These 6 bodyweight moves and gentle stretches have multiple benefits.
Welcome to Mab & Stoke’s workout series. We believe that movement is medicine and fitness is for all. So, each month, we’ll bring you a new routine from a trainer in our community. Next up: give your lower back some TLC with these moves from Simone Tchouke, a personal trainer and certified functional strength coach.
Got lower back troubles? While active people can have back pain too, a common culprit is actually inactivity.
“When people tell me they have lower back pain, I ask them what they’ve been doing and they say, ‘nothing,’” says Tchouke. That’s exactly the problem.
Long hours spent sitting at a desk, in the car, and on the couch can stress the muscles of the lower back, lead to incorrect posture, and put excess pressure on the spinal discs. Meanwhile, a lack of exercise deprives the core and hip muscles of the strength and stamina they need to support your spine and keep it in proper, pain-free alignment. “We’re not meant to be sedentary, and when we are, we can feel it,” Tchouke says.
The problem is, if you have back pain, lifting heavy weights and pounding the pavement probably sound like the least comfortable exploits. Fortunately, when you’re dealing with a pain in the back, gentle stretches and bodyweight movements, especially those focused on the core, are the perfect way to get moving.
Here, Tchouke shares a six-move workout that can relieve tension in tight lower back muscles, reduce pressure on your discs, and strengthen the core for better spinal stability and posture.
Do each of the below movements for 30 to 90 seconds, breathing constantly throughout. After you’ve finished the last exercise, start from the top for a total of two to three rounds. Don’t rush: Focus on moving slowly and with control.
This popular yoga move stretches both the abdomen and back.
Instructions: Get on your hands and knees with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Take a deep inhale through your nose, drop your chin and tailbone toward the floor, and raise your back toward the ceiling. Pause, then fully exhale through your mouth, raise the crown of your head and tailbone toward the ceiling, and lower your abdomen toward the floor.
2. Glute Bridge
Strengthening your entire hip complex helps to keep your pelvis in proper alignment and reduce any arching in your lower back.
Instructions: Lie face-up with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart and a few inches in front of your hips. Brace your core. Exhale through your mouth, press your heels into the floor, and squeeze your glutes to raise your hips toward the ceiling until your body forms a straight line from knees to shoulders. Pause, then lower your hips to the floor as you inhale.
A phenomenal core strengthener, this move is harder than it looks—as long as you do it with good form.
Instructions: Lie face-up with your arms and knees lifted toward the ceiling. Brace your core and tuck your tailbone so that your lower back presses firmly into the floor. Keeping this back positioning, inhale and lower one arm and the opposite leg toward the floor as low as possible. Pause, then exhale and squeeze your abs to raise your arm and knee back toward the ceiling. Alternate sides.
4. T-Spine Rotation
Improve the mobility of your thoracic spine, the area between the cervical and lumbar that could be contributing to lower back issues.
Instructions: Get on your hands and knees with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Brace your core, and place one hand behind your head with your elbow pointing straight out to the side. Inhale and twist your torso to lower your elbow toward the opposite elbow and pause. Exhale and twist in the opposite direction to point your elbow up to the ceiling as tall as possible. Pause, then lower your hand back to the floor. Alternate sides.
5. Bird Dog
The upside-down inverse of the deadbug, this animal-named move is all about core stability.
Instructions: Get on your hands and knees with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Brace your core so that your back is in a straight tabletop position. Without letting your torso move, exhale and slowly lift one arm and the opposite leg until they are parallel to the floor. Pause, then inhale to lower your hand and knee back to start. Alternate sides.
6. Child’s Pose to Diagonal Reach
This variation on the classic yoga back stretch opens up and relaxes often missed muscles along the sides of your torso.
Instructions: Get on your hands and knees. Keeping your hands in place, exhale and sit your hips back to the floor between your feet. Let your torso lower to rest on the floor. Hold for several breaths, then slowly walk your hands a few “steps” to one side. Hold, then walk your hands back to start. Alternate sides.