Lengthen key muscle groups that affect your spine.
Back stretching exercises help keep your muscles comfortable and relaxed throughout the day. This routine includes stretches for lower back muscles and also for key muscles of the hips and torso that affect your spine.
These exercises work very well as wake up stretches, to prepare your muscles for the day ahead. This routine can also help you cool down at the end of a workout, or to relieve stress and tension after hours of working at your desk.
Specific instructions for each stretch with larger, more detailed images are below. Follow the instructions closely so that you can maintain good body alignment as you stretch.
Stretch 3 times per exercise. Be gentle for the first stretch. Go deeper into the movement on each of your next 2 attempts, and aim for a moderate intensity stretch. Stretch to the point of muscular tension, but not to pain. If you can't wait until the exercise is over, back off a little bit--your stretch is probably too strong.
Hold the stretch position for 5-10 seconds at first (especially if you are new to stretching). Once you get used to the exercises, increase the stretching time gradually up to 30 seconds.
#1 Glute stretch
Grab behind your R knee and pull your knee toward your chest. Keep your tailbone (and rear end) flat on the floor. Feel the stretch across the back of your hip in your gluteus muscles.
#2 Piriformis stretch
Cross your right ankle over your left knee. Then push your right knee down with your right hand to increase the stretch. Keep your tailbone down on the floor. Feel the stretch deep in the center of your buttocks and along the outside of your hip.
#3 Hamstring stretch
Grab behind your right knee and pull your right leg up into the stretch position. You can let your knee bend a little bit as you pull your leg back, but keep your tailbone on the floor. Straighten your knee and flex your foot back to increase the stretch. Feel the stretch down the back of your thigh. You might also feel it behind your knee or in your calf when you pull your toes back.
#4 Abdominal stretch
Lie on your stomach with your hands under your shoulders, then press up on your hands to stretch your abdominals. Keep your abdominals firm during this exercise. This will help support your spine during the movement. Start out by pressing up from your forearms (as shown) for a more gentle stretch. Feel the stretch in your abdominal muscles.
Note: Though there are only 7 moves, this routine of back stretching exercises was designed specifically to stretch all the major muscle groups that affect your lower back. Since it only takes a few minutes to finish the routine, it will be well worth your time to stretch at least every other day!
#5 Back Rotator stretch
1) With your arms reaching straight up, lower your knees gradually to the left. Let the stretch extend all the way up your spine. Repeat to the opposite side--3 times in each direction
2) Next, reach your arms partially to the L. Hold this position as you lower your legs to the R. Repeat to the opposite side--3 times each way. Feel the stretch from your shoulder blades all the way down your back.
#6 Side stretch for QL (quadratus lumborum) and latissimus dorsi
Maintaining good posture, bend to the left side and raise your right arm up. Turn your palm up and point your fingers inward. Reach the heel of your hand straight up. Bend to the side through your spine, as you see in the picture. Use your left hand on your knee for balance. Feel the stretch down the side of your back from the armpit to the side of the lower back.
#7 Psoas stretch
Tighten your abdominals to keep your back straight--no arching. Make sure your left and right hips are even. Shift your weight forward onto your left leg until you feel a stretch in the front of your thigh. Keep your spine upright. Slide your right knee back further to increase the stretch if needed. Feel the stretch in the upper part of the front of your thigh.
Did you enjoy the back stretching exercises in this article? You'll get the most benefit when you practice the exercises consistently and use good form. I designed the eCards and eBooks below to make it easier for you to relieve muscular fatigue, stress and tension in your back with exercise.
Stretching Reminder Card
This handy card will help you remember to stretch! Print it out or save it on your phone. The image is in high resolution, so you can zoom in on the illustrations without losing clarity. The illustrations are based on this article.
Set of Stretching Cards
For an additional $1, you can have individual cards* for each exercise in this routine, all in high resolution. You'll be able to practice your back stretching exercises anywhere you go!
(*Note: The cards are in a .zip file. Download the file to your computer first. Then open the file and transfer the pictures to your phone or tablet as desired.)
CORRECT POSTURE Correct Posture is designed to teach you how to take better care of your back. This book shows you dozens of specific exercises to restore flexibility and strength to the muscles around the spine, making it much easier to sit, stand and bend with good alignment.
Back & Hip Stretching Exercises Instruction for convenient and effective stretching routines for home and the office. Exercises are taken from the book Correct Posture, expanding on the introductory routine in this article on back stretching exercises. Illustrations compare correct and incorrect stretching technique.
Progressive Core Strengthening Train your muscles safely. Develop your strength continuously.
Correct Posture The key to feeling better & preventing lower back problems.
Back strengthening exercises
Illustrations and 7 videos. Core exercises included.
Exercises for low back pain
Gentle movements that relieve discomfort.
Lower back pain remedy
Ergonomics, comfortable positions, lifestyle tips.
Causes of lower back pain
Expert opinion, detailed anatomy diagrams.
Rob Cowell, PT is the author of whyiexercise.com, Progressive Core Strengthening and Correct Posture. whyiexercise.com was created from his knowledge and experience in physical therapy, fitness and athletics.