Back extension is a widely used exercise to strengthen the muscles on your back and protect your spine from injury. Physiotherapists suggest this exercises to get rid of your round back and discomfort in the spine and give you an optimal posture.
1 Back Extension
Doing this exercise 3 times a week will bring definite improvements to your glutes, back and stomach muscles. It will also positively affect internal organ functions, making you will feel much better overall.
Initial position. Lie on your stomach and put your forehead on the exercise mat. Place your arms at your sides and press your palms on the thighs. Straighten your elbows. Put your legs together, drawing out the toes slightly.
- Exale. Gradually lift the head, chest and upper abdomen from the mat, keeping the feet and hands in the initial position;
- Inhale. Slowly lower the trunk and head to the initial position. Repeat the exercise 10 times.
Abdominal muscles play a vital role in providing support to the spine with its extension. Because the position of the lumbar spine and the chest, when doing this and similar exercises there is a tendency to sag/drop the waist.
By straining the muscles of the abdomen and pulling them up, we tilt the pelvis back into position. Make sure to firmly press the pelvis to the mat and pull your stomach and abdominal muscles to direct the effort toward your chest, as shown on the illustration just above. This will not allow the pelvis to tilt forward and it will remove unnecessary tension in the lumbar region. The ability to use your abdominal muscles to stabilize the lumbar region is necessary to optimally perform this and more complex exercises associated with back extension.
Cat-cow is really a combination of two poses, cat and cow. It is one of the exercises that both Pilates and yoga share and is often done as a warm up exercise. Cat-cow pose is a great and balanced exercise for the back, and being both a stretch (cat) and an extension (cow), we think it’s a good place to start our series. The Cat-cow pose develops flexibility in the spine and is one of the exercises often recommended for back pain. Furthermore, it tones and stretches the abdominal muscles as well.
Initial position. Start with your hands and knees on the exercise mat. Your knees should be directly below your hips and your palms under the shoulders. Keep your pelvis and spine in a neutral (straight) position, by engaging your abdominal muscles to support your spine.
- Pull your abdominal muscles in as you arch your back up like a stretching cat and simultaneously let your head and tailbone drop down toward the floor;
- Return to the initial position;
- Extend the upper part of the spine upwards, supporting it with your abdominal muscles. In the beginning, at this point you can return to the starting position. Later on, as you advance in the exercise, supplement it by moving your tailbone and hips up as well. Make sure your neck is a long extension of your spine and don’t let the head fall back;
- Return to starting position. Repeat 5 times.
3. Back Stretching
Initial position. Sit on the mat and straighten your back. Stretch your legs in front of you and place them apart – slightly wider than shoulder width. Toes are pointing upward (dorsiflexion). Lean straightened hands on a mat near the pelvis.
- Pull your abdomen in and at the same time tilt your head forward, bending your upper back and stretching your arms in front of you. Glide your hands forward on the mat, between your legs;
- Straightening your body, return to the initial position. Repeat the stretch 5 times.
4. Diving Swan
Initial position. Lie on your stomach and leaning on the arms, lift your chest off the mat. Elbows should be pushed forward and placed wider than shoulders and the hands should be touching. Legs and toes are extended.
- Breathing in, straighten the elbows and raise them to the sides on level with the shoulders and then raise your chest even higher. At the same time, lift slightly both legs off the mat;
- Breathing out, roll forward onto your belly, as shown on the last illustration;
- Breathing in, roll back into the intended position. Repeat 5 times, accompanying the rolls forward with exhalation, and the rolls back with inhalation.
Initial position. Lie on your stomach, stretch your arms in front of you, palms facing downwards. Slightly lift the chest, arms and legs of the mat. Keep the legs and toes extended;
- Raise your right arm and left leg;
- Then raise the left arm and right leg, while returning their opposite to their initial position. Continue the exercise for 10 exchanges. The exchange of the opposite limbs is quick, but smooth.
6. Stomach Rolls
Initial position. Lie on your stomach, bend your knees and bring them on your hip. Take hold of the feet with your hands, as shown in the figure. Now, lift the head, chest and knees on the mat.
- Breathing in, roll forward onto your belly, as shown in the figure;
- Breathing out, roll in the opposite direction, from your stomach to the pelvis. Repeat the exercise 10 times.