Lower Back Exercises - Stretching

1 Whole Body Stretch

Lay on your back and place your hands above and over your head.  Stretch either end of your body as you breathe out, extending your hands and feet away from the centre.  Breathe in gently, and retain the position of the arms and legs which you will stretch again as you breathe out until you are comfortable, and remain in that position for 3 long breaths.  Gradually relax and bring the arms to your sides.  Repeat this stretching with your right arm and right leg, and then on the other side 3 times; then, stretch your right arm and your left leg, feeling the stretch across your body, and repeat similarly on the other side.

 

You may want to repeat this at the end again.

2a) Sacroiliac Stretch - Knee to same shoulder

Laying on your back, bend your left knee, hold it with both hands from the front, keeping your right leg straight about 6 inches from the floor, with your lower back pressed against the floor.  Pull your left knee towards your left shoulder as far as you can, pressing it against your chest whilst breathing out and hold to a count of 5.  Release the knee, bringing it to the starting position whilst breathing in.  Repeat 5 times, holding the last pull for 5 breaths. 

Advanced - you may want to bring your head toward the knee at each pull and increase the repetition to x10, holding the last one to a count of 10.  

This stretches the the upper part of the S1 joint and the first layer of your hip buttock muscle called the Gluteus Maximus 

Caution - take it easy if you have had a hip replacement and if you experience any pain in the groin: pull your knee towards your chest and ease off as soon as you feel any pain.

2b) Sacroiliac Stretch - Knee to opposite shoulder 

Hold your bent left knee keeping the right leg straight as above, pull the left knee across your body towards your right shoulder as you breathe out, hold it and slowly as you breathe in, bring it back to the original position.  Repeat with your right knee pulling it towards the your left shoulder.  This exercise stretches the mid and lower portion of the S1 joint and the 2nd layer (deeper) of the hip-buttock muscle(gluteus maximus & medius).

Caution - do not do this if you have had a hip replacement

3)  Piriformis stretch

Bend both knees keeping your feet flat on the floor, lift your left foot onto your right thigh just above your right knee, forming a figure of 4.  Hold your right knee from the front with both hands, threading your left hand through the opening. Pull your knee towards your chest as you breathe out; pushing your left thigh away with your left elbow.  You will feel the pull deep inside your left buttock muscle (piriformis). As you breathe in, release from the pull and straighten your arms, allowing the knee to return to the starting position.  Pull again and repeat five times, each time pulling further towards the chest, each time holding the position to a count of 5, and the last one to 10.  Repeat with your right foot onto the left thigh. 

 

Advanced- Bring your head toward the knee and hold it for each stretch longer for the last one and repeat 10 times. 

Caution - do not do this if you have had a hip replacement

Piriformis is the deepest of the hip-buttock muscle through which the sciatic nerve passes.  As we spend more time sitting, this muscle experiences a lot of pressure and contraction, which may then cause irritation to the sciatic nerve giving pains along the nerve, referred to as Sciatica.

Benefits: Stretching this muscle will release the pressure on the sciatic nerve

4) Hips Stretch - Bring the soles of your feet together, hold your feet with both hands & pull it towards your chest, each time pulling it closer to your chest as you breathe out, & hold the final pull to a count of 5.  Bring the feet onto the floor, soles of the feet still touching and press your knees towards the floor with your hands.  Hold for 5 breaths.  (This stretches the adductor muscles ie on the inside of the thigh and opens up the hip joints.)

As we have got used to sitting on chairs and sofas, our hips do not experience this movement in daily life, yet they are designed to move through 360° 

Caution - do not do this if you have had a hip replacement

5) Hamstring Stretch - starting with both knees bent and soles of your feet resting on the floor, bring the left foot up towards the ceiling, place a belt over your foot, holding with both hands, keeping your left knee straight, pull with your hands with your elbows straight and your shoulder blades pressed against the floor.  Press your left hip against the floor as you breathe out, pulling the foot towards your head keeping your knee straight.  When you cannot pull any more, hold that final position for 5 breaths.  Bend the left knee, straighten the right leg and straighten the left leg pulling it again over your head. Soften your left knee and bring the sole of your foot to the floor.  Now repeat with your belt on the right leg.

Benefits  - Prolonged sitting and over use of this muscles as in cycling and running shortens them and they are often responsible for low back pain

 

Caution - Please be gentle when stretching; with regular practice you will find that the hamstrings will become flexible and allow you to pull further, as with all other stretches.

