The NY Times has a good article in their Play Magazine section about the prevalence of back injuries among high torque/high impact athlete groups. The article touches on various causes behind back problems among athletes, gives a glimpse into young, elite level tennis players and what their backs look like (do not let your children get involved in elite level tennis. Ouch). The article also provides three core strengthening exercises to help build a solid back support system:
SUPPORT THAT LAZY SPINE: Entire books have been devoted to workout routines for the back. But you can save yourself some trouble by focusing on these three exercises, which work most of the large muscles in the body’s core. Do them four times a week, breathing slowly and steadily throughout.
Lie on your back with your knees bent. Slide your hands under your lower back to provide support; you don’t want your spine flat against the floor. Straighten one leg. Then, while keeping your neck and lower spine straight and unmoving, lift your shoulders and chest off the floor. Hold the position for about eight seconds. Repeat 10 times, then switch legs and do another 10.
Lie on your side, with your legs bent at the knee and your upper hand across your chest. Bend your lower arm so that your elbow is pointing away from your chest. Slowly raise your shoulders, keeping your spine straight, and hold for 8 to 10 seconds. Repeat on the other side. After a few weeks, do the exercise with your legs straight.
Start on all fours, then slowly lift your right arm and left leg until each is parallel to the ground. Hold for eight seconds. Repeat with the opposite arm and leg. Do 10 reps on each side. Keep your spine straight, hips level and abdominal muscles slightly contracted. And don’t forget to breathe.