15 Best back stretching exercises (with video)

Back Stretching

You may be asking yourself ‘’is stretching good for me ?’’ you are about to find out. This article talks about the many benefits of regular and consistent stretching. 

We also take a look at safer ways to start a stretching routine together with some effective back stretch routine that you could use to kick-start your stretching habits and help your body recover from intense exercises. 

In addition, we used Yoga and Pilates back exercises as these are excellent stretch exercises that can help improve your lifestyle. 

Similarly, get into a routine of stretching regularly. The following back exercises have proved effective to enhance your flexibility, strengthen your back, improve your posture and give you many other stretching benefits. 

Also check out our stretches for lower back pain !

1. Child’s Pose

This relaxing traditional yoga pose will sure loosen up your tight lower back muscles and ensure you are more flexible. The pose works on your gluteus maximus, hamstrings, and spinal extensors respectively. 

Pain is relieved on your spine, neck, and shoulders while promoting your blood circulation particularly on your spine. This pose can be repeated several times during your routine stretches. 

Step-by step instructions for the back stretching exercise:

  1. Sink back through your hips to rest them on your heels with your hands and knees on the ground.
  2. As you fold forward hinge at your hips, walking your hands out in front of you.
  3. Let your belly rest on your thighs.
  4. With your palms facing up, extend your arms in front of or alongside your body.
  5. Breathe deeply and allow any areas of tension or tightness to relax.
  6. This pose must be held for up to 1 minute. You can repeat it for 10 minutes. 

Alterations

A rolled-up towel on top of or underneath your thighs can be placed for extra support. For more comfort, widen your knees and let your forehead rest on a cushion. 

2. Knee-to-chest stretch

This stretch promotes overall relaxation while ensuring that your hips, thighs, and glutes are also relaxed. 

Step-by step instructions for the back stretching exercise:

  1. With both knees bent, lie on your back and let your feet be flat on the floor.
  2. Bend your left knee or extend your left knee straight out along the floor.
  3. Let your right knee be drawn into your chest, while your hands are clasped behind your thigh or at the top of your shinbone.
  4. Get your spine lengthened all the way down to your tailbone, be careful not to lift your hips.
  5. Take a deep breath, releasing any tension.
  6. This pose must be held for up to 1 minute.
  7. Repeat the routine using the other leg.

Alterations

For extra padding a cushion can be placed under your head. If it’s hard for your arms to reach, wrap a towel around your leg.  Also, tuck your chin into your chest to deepen the stretch and lift your head up toward your knee.

3. Piriformis stretch

Piriformis muscle is found deep in your buttocks. This stretches relieves pain and tightness in your buttocks and lower back.

Step-by step instructions for the back stretching exercise:

  1. Bend both knees while lying on your back and keep your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Let your right ankle be placed at the base of your left thigh.
  3. Let your hands be placed behind your left thigh and pull up towards your chest until a stretch is felt.
  4. This pose must be held for up to 1 minute.
  5. Repeat the routine using the other leg.

Alterations

Keep your bottom foot planted on the floor to make the stretch more comfortable. You can also rest your head on a cushion for support.

4. Seated spinal twist

This spine mobility increasing stretches your abdominals, shoulders, and neck while working at your hips, glutes, and back. This stretch also stimulates your internal organs through the pressure it creates. 

Step-by step instructions for the back stretching exercise:

  1. Be on the sitting position on the cushion edge with both legs extended out in front.
  2. Let your right knee be bent while placing your foot to the outside of your left thigh.
  3. Let your left leg be bent, and your foot must be placed near your right thigh.
  4. Let your arms be lifted up with your palms facing each other.
  5. Twist to the right side starting at the base of your spine.
  6. Let your right hand be placed behind you for support.
  7. Your left arm must be placed around your right leg as though you’re hugging it, or your upper arm can be brought to the outside of your thigh.
  8. This pose must be held for up to 1 minute.
  9. Repeat the routine using the other leg.

Alterations

Keep your bottom leg straight to make this pose more comfortable. You could also add in neck rotations during this pose by inhaling to look forward and exhaling to turn your gaze backward for an extra stretch. And this can be done 5 to 10 on each side.

5. Pelvic tilt

This helps relieve pain and tightness in your lower back by building strength in your abdominal muscles. Moreover, your glutes and hamstrings benefit from this stretch as well.

