Question: I have recently replaced weight training with other forms of resistance training such as push-ups, pull-ups, dips and squats. It seems to be working well for my fitness goals. I can work out at home without any sweaty machines. One area of my body that I have not figured out how to work on is my lower back. Can you recommend any exercises that require little, or no, equipment?
Answer: To strengthen your back muscles without any equipment (except a yoga mat or towel for padding on the floor) give the following moves a try.
* Active spinal extension: Lie on your stomach face down, arms to your side. Exhale and slowly lift your upper torso off the floor. Hold for 10 seconds, release and repeat 10 to 15 times.
* Advanced spinal extension: Lie face down on the floor. Stretch your arms overhead on the floor with your legs extended straight behind you. Lift your right arm and left leg off the floor. Hold them both in the air for a count of 5, then slowly lower them. Repeat the move on the opposite side, this time raising your left arm and right leg off the floor. Complete 10 to 15 repetitions on each side.
* Seated extension: Sit upright at the edge of a chair with your back straight. Put your hands on either side of your head and place your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart in front of you. Lean slightly forward while keeping your back straight and your head in line with your back. Hold for 10 seconds, repeat 10 to 15 times.
* Give yoga a try. It can strengthen your back, improve your alignment and help relieve tension that builds throughout the day.
Stephanie Oakes is the fitness correspondent for Discovery Health Channel and a health and fitness consultant. To submit a fitness-related question, firstname.lastname@example.org.