A flexible back ensures that your entire body can move properly throughout your day. A lack of flexibility and mobility here can lead to back pain, poor posture, and difficulty in lifting and carrying heavy objects. The below stretches work your back and surrounding muscles from various angles, and can be performed at any time throughout the day to improve your back flexibility.
How to Increase Your Back Flexibility
To develop back flexibility, it is important to keep in mind other areas also contribute to how the back functions. Stretching the shoulders, chest, abs, obliques, hamstrings, glutes, and hip flexors in addition to the back will help support movement and better overall health in the spine.
Whether your goal is to add more yoga backbend poses in your practice, or just to make daily activities easier, these simple stretches are examples of how to move in a way that supports increased back flexibility.
- Simple cross-legged forward fold: This easy and gentle stretch helps release tension in the lower back and open the hips. Start by sitting in a comfortable cross-legged position on the floor. Fold your torso over the legs while stretching the arms out to the floor in front of you. Keep sit bones rooted to the floor. Breathe in and out through the nose and hold for at least 30 seconds.
- Standing hamstring stretch: Tight hamstrings can often cause low back pain. This stretch lengthens the hamstrings and opens the lower back. First, stand tall with the feet close together. Bend from the hips and reach for the floor. If you are unable to reach the floor, you can rest your hands on your shins. Lower your head to the floor and keep head, neck, and shoulders relaxed. Hold for at least 30 seconds.
- Supine spinal twist: Allowing the back to experience rotational movements is a key in improving flexibility. This stretch provides a spinal twist that we do not normally experience in everyday activities. Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Drop both knees to one side, getting them as close to the floor as possible without forcing them. Bring your arms out to a T and turn your head in the opposite direction as your knees. Keep both shoulder blades on the floor and hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds. Switch sides, then repeat several times on each side.
- Seated chair twist: This easy stretch also provides a twist for the spine and can easily be done at any point during the day. While sitting tall in a chair, keep your feet flat on the floor and your weight evenly balanced between your sit bones. Rotate your torso so your chest and shoulders face to one side, but the hips stay facing forward. To go deeper into the stretch (only if comfortable), you can hold the side of the chair as you twist. Hold for 20 seconds, then twist to the other side.
- Quadruped sidebend: Stretching the side body is another piece of back flexibility. Start in a kneeling position with glutes sitting on top of heels. Fold torso forward towards the ground and stretch arms out in front of you. Walk the arms to one side at a 45 degree angle to stretch the side body. Keep the hips in place as your torso bends to follow the arms. Hold for at least 30 seconds, then walk your hands to the other side and repeat.
- Figure four stretch: This stretch targets the hip rotator and flexor muscles, glutes, hamstrings, as well as stretches the lower back. Start by lying on your back with knees bent, and feet flat on the floor. Cross left foot over right quad. Lift right leg off the floor. Grab the back of your right leg with both hands and gently pull it toward your chest as far as is comfortable. Hold for at least 30 seconds, switch sides, and repeat.
- Prone extension: This gentle backbend allows your back to move in the opposite direction of most of our daily movements. It also opens the chest and stretches the upper and mid back. Start by lying on your stomach. Lift up onto your forearms, placing your hands at a comfortable distance. Open the chest up toward the ceiling while squeezing the shoulder blades together. Move gently in and out of the stretch 10 times to warm up the back, then hold for 30-60 seconds. Repeat 3 times.
With so many of our daily postures limited to a small range of motion, moving your back in new ways can feel difficult at times. With consistent practice, though, you will notice that your entire body moves and functions better. To continue working to improve your back flexibility, check out Steph Gongora’s Full Body Backbends plan.