Our aim with these series of back straightening exercises is to give you with an exercise program, which when practiced regularly, will help you get rid of round back and discomfort in the spine and give you an optimal posture. Since we also want to demonstrate more challenging exercises that will work on strengthening your back muscles, we decided to first start with some basic exercises, so that you can progressively work your way up to more complex positions and movements.
Office workers and anybody who tends to sit a lot will find these exercises very helpful in alleviating problems and symptoms associated with prolonged sitting. If you are diagnosed with a spinal or back injury, consult with your doctor if these exercises are suitable for you.
The series so far:
- Exercise #1: Cat-Cow
- Exercise #2: Back Extension
- Exercise #3: Back Stretching (you are here)
- Exercise #4: Heel Kick
- Exercise #5: Double Impact
- Exercise #6: Swimming
- Exercise #7: Stomach Rolls
- Exercise #8: Diving Swan
Please make sure to start from the 1 exercise and only after perfecting it work your way up to the more demanding ones to ensure a gradual progression and avoiding any injuries. For example, if you are out of shape and just starting out, it may take several weeks before you’ll feel comfortable of advancing to a follow-up exercise. After you go through the entire program, you’ll find your favorites and the ones that benefit you the most. Remember not to push yourself too hard, a smart stretch must be controlled, gentle and continuous. Since you are taking the joint to a point close to its limits, a certain amount of discomfort is normal, but when this discomfort becomes pain, you may have exceeded your limit, and may be getting dangerously close to an injury. Stay concentrated at all times and observe how your body is reacting to the exercise. Good luck!
Initial position. Sit on the mat and straighten your back. Stretch your legs in front of you and place them apart – slightly wider than shoulder width. Toes are pointing upward (dorsiflexion). Lean straightened hands on a mat near the pelvis.
- Pull your abdomen in and at the same time tilt your head forward, bending your upper back and stretching your arms in front of you. Glide your hands forward on the mat, between your legs;
- Straightening your body, return to the initial position. Repeat the stretch 5 times.
Make Sure You:
- At the start of the stretch, bend the spine, lowering your chin to your chest. Tighten your abdominal muscles, retract the abdomen and lower the front part of the chest, to achieve the maximum flexion of the spine. When the efforts of the abdominal muscles take the upper torso to the desired position, include the back extensor muscles, to control the lowering of the body. The spine is bent slowly, vertebra by vertebra;
- Begin bending the spine to prevent the pelvis tilting forward and give it a vertical position, to assist the legs and the hip joints;
- At the end of the stretch, slightly tilt the pelvis forward and stretch your arms to achieve maximum stretch of the hamstring;
- Stretching the leg muscles is enhanced by dorsiflexion. Try to push the heel forward as far as possible, without moving them away from the mat;
- Pulling the arms forward by bending them at the shoulders and keeping them extended, try to keep the neutral position of the shoulder blades;
- When straightening the body back at the end of the stretch, retract the abdomen and slowly start unbending the spine, straitening it, vertebra by vertebra, starting from the lumbar region;
- While lowering and lifting the body, visualize a mental image of a rope tied around your waist, with which someone pulls you backwards, nearing your abdomen to the spine.
This back stretching exercise provides you with an opportunity to practice putting your spine through different positions: straightened in the sitting position and flexed during the stretch. One general principle of Pilates is flexion of the spine over its entire length, from the lower regions to the top. This exercise is aimed to ensure that the spine is bent uniformly, both the lumbar and the thoracic curve. At the same time it allows implementing dynamic stretching of the posterior group of thigh muscles and the back extensor muscles.
Supplementary Exercise for Lower Back Stress Relief
This basic stretching exercise is perfect for getting rid of stress in the lower back, which can be cumulated as a result of awkward postures during work and everyday life. It is also a good warm-up exercise for performing other types of stretches of the lower body.
In a prone position (on your back, face up), bring your knees to your chest. Hold the stretching position with medium to strong intensity. Avoid sharply increasing the intensity of the stretching. Keep the chest straightened, shoulders relaxed and the shoulder blades together. Breathe freely.