Step-by step instructions for the back stretching exercise:

  1. Be on the floor in a lying position on your back, and then get both of your knees bended and feet flat on the floor.
  2. As you flatten your back against the floor, engage your abdominal muscles.
  3. Hold this position for up to 10 seconds while breathing normally.
  4. In order to relax, take a few deep breaths.
  5. Repeat the routine using the other leg.

6. Cat-cow stretch

The cat-cow stretch wake your spine up while also stretching your shoulders, neck, and chest.

Step by step instruction for this exercise:

  1. As you inhale to look up, press into your hands and feet, allowing your belly to fill with air.
  2. While tucking your chin into your chest exhale, and let your spine be arched toward the ceiling.
  3. This pattern of movement must be repeated continually, moving with each breath.
  4. This can be done for 1 to 2 minutes.

Alterations

place your hands slightly forward instead of directly under your shoulders if you have wrist concerns. Place a cushion under the knees for padding and support, if you have any knee concerns. 

Simply remain in each position for 5 to 20 seconds at a time instead of moving with each breath for deeper holds. 

7. Sphinx stretch

This is a gentle backbend stretch that allows you to be both active and relaxed. Your spine, buttocks, and chest stretches and strengthens by this baby backbend.

Step-by step instructions for the back stretching exercise:

  1. With your elbows underneath your shoulders lie on your stomach and your hands extended in front, palms facing down.
  2. Your feet must be set slightly apart. It’s okay for your big toes to touch.
  3. Engage your lower back, buttocks, and thighs gently as your head and chest is lifted.
  4. Breathing deeply, stay strong in your lower back and abdominals.
  5. Your pelvis must be pressed into the floor.
  6. Gently close your eyes or gaze straight ahead.
  7. This pose must be held for 1 to 3 minutes

8. Partial Crunch 

Patients recovering from back pain are given this exercise as it stabilizes their spine. 

Step-by step instructions for the back stretching exercise:

  1. Get on the floor and be in a lying position facing upwards while bending both knees and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Press the small of your back into the floor as you let your abdominal muscles contract.  and then exhale afterwards. 
  3. Reach toward your feet with your fingertips after getting your head and shoulders lifted up slightly off the floor as you.
  4. This pose must be held for 1 to 3 minutes
  5. After relaxing, you can repeat this exercise 5 to 10 times.

9. Prone Back Extension 

The more advanced and intense back stretch that is effectively get your back stretched. 

Step by step instruction for this exercise:

  1. Get on the floor and be on the face-down position on the floor.
  2. While you slowly lift your torso up, place your elbows under your shoulders and your hands firmly on the ground. Make sure you arch your lower back.
  3. Slowly straighten your elbows while into the ground pushing to increase the extension in your lower back.
  4. To avoid feeling pain go only as far as comfortable, this is supposed to be a comfortable, gentle stretch.
  5. This position can be held for about 15 seconds.
  6. After relaxing, you can repeat this exercise 5 to 8 times.

10. Hip Opener and Lower Back Stretch

This is a great exercise for stretching the core, hips, groin, and lower back muscle while opening the hips also. 

Step-by step instructions for the back stretching exercise:

  1. Be in a forward lunge position, let your left knee be dropped to the ground.
  2. Let your right elbow be placed on the inside of your right knee.
  3. Let your right elbow be gently pressed into your right knee as you twist your torso to the left.
  4. Until you feel a gentle stretch in your lower back and right groin, reach your left arm behind you.
  5. This pose can be held for about 20 to 30 seconds. 
  6. After relaxing, you can repeat this exercise on the other leg.

Alterations 

This stretch can be modified based on your own anatomy, flexibility, and limitations. Moreover, your knee must be kept forward over or behind your ankle, not in front of it.

11. Chest Lift

This exercises and stretches will sure strengthen your core and abdomen. 

Step-by step instructions for the back stretching exercise:

  1. Bend your knees while lying on your back in neutral spine, keeping your feet flat on the floor and your hands behind the head. 
  2. Get your pelvic and other core muscles engaged on the floor.
  3.  Lift your head while breathing out and keep your chest and stomach pulled flat (do not dome toward the ceiling), 
  4. And keep pelvis still without allowing them to tilt toward you.
  5. Breathe in and let your head be laid back down.

12. Supine spinal twist 

This stretch exercise is good uses rotation to helps stretch the back muscles. To further support the spine, the  Supine spinal twist strengthen the oblique muscles. 

