During this article series, I will concentrate on showing you how to do exercises correctly. One of things I see most as a trainer is people not doing exercises the right way. This will almost certainly lead to injuries at some point.
The first thing you want to do during an exercise is to stabilize your spine. You do this by drawing in your navel toward your spine to activate your internal weight belt (transversus abdominis).
There is also a great exercise that will protect your spine---BACK EXTENSIONS.
Strengthening your back muscles are very important for obvious reasons. Seventy to 80% of Americans have back pain (many times low back pain) at some point. The way to protect against this is to strengthen your body's core. To specifically protect your spine, you should do back extensions (with weights for the advanced). Back extensions target the erector spinae muscle group surrounding the spine. Your hamstrings also contract strongly during the back extension exercise and assist the erector spinae.
It is important to perform this exercise correctly or you will end up with the very thing you are trying to avoid----BACK PAIN OR INJURY. The technique error I see most in those doing back extensions is hyperextension of the back. Hyperextension happens when you continue lifting your upper body past the point of a straight line (your back, hips and lower legs should line up). The picture shows correct technique. Hyperextension will compress your vertebral discs. This important exercise should be included with your other back exercises such as rows and lat pulldowns.
In part 2 of this series, I will cover correct technique for the squat.