Image to come

6) Lumbar Stretch - Bend both knees, hug them below the knees and pull them towards your chest, lifting and curling your lower back and bring your head towards your knees.   Hold this position for 5 breaths

Benefits It will increase the flexibility of the lumbar spine and help reduce the hollowness of your lower back (hyperlordosis)

Advanced- Bring the knees a little closer to the chest and head in between the knees, hold it for longer , up to 10 breaths 

Caution - Ease off if you feel any pain in your lower back 

Lower Back Exercises - Core and Abdominal strengthening

Low back pain is not due to having a weak back, but rather from not having a strong core and abdominal muscles.  We use them for keeping us upright, when getting up from sitting and when lifting & carrying.  Regular, or rather daily exerting of these muscles will help you with your posture and prevent you from having low back pain.  Please do it in the order and master the sequence, then you can do it in any order you wish! 

The bridge - engaging the CORE: Lying on your back keeping your shoulders pressed on the floor with your knees bent, as you breathe in, lift your hips and pelvis, arching your back to form a bridge, hold for 5-10 sec. As you breathe out, slowly lower your lower back on to the floor, drawing your navel towards the spine contracting your abdominal muscles to press your back on to the floor and hold for whole of out breath,

On your next in-breath, again lift your hips & pelvis up towards the ceiling and as you breathe out, bring them down, rolling your spine and pressing it against the floor; hold for 2 breaths. Repeat this 5 times, each time increasing by one breath, pressing your back onto the floor.  

Advanced- Go deeper in the bridge position holding your ankles with your hands and stay longer up to 5 or 10 breaths; when coming down flatten your back, drawing your navel towards the spine and contracting your deeper core and abdominal muscles.  Hold for 5 breaths, at each out breath go deeper by pressing your spine a little more onto the floor.

 

Benefits This is the beginning of engaging the deeper core muscles, the psoas and iliacus, that are attached to the spine and inside of the pelvis to the inside of the top of the thigh bone.  These are important postural muscles as well as those used for lifting, far more important that the six packs.  It will help reduce the hollowness of your lower back and any hernia, particularly umbilical hernia.

 

Caution - make sure that you are not blowing your stomach to press the spine down.  If you experience any cramps in the hamstring muscles (back of thigh) then ease of a little, you may be over exerting. 

Take 3 deep breaths, listening to your body before the next exercise.

Lower Abdominals in isolation (Cycling motion): Lying on your back, with your knees bent, lift your feet off the ground, bringing your thighs 90° to the floor, keeping the legs parallel to the floor.  As you breathe out, draw your navel towards the spine and press your back against the floor, simultaneously straightening your left leg 3-6 inches off the floor or where it feels comfortable. Hold this position as you breathe in, and as you breathe out draw the left leg up and straighten the right leg holding it 3-6 inches off the floor, keeping your back pressed against the floor.  Again, old this position as you breathe in and slowly swap the legs as you breathe out.

Repeat this slow cycling movements 5 times on each side; on the final one, see if you can hold to count of 2-5 on each side.  Finally, bring both legs to 90° like when you started, then slowly lower one foot at a time to the ground maintaining the pressure of your back on the floor.

AdvancedIncrease the repetition up to x 10, see how long you can keep doing this,  also keep straight leg low

 

Benefits - Coordinates the abdominal and core muscles therefore increases the strength of both muscle groups and reduces your waist.

 

Caution - Careful if you have acute back pain as it may aggravate.  Do this exercise when you are free of pain.

Rest in this position, take 3 deep breaths, observing the effect of the exercise

Lower Abdominals : Still lying on your back with your knees bent, bend forward from your waist and bring your hands towards your knees as you breathe out.  Hold for 5 sec and go down slowly as you breathe in; before the back of your head touches the floor come up again, but this time bring your hands towards the outside of your left knee; Hold for 5 sec and go down slowly as you breathe in, and as you breathe out bring your hands back to the middle to your knees, hold for 5sec and return back towards the floor and then back towards the outside of your right knee.   Repeat this cycle 5x.  This exercise strengthens the central and the oblique abdominal muscle.

Take 3 deep breaths, listening to your body before the next exercise.

Lower Abdominal obliques: Lift your feet off the ground and bringing your thighs 90° and legs parallel to the floor.  Stretch your arms sideways forming a CROSS with your palms facing up. 

As you breathe out, bring your knees to your left side as close to the floor as is comfortable for you, drawing your navel towards your spine, engaging your core muscles to hold the weight of your legs; turn your head to the right, opposite side to your knees.  On your next in-breath, bring your knees back to the original position and roll to the right side (turning your head to the left) maintaining the 90° angles of both your hips and knees, and keeping your legs parallel to the floor.   Hold that position for a full out breath and on your next in-breath; slowly lift the knees up to starting position, turning your head to face the ceiling.  Repeat this 5 times on each side and throughout the cycle you will try to ensure that both your shoulders are on the floor and your navel is drawn in towards the spine.  On the last 2 moves, hold for 2 breaths on each side.

