When you are in a flexed position for an extended period of time (sitting at a desk, hunched over pulling weeds, kneeling, etc.), you need to take breaks and stretch your spine in the opposite direction to keep your back healthy.
You should be changing position and taking breaks every 15 minutes from any activity you do during the day and performing at least one of these standing stretches below. Hold each stretch for at least 10 seconds, working up to 30 seconds. You can do the stretch once, or repeat it 2-3 times. You should NEVER feel pain with any of these stretches. If you feel your breath get shallow, you are probably pushing too hard.
*The set up for each exercise is the same:
- Stand, sit, kneel, or lay with your feet hip-width apart.
- Knees slightly bent.
- Abdominals pulled in.
- Chest open.
- Shoulders pulled back and pressed down away from your ears (this is easy – don’t exaggerate it).
- Lengthen the back of your neck (as if you had a string attached to the top of your head and someone was pulling the string up).
When performing the back extensions above, just do one arm position at a time, holding for up to 30 seconds.
When going into any rotational exercises (such as first one below), you NEVER JAM YOUR SPINE, just go to the point where you feel a stretch. If you have a lot of back pain (see your doctor), omit all rotational exercises from this routine.
With the standing torso rotation, keep your hips forward and your shoulders back as you twist slowly to the side.
If you have time (and your in the appropriate environment), then add these stretches below:
Cat and dog stretch (also called Cat and cow stretch) is a great move for spine mobility. See how much you can open your chest (as in the first picture above).
When in child’s pose, tuck your tailbone with your abs pulled in. You can spread your knees farther apart for added comfort. Arms can also be in either position shown for comfort.
Sphinx and cobra are great for spinal extension. Keep pulling your abdominals in, and lengthen your legs as much as possible.
Keep both shoulders on the floor and see how far you can rotate your knees to the side for the double-legged twist. Again, don’t jam your spine here. You can make this exercise easier by starting with your feet on the floor.
Same rules as the double-legged twist. To make easier, just perform the first part by pulling your knee into your chest (keeping your tailbone pressed to the floor).
Here’s a low back strengthener to add to keep your back healthy:
See how much length you can get in your body when performing your prone back extensions (also called supermans). You can either hold position for time or do slow repetitions (8-25 reps per set).
Do at least one of these stretches daily (but I hope you do more). If you have any questions, feel free to ask! 🙂
*See your physician before starting any new exercise program.