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Back Stretches

Learning how to stretch your back safely and improve back flexibility with stretching are extremely helpful tools in the prevention and management of low back pain.  Doctor recommended back exercises, especially those for relieving stiffness in the back and hips, are very popular with todayís top athletes. 


Gentle back stretches for decompressing your joints are and integral component of maintaining low back health.  Once you learn how to stretch your back correctly, you might find that just a few simple back stretches can also improve your posture and increase your energy on a daily basis.

"Breathe in through your nose and keep reaching while holding your breath at the top of the exercise."


Heaven Stretch: Heaven stretch is an important decompressing exercise that is extremely helpful for preventing and reducing low back pain and improving posture. Start in a standing position with your feet shoulder width apart and your palms together in front of your chest. Take a moment to concentrate on your breathing. Take a deep breath in and slowly reach toward the sky with fingertips pointing up and in. 

Breathe in through your nose and keep reaching while holding your breath at the top of the exercise. Hold the stretch at the top for as long as you are comfortable. Then, breathe out through your mouth while slowly bringing your arms down to your sides with your palms facing downward. Make a large circle with your fingertips as you bring your arms down. Return to ready position and relax before repeating exercise.


Rope Climbs: While looking toward the sky, reach left arm slowly above head as if climbing a gym rope. Reach straight above head with left arm and hold at top. Do not bend your torso to the side.  Reach for as long as you are comfortable and then bring your left arm back to your side. Then repeat the stretch with the right arm.  Left, right, left, right.   You should feel a gentle stretch in the lat region (side of torso). You are elongating your spinal muscles and decompressing your joints with this stretch.

Spinal Rolls: Spinal rolls are an excellent exercise designed for increasing range of motion in every area of the spine, from the neck all the way to the lower back.  Start by taking a wide stance on your mat with your knees soft and relaxed. Then, slowly bend your head, with arms and shoulders hanging loosely. Try to imagine rolling one vertebrae at a time as you reach toward the mat in front of your feet.  

Go as far as you can comfortably with knees in squatting type position. Ideal position at bottom of exercise is placing palms on ground while letting head hang loosely to traction shoulders.  If you are not able to put your hands on the mat in front of you, simply roll down as far as you are comfortable with arms hanging loosely in front  of you.

Reverse order on way up.  Concentrate on rolling up the spine, one vertebra at a time.  Round your lower back, then the area between your shoulders and then your neck.  End in ready position looking straight ahead.  Repeat exercise by bending your neck and rolling down again.

Low Back flexion: Low back flexion is basically bending  forward.  Stand with your feet as far apart as comfortable and slowly bend forward, reaching straight back through legs if possible. Hold stretch. 

You should feel a stretch in the back of your thighs as you reach through your legs.  This is also a great hamstring stretch.  Do not force or overstretch on the range of motion stretches.  Return to starting position and repeat the exercise.

Low Back Extension: Start in ready position with your feet apart and your hands at your sides. Slowly bend backward at the waist with your hands on your hips supporting your back, keeping your knees soft.  Be very careful not to overextend your lower back.  Repeat stretch remembering to breathe throughout.

Low Back Rotation: Start in ready position.  While standing with your feet shoulder width apart and your knees bent, make a fist with your hands and put your knuckles together in front of your chest with your elbows parallel to the floor.  Your feet remain flat on the mat throughout this stretch.

Slowly begin twisting  your body to the left side, with your arms still  parallel to the floor.  Hold the twist, feeling a stretch in your low back.  Then, slowly return to the center and begin twisting to the right side. Come back to ready position.  Left, right, left, right.

Low Back Lateral Flexion: You will finish the low back range of motion series with two sets of lateral flexion or side bends.  Start in ready position.  Slowly raise your right arm over your head and reach to the left side with your right arm while bending at the waist. Do not rotate your torso.  Keep your knees soft and relaxed. Stretch and hold.

Then, slowly bend to the right side while reaching with the left arm.   Bend (Laterally flex) to Left side first, t hen the right side. The order is Left, right, left, right.  Donít forget to breathe.

Chop Wood: Start by bringing your hands together above your head as if you were grasping an ax.  Slowly bring your hands down in a chopping type motion and reach through your legs as far as comfortably possible.  Do two reps of this stretch very slowly concentrating on your breathing the entire time.

The Rack: The rack is an excellent stretch for anyone suffering from lower back pain. It also helps reduce stress and encourage deep breathing.  Lie on your mat flat on your back, with your arms reaching above your head.  Take a deep breath while reaching with your fingertips and pointing your toes downward.  

Your entire body should be in a straight line, as if you were being pulled on a rack.  Hold this position as long as comfortable and then relax, letting your arms bend and pushing  your breath out with your stomach muscles. 

Repeat exercise when you are ready, reaching above your head with your hands and pointing your toes downward.  While you are stretching and extending your body, you should feel a stretch in the back of your arms, your stomach and the front of your feet with this exercise.

Single Knee to Chest: Lie on your back on your mat with your arms to the sides, your knees bent, and your feet flat on the floor. Take a deep breath in and grab your left knee with both hands.  Hug your left leg toward your chest as far as you are comfortable.   Make sure that your right leg is bent and relaxed while you are hugging your left knee to your chest.  Release the left knee and repeat the stretch with the right knee.  Left , right, left, right.

Double Knee to Chest: Lie on your back on your mat with your arms to the sides, your knees bent, and your feet flat on the floor.  Take a deep breath and grab both knees with your hands while pulling knees back toward your chest, curling your body up in a ball.  

Hold that position for as long as you are comfortable, concentrating on rounding and stretching the lower back muscles.  When you are ready, relax and return to starting position.  Repeat stretch.

Hamstring Stretch: Lie on your back on your mat with your arms to the sides, your knees bent, and your feet flat on the floor.   While raising your left leg up in the air, place your hands behind your left calf and pull your leg backward toward your chest.

Keep your right knee bent and relaxed while pulling on your left leg.  Pull left leg back as far as you are comfortable, while keeping the knee slightly bent. It is not necessary to try to straighten your leg on this stretch.

Hold the stretch and then allow left leg to return to starting position with both feet on the floor and both knees bent.  Then grab the right leg and repeat stretch with right side. Left, right, left, right. 

Twists/Backcrackers: Sit on your mat with your legs outstretched and your hands on the floor by your sides.  Cross your left leg over your right leg with your foot resting to the right of your right knee.  Place your right elbow on the outer part of your left knee. Plant your left hand behind you on the mat directly behind you as far as comfortable possible. 

Twist your upper body while pressing against your left knee with your right elbow. Hold this position as long as possible.  Sometimes your back will crack in this position, hence the name of the exercise.

Remember to breathe deeply throughout this stretch.  Release the stretch and return to starting position with both legs outstretched in front of you and hands on the floor by your side.

Then repeat stretch by placing your right leg over your outstretched left leg and putting your left elbow on the outer side of your right knee.  Hold stretch and repeat.  To the left, right, left, right.

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