Step-by step instructions for the back stretching exercise:

  1. Lie on your back, bending your knees, keeping your feet flat on the floor and stretched out your arms to the sides.
  2. Squeeze your knees together (a towel may be used to help), 
  3. The knees can be slowly taken over to one side, shoulder blades must be kept in contact with the floor.
  4. Breath out and drag the knees back to the center while pulling your navel into your spine. 
  5. This exercise can be repeated 3-5 times to each side, alternating sides.
  6. This stretch position can be held for 10-15 seconds.

13. Hamstring and Hip Flexor Stretch

These stretches offer immediate relief of tension in the back as well as posture improvement over time with continuous exercise. 

Step-by step instructions for the back stretching exercise:

Hamstring Stretch

  1. Bend one leg with its foot flat on the floor in a laying back position.
  2.   The leg on the floor must be kept lifted straight towards the ceiling. (to hold leg up, a towel or resistance band is used if needed).
  3. The other leg must be kept straight, while pulling the leg towards you as much as possible without twisting, until a stretch is felt.
  4. Try to relax while keeping he breath flowing. a stretch must be felt in the back of the thigh.
  5. This position must be held for 15-20 seconds and then repeat with the other leg.

Hip Flexor Stretch

  1. The one leg put forward must have its foot flat on the ground) while in a kneeling position. 
  2. Keep the navel pulled in, as you lift tall in the spine and
  3.  Then tuck the pelvis under until you start to feel a stretch in the front of the hip.
  4. The weight must be brought forward onto front the leg particularly if more stretch is required. 

14. Roll Backs

The abdominal muscles are used to move the spine in this exercise and thus bringing relief tension to the back muscles. while strengthening the core and abdominals. Moreover, this exercise creates an immediate ease of movement in the spine, greatly. 

Step-by step instructions for the back stretching exercise:

  1. Sit tall and keep your feet on the floor while your legs are bent comfortably out in front. 
  2. Your hands must be placed on the back of the thighs.
  3. Breath out and then curve the spine starting from the tailbone. 
  4. The whole spine must be curved in a C-shape while rolling backwards until arms are straight. The plan is to have a feeling of having a navel at the furthest point pulling backwards.
  5. This position must be held for few minutes and then breathe in and breathe out while bringing the body forward, keep the C-curve, ensuring that your shoulders are over the hips, also stacking up the spine to a straight, tall position. 
  6. Repeat this stretch 6-10 times.

Tip:  The pelvic floor and the vertebra must be kept lifted rather than a sinking feeling into the curve.

15. Kneeling Arm and Leg Reach

This is a good exercise because it stabilizes the entire muscle system for the torso. 

Step-by step instructions for the back stretching exercise:

  1. Be on your kneeling position on both hands and both feet, ensuring both hands are under the shoulders, both knees are under the hips, and neutral spine.
  2. with the finger tips and toes on the ground reach one arm forward and the opposite leg back keeping, without moving the torso at all.
  3. put your leg off the ground after getting the extended arm lifted.
  4. The navel must be kept pulled in, to help stabilize the torso. 
  5. Before bringing the hand and leg back down, hold for a few second and go back to the start position.
  6. you will know if you have moved the torso during the exercise, if you’ve had to readjust. Try to correct this with each repetition. 
  7. This exercise must be repeated 3-5 times each side.

Remember, you can omit the lift until you have the strength in the core, if you find it too difficult to control the torso and spine when lifting the arm and leg. or you could rather do the entire exercise but with arms and legs separately.

Benefits of back stretching exercises

Everyone need to be flexible enough to be able to live a normal life and have the ability to do any work be it physical, social and otherwise. Thus, stretching is an important tool to ensure you are flexible and fit. 

Moreover, having a habit of stretching your back can do wonders for your health as your posture will be significantly improved while reliving stress and body aches respectfully. There are few benefits for stretching your back and these are; 

1. Increases your flexibility

This is true for people who stretch regularly which is crucial for your overall health. It is a fact that everyday activities are improved through stretching due to its flexibility improvements benefits. 

More importantly, stretching exercises significantly delay reduced mobility that can come inevitably with aging. And that is reason enough to form a habit to stretch. 

2. Your range of motion Increases

You get more freedom of movement through your joints ability to move through its full range. You gain and retain this ability by getting into a habit of stretching regularly for increased range of motion.