At the end of the cycle return the knees to starting position & bring one foot at a time to the floor. 

Take 3 deep breaths, listening to your body before the next exercise

DEEP  Abdominal (Advanced) - Lying on your back, bring your hips to 90° from the floor keeping your legs straight, soles facing the ceiling.  Place your hands at the backs of your thighs, inter locking your fingers and pull your chest towards your knees using your abdominal muscles.  Do this slowly and smoothly without any jerks or sudden movements.  As you breathe out, hold your chest close to the thighs to the count of 5 keeping your shoulders away from your ears and slowly roll your back towards the floor, keeping your back pressed down as you breath in. Before your head touches the floor, draw your chest again towards your thighs as if you are hugging them.  Repeat this 5-10 times and after the final one, do 5-10 short movements 3-6”, in a 'pumping action' and finally hold your chest close to the knees for upto 5 breaths. 

Bend your knees and bring your feet to the floor.  

Take 3 deep breaths, listening to your body before the next exercise.

Advanced Abdominal oblique (with a twist!):  Lying on your back with your hips & knees at 90°, place the fingertips of both your hands lightly around your ears. Bend from your waist & twist your body to the right, bringing the left elbow to the right knee & straighten the left leg, keeping it 3-6inches above the ground or as comfortable as it is for you; hold this position throughout your out-breath. On your next in-breath, bend the right knee to 90° back to the starting position.

On your next out-breath do the same bringing the right elbow to the left knee, straightening the right leg, keeping it 3-6inches above the ground or as comfortable as it is for you. Repeat this cycle 5 times on either side. At the beginning you may want to start with doing it two or three times on each side, have a breather & repeat again before committing to a full x5 cycle on each side.  As your abdominal muscle strength develops, you may want to try to hold on the final ones for 2 breaths on each side.                                            

Take 3 deep breaths, listening to your body before the next exercise.

Full Plank - Isometric Abdominal strengthening& shoulder stabilizer

Place yourself on hands and feet in a press up position, keeping your arms straight and underneath the shoulders; ensure that your back is as flat as possible( like a plank!). Draw your navel towards your spine. Keep your neck long.

When breathing, focus on your out breath, making it long and holding it longer than the inbreathe. Hold for 5-10 breadths to begin with and gradually extends to 2-3 mins.

If you find the full plank difficult then you can do a half plank by keeping your elbows on the floor, facing forwards and placing your body weight onto it.

                                

Side Plank - Isometric Abdominal obliques strengthening & individual shoulder stabilizer

From the above position, turn your body onto your right side by shifting all your weight on your right hand & shoulder and crossing the left foot over the right.. Ensure that the right hand is straight & under the left shoulder. Reach out with your left hand towards the ceiling and turn your head to face it, drawing your hips towards the ceiling too.

When breathing, again focus on your out breath, making it long and holding it longer than the inbreathe. Hold for 5-10 breadths and return to the plank position; stay here for a little while before turning to the left side, staying for the same period. Again return to the ink position before coming onto your knees and go into the child pose with your knees bent, feet facing back

Isometric Abdominals & Quadriceps:

Find a smooth wall and a non slippery floor to stand with your back against it.  Move your feet forward as you slide down the wall, keeping your feet parallel and facing forward. Slide your back down as far as your knees will allow you, but no further than 90°, ensuring that the knees are kept above the ankles and no further. Keep the small of your back firmly pressed against the wall and focus more on your out breath.  Hold this position breathing slowly for upto 5-10 breaths (30-60 sec)

Slowly lift yourself up and perhaps repeat once or twice more!

This exercise is very beneficial for both your core, abdominals and the front of your thighs(Quadriceps)

Take 3 deep breaths, listening to your body before the next exercise.

Isometric Quads, Gluts & Abs:

Keeping your feet together, bend your knees and squat as far as you can, as if you were sitting on a chair; drawing your tummy in breath into your chest and lift your arms up towards the ceiling, keeping them close to your ears. Hold this position for 3-5 breadths or more.  Gently rise up and shake your legs to losers up ye muscles. Repeat once or twice.

This exercise will strengthen the muscles in front of your thighs(Quads), Tour abdominal muscles and the buttock muscles (Gluts)

Return to an upright posture, stand tall with your toes touching each other and your hands by your side gazing at the your eye level.  

Breath evenly, listening to your body and the benefits of the exercise.