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When your lower-back muscles are weak, you are more likely to suffer from nagging pain, bad posture or below-par running. To keep this critical ‘core’ area strong, you need to strengthen and stretch the erector spinae muscle group. The following four exercises, done two or three times a week, will do just that. The entire session should take you no more than 10 minutes – and could save you from a lifetime of problems.

Back Extensions
Lie on your stomach on a weight bench, with your hips at the edge of the bench and your torso hanging over. Cross your arms behind your neck, and bend forwards at the waist as far as you can while keeping your back flat. Slowly raise your torso until your legs and upper body are in a straight line again. Do two sets of 10 repetitions. To add resistance, hold a 10-pound weight against your chest. Avoid this exercise if you have history of lower-back pain.

Ball Bridges
Lie on your back with your arms at your side and your feet on a stability ball. Slowly lift your buttocks off the ground until your trunk and legs are in a straight line. Hold this position, and squeeze your lower back muscles and buttocks for two seconds. Do two sets of 10 repetitions.

Cobras
Lie on your stomach and place your hands on the floor near your shoulders, in the press-up position. Slowly push your upper body off the floor by straightening your arms. Keep your hips on the floor. Hold this position for three seconds. Relax your arms back to the floor. Repeat 10 times.

Seated Rows
Sit on a large stability ball (or even a chair) facing an elastic stretching band in the gym. Grab the elastic with both hands. Sit upright, and pull it towards you. Bring your hands to your rib cage and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for one second, and take care not to bend forwards or backwards at the waist. Do two sets of 10 repetitions.