Studies have shown that both static and dynamic stretching are effective in increasing the range of motion. (source) 

3. Performance improvement in physical activities

Before you do your physical activities, you can stretch in order to relax and prepare your muscle for the activity. Likewise, stretches help improve your performance in an athletic event or exercise. (source)

4. Increases blood flow to your muscles

Stretching of any kind helps improve your blood circulation which further increase blood flow to your muscles preventing any kind of aches and pain.

5. Improves your posture

Poor posture is caused by muscle imbalances and that could affect the quality of life. thus stretching is essential to improving your posture. Thus strength and stretching exercise for specific muscle groups reduce musculoskeletal pain and encourage proper alignment. 

6. Helps to heal and prevent back pain

Stretching help prevent tight muscles known to decrease your range of motion. When muscle is tight, it puts a strain on your back yielding back pain. Moreover, people who do regular stretches rarely suffer from muscle strain or back pain. 

Moreover, to treat and heal  an existing back pain or injury, you can do specific back stretches. 

7. A great stress reliever

Stretching is such a great stress reliever. Stress is bad for you because it causes your muscle to tense up as a response to the things that caused it in the first place. The exercises to relieve stress focuses on your upper back, shoulders, and neck.

8. Mind calming 

Stretching has calming effects. Thus, mindfulness and meditation exercises help you achieve the calmness of the mind while giving your mind a mental break. That’s why most stretches are yoga and Pilates exercises as these are very meditative. 

9. Helps decrease tension headaches

There is nothing as frustrating and painful as tension and stress headaches and this is enough to get you bedridden. 

Apart from getting a well-balanced diet, adequate hydration, and plenty of rest, stretching is another way to tackle your tension and stress headache. 

Stretching techniques

Stretching has several techniques, and these include;

  • dynamic
  • static
  • ballistic
  • PNF
  • passive
  • active stretching

Static and dynamic stretches are the most common forms of stretches;

Static stretches

This is done while you are in your most comfortable position for a period of time, typically between 10 and 30 seconds. This could also be a beneficial stretch after exercising. 

Dynamic stretches 

This one comprises of active movements that cause your muscles to stretch. These stretches are done before exercise to prepare your muscle for exercise movements. 

Safe ways to start a stretching routine

You need to get your body used to the stretches you are performing by starting slowly. Also, grasping the technique properly is highly imperative to prevent and avoid injuries. Moreover, stretching exercises can be done any time of the day. More importantly; 

  • give yourself 5 to 10 minutes of dynamic stretching prior to your activity.
  • do the same for about 5 to 10 minutes of static stretching after your workout.

Likewise, those who do not exercise or rather on days you are not exercising, you can still schedule at least 5 to 10 minutes of time for stretching. 

This is to say, stretching must be done whether you exercise or not to gain the great benefits stretching brings to your life. 

You need to focus on the major areas of your body, such as your calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, and quadriceps to help improve your mobility. Also, try moves that stretch the shoulders, neck, and lower back for upper-body relief. 

Risks and safety tips

It is important to learn how to stretching properly as failure to do so may not be safe:

  • stick to the doctor recommended stretches if you have an acute or existing injury
  • Consider talking with a sports medicine specialist or physical therapist if you have a chronic or irritating injury, to design a stretching protocol that fits your needs.
  • Consult your doctor for alternative exercises that can help increase your flexibility if physical limitations of any sort prevent you from properly performing a stretching exercise.

There are a few standard safety tips for stretching that you should follow regardless of your fitness level:

  • Don’t bounce. Avoid ballistic stretching.  avoid bouncing unless these types of stretches have been recommended to you by a doctor or physical therapist.
  • Avoid to stretch yourself beyond the point of comfort.  you should never feel pain while stretching, remember, it’s normal to feel some tension when stretching a muscle NOT PAIN. Thus, back off the stretch If the area you are stretching starts to hurt, until you don’t feel any discomfort.
  • Don’t overdo it. Like other forms of exercise, stretching puts stress on your body. If you’re stretching the same muscle groups multiple times a day, you risk over-stretching and causing damage.
  • Avoid going into your stretches without warming up first. stretching becomes a lot more difficult when the muscles are cold because cold muscle are not as pliable. 

It is important to realize that stretching must be done before or after work out. However, if you’re not exercising before performing your stretches, YOU MUST warm up for 5 to 10 minutes with some light cardio, such as walking or jogging.

Conclusion

Making stretching a part of your activities will help you prevent back pain, stress, poor mobility, improve range of motion among other. Remember, even those who can’t exercise can benefit from doing stretch exercises.

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