Five Tips To Protect And Strengthen Your Back

You may recognize JoyRider Dori Nissenson from our Westport studio, but did you know she is the founder of Hands on at Home Physical Therapy?


Dori’s commitment to providing the most individualized and comprehensive physical therapy and rehabilitation programs – in patients’ homes! – has made her one of Fairfield County’s most sought-after physical therapists. We recently caught up with Dori after a cycle class and asked her for some tips on protecting and strengthening the back.

1. Turn on your core! Whether you are cycling, enJOYing a Studio 2 floor class, or challenging yourself at JoyX, it is important to remember to support your spine by turning on your core muscles. The abdominals support the spine in the front and can be turned on by drawing your belly button into your spine. Turn on your gluteal muscles, which support your spine in the back, by squeezing your butt.  

2. Hinge at your hips. ON and OFF the bike it is important to keep your spine straight and bend at your hip joints during both cardiovascular exercise and weight-lifting. Your spine is not meant to bend and take weight in the bent position, BUT, luckily, your hips are extremely mobile joints and are meant to transfer weight between the core and the legs. In order to make this easy to do, try to imagine your spine as one unit from the base of your skull to your tailbone and keep it one unit by contracting your abdominal muscles and flexing at your hips only. 

3. Set your shoulder blades. Your shoulder blades anchor your arms to your trunk, so whether you are in third position on the bike, doing bicep curls, or boxing, keep your shoulder blades back and down on your rib cage. This will not only protect your shoulders but it will diminish the load on the low back by engaging the upper back muscles  to “help out.” 

4. Respect your weekend warrior self! It’s OK if you only have time to exercise on the weekends, but don't cram seven days of working out into two. One of the most dangerous things you can do to your back is to lift weight that is too heavy.  Be careful about the amount of weight you choose to lift and progress to heavier weights SLOWLY.

5. Go at your own pace! One of the most common ways to injure your back is to combine movements that can lead to more wear and tear on your spine, for example simultaneously bending and turning. If you are moving too fast and not completing one part of a movement before beginning another, you are essentially combining motions and putting your low back at risk. Move at your own pace through each exercise and also while  transitioning between first, second or third positions on the bike. This will prevent you from blending motions that are harmful in combination and will help you avoid a back injury.


For more information, or to contact Dori, please visit her website: