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Strengthen your Back With 3 Simple Stretches

Unfortunately, there is a laundry list of simple, everyday activities that can lead to back pain over time, including overdoing it at the gym or slouching at your desk. We have good news: there’s a solution, AND it’s easy! Whether or not you have noticed back pain present, incorporating regular stretching into your daily routine or even a few times a week helps to protect your back by simultaneously increasing flexibility and decreasing the risk of injury. Further, after cardiovascular or strengthening workouts, stretching significantly helps prevent muscle soreness. After all, it’s no secret that tight, guitar string-like muscles are the primary ingredient in a recipe for injury!

If you’re thinking about starting a new program or routine of back exercises, run it by your primary doctor or chiropractor beforehand to ensure proper instruction and safety. This is especially important if you have a history of back injury or spinal problems. Also, documenting when you start a new program, as well as what it consists of, allows you to track patterns of any signs and symptoms you’re experiencing over time. In the mean time, below are some general guidelines to keep in mind while you’re stretching:

  • Stretch only to the point where you feel mild tension. It shouldn’t hurt.

  • Stretching cold muscles can lead to injury, so it’s important to warm up with 5-10 minutes of light activity (i.e. walk or pedal a stationary/bike at a comfortable pace)

  • Avoiding bouncy or springy movements by stretching slowly and gradually, relaxing into the stretch. Hold for at least 5 seconds.

Now that we’ve gained a bit of mindfulness about proper stretching, here are three simple stretches to get you started and on your way to a healthy, limber posterior chain:

1. Knee-to-chest

  • Lie down on a flat surface with your back on the floor and your legs extended.

  • Lift and bend your left leg, bringing the knee toward your chest. Grasp either your knee or shin with your left hand, and pull your leg towards the chest as far as it will comfortably go. Breathe deep.

  • Remain holding while simultaneously tightening your abdominal muscles and pressing your spine into the floor for stabilization. Hold for 10-15 seconds.

  • Slowly return to your starting position.

  • Repeat this sequence using your right leg, hand.

  • Perform the stretch again, but this time bringing both legs towards the chest at once.

  • Repeat the sequence 4 more times, for a total of 5 sets.

2. Side knee or twisted hips

  • Again, lie down your back on the floor.

  • Lift and bend both legs, bringing your knees toward your chest.

  • Slowly rotate, or “twist”, your knees to the one side towards the floor as far as is comfortable. Breathe deep while holding the stretch for 10-15 seconds.

  • Come back to center (i.e. both knees to chest).

  • Repeat stretch on the opposite side.

  • Repeat 10 times total per side.

3. Back flexion and extension, A.K.A. cat + cow pose for you yogis.

  • This stretch begins with both hands and both knees on the floor, as though your back were a tabletop. Keep your hands directly the your shoulders with your arms straight

  • Rock forward by putting your weight onto your arms.

  • Round out your shoulders, and let your glutes down drop a bit. Hold for 5-8 seconds.

  • Rock backward, seating your glutes as close to your heels as possible. Keep your arms extended straight ahead, hands still under the shoulders. Hold for 5-8 seconds.

  • Return slowly to center, a tabletop back.

  • Perform sequence 5 times total.


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