chin and chest and gaze forward. For cat, exhale as you draw your belly button to your spine and round your back toward the ceiling like a cat. Do 10 reps.

  1. Y Hold Into Handcuff Position

Why you should do it: “Most guys suffer from tight, shortened pecs and a weak upper back.” Adam Rosantev author of The 30-Second Body explained. Sound familiar? This move helps to mobilize the tissues in the front of the body and activate the postural muscles in your upper back. So, you can stand taller all day long.

Our fitness and PT teams love that this exercise strengthens your upper back. That’s a great way to lower your risk of back pain.

How to do it: Lie face down on the ground with arms overhead in a Y position, thumbs up. Squeeze the muscles in your upper back to raise arms and chest off floor. Hold 10–15 seconds, then sweep arms down and behind low back (as if you were being handcuffed). Clasp one hand over the opposite wrist and squeeze shoulder blades together for 1 second. That’s 1 rep. Do 3–5 reps, alternating hand clasp.

  1. Glute Bridge

Why you should do it: We agree with Lesley Bell. “Today, the majority of people have a weak posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, and lower back). Activating these muscles right away can help prevent common ailments. These include low back pain, hamstring pulls, and bad posture.” Plus our team notes that it helps open up tight hip flexors from sitting all day.

How to do it: Start by lying on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the ground about shoulder-width apart near your butt. Push the heels down into the ground while raising the hips off the ground. At the top, squeeze glutes and keep the abdominals tight to prevent arching in the lower back. Make sure the shins are vertical, then lower your hips back down to their original position. Do 20 reps.

  1. Deadbug

Another favorite at elevate. At least with the trainer! As Tim noted, “Your core is responsible for keeping you upright all day. So, in the same way mobilizing your spine preps your body for movement. Activating your core first thing in the morning can help reduce pain and injury from daily activities.”

Our lead DPT Justin DePermentier adds that “Deadbugs also strengthen your core. This can reduce the risk of lower back pain.”

How to do it: Start by lying on your back with hips and knees bent at 90 degrees. Raise your arms to the ceiling. Brace your abs and flatten your lower back into the floor. Reach one hand behind your head while extending the opposite leg, letting it hover just above the floor. Reverse the motion and repeat on the opposite side. Do 10 reps on each side.

  1. Quadruped Rotation

Our PT Team has encouraged the Fitness Team to add this exercise to many client’s fitness programs.

Because, this is a simple move to open up your thoracic spine. And that’s important for improving posture, reducing pain, and negating some of the effects of sitting at a desk all day.

How to do it: Start on hands and knees with hands directly below your shoulders and knees right below your hips. And with your spine in a neutral position. Place one hand on the upper back or back of the neck and begin to rotate as far as possible toward the hand on the floor. Reverse, rotating upwards as far as possible. Return to center. Do 5 reps on each side.

  1. Plank

This is another of our most effective exercises. Why you should do it:

If you’re doing it right, a plank is a total-body move. Holding this position activates and strengthens all your core muscles.

These are essential for a strong posture. This helps take pressure off your spine and hips. And that helps reduce the risk of back pain.

How to do it: Start on hands and knees. Place your hands directly under your shoulders and step your feet back. Maintain a straight line from heels through the top of your head, looking down at the floor, with gaze slightly in front of your face. Squeeze your abs, quads, and glutes. Hold for at least a full minute.

  1. Reverse Lunge With Torso Twist

Why you should do it: Adam Rosantev noted that “tight hips and ankles are another common problem area. This lunge variation helps to mobilize both. While it also wakes up the body’s rotational movement pattern.” Our team agrees. It mobilizes and activates your hips. And this sets your body up for a day of better movement.

Our Tim and our PT like that this exercise loosens and strengthens your hips. And they encourage doing this carefully. It’s a little tricky. You might want to contact Tim and come in for a quick demo.

How to do it: From standing, step back into a reverse lunge until your knee almost touches the floor. At the bottom, reach arms to the sky and twist your torso toward front leg. Return to center before driving through the heel to push back to stand. Repeat on the opposite side. Do 5 reps on each side.

As always, if you have questions or concerns. Or want to start strengthening your core in the morning, just contact us. We’re here.