Back pain is a common issue, particularly as we get older, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to endure. When we struggle with back pain, it may put us off of wanting to do certain activities that may trigger it, like exercise, which may only make things worse for your body in the long term. To combat this, we’ve put together a list of pre-workout stretches for you to carry out and how they will benefit you:
The Benefits of Pre-Workout Stretches
You may wonder why you would need to stretch your back to begin with, but we promise that it’s an important part of keeping your body well when you exercise!
Some of the benefits include:
- If you have a desk job or sit a lot for work, your muscles probably won’t be used to a lot of physical activity. By doing pre-workout stretches, you are helping to build up and prepare targeted muscles to better handle a full workout, making it more impactful for your body at the end as a result
- Pre-workout exercises can relieve tension in tight back muscles
- It only takes five to ten minutes to warm up, allowing you to get on with your workout and other daily activities effectively. However, if you don’t warm up, then you may set yourself back for a few days because of a resulting injury!
How to Stretch Your Back Safely
When you warm up and stretch your back, you want to make sure you’re doing it safely so that you can then go on to do an effective workout without any injuries.
When doing exercises that require lying down, make sure that you are on a proper workout mat instead of a hard floor or overly soft surface such as your bed, to make sure you are being supported effectively while still being comfortable. If you need extra support, you can use a rolled up towel of cushion under your head, lower back or underneath your thighs
It may be worth considering doing some of these exercises when your wake up or before you go to bed, so that you get into the habit of regularly stretching your muscles
There are two main ways to stretch for you to consider: static and dynamic.
Static Back Stretches
A static stretch is a stretch you carry out and hold (you may hold this pose from 10 seconds to one minute, depending on the exercise and your ability). These are our top recommendations for static back stretches;
Knees to Chest Back Stretch
- Lie on your back on an exercise mat, with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor
- Extend and lay your left leg out straight on the mat.
- Put both hands on your right shin and draw your knee towards your chest. Make sure to lengthen your spine against the floor during this, avoid raising your hips or neck
- Hold pose for 30 seconds
- Repeat with other leg, ten times on both sides
Piriformis (Glute) Stretch
Named after the muscle it targets in your buttocks, the piriformis stretch may also help relieve tension in your back.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor
- Place your right ankle over your left thigh, just above the knee
- Pull this up towards your chest. Try to use just your core for this, keeping your lower back flat against the floor
- Hold pose for 30 seconds
- Switch legs so that you evenly workout both sides, aim for at least five times each.
This is a classic yoga pose that can also help loosen any tightness in your lower back muscles.
- Kneel on your mat, sitting on your calves
- Fold forward at your hips, while walking your hands out in front of you and rest your stomach on your thighs, as you bring your face lower down towards the mat
- Breathe deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth, as you hold this pose, for up to one minute
Twist Back Stretch
There is a seated version of this stretch, which you may also carry out. However, this one requires you to lie down on your mat:
- Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor, as your knees are bent
- Rotate your hips to the right, lowering the sides of your legs to the floor, keeping them bent still, as you feel a gentle stretch
- Hold pose for 15 seconds
- Return to start position and bring legs down to the other side, to equally exercise both sides. Aim to carry out this stretch at least ten times on either side
This a good stretch you can feel either side of your body, so make sure you do it evenly on both sides. Keep your feet firmly on the ground throughout.
- Stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart
- Reach your right arm straight up into the air and bend your torso to the left, reaching your right hand to your left hand over your head
- Hold this position for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side
- Repeat these moves at least twice, so both sides are equally exercised
Dynamic Back Stretches
Dynamic back stretches require you to keep moving while you stretch. However, because these types of stretches are a bit more intensive, it may be a good idea to start your pre-workout warm up with static stretches, so that your body is ready to stretch effectively.
Touch Your Toes
This is a good stretch to warm up your back, while also testing your flexibility
- Stand up straight, with your feet firmly on the ground. Raise your arms with your hands up over your head, with your upper arms by your ears
- Keeping your legs straight (or bend slightly if you worry they may lock) slowly reach down as far as you can to touch your toes
- Slowly stretch back upright, lowering your arms back to your sides
- Aim to carry out this stretch at least ten times
You can feel this yoga stretch run throughout your body, as your alternate poses within this stretch.
- Get down on your hands and knees on your mat
- Curl your back up towards the ceiling, bringing your head down between your shoulders and tucking your stomach in. Hold pose for five seconds
- Slowly do the opposite – bring your stomach down to the floor, and hollow out your back, making your face upwards slightly. Hold pose for five seconds
- Repeat and aim to carry out this stretch at least 10 times overall
This is a good one to do, if you have access to a gym or pull-up bar
- With both hands, grab onto the pull-up bar with your palms facing forward
- Gently lift your feet slightly off the ground, while keeping your arms straight
- Relax for a moment
- Allow your shoulders to rise up, before slightly pulling yourself up, as you keep your arms straight
- Safely let both feet rest back on the ground, allowing your shoulders to stretch
This is a good stretch that can also test and improve your balance ability:
- Standing with your feet hip-width apart, put your hands behind your head, with your elbows sticking out, making your arms create a triangle shape either side of your head
- Bend and lift your right knee up. Twist your upper body to the right and bring your left elbow down to touch your knee
- Repeat, but switch sides of the body this exercise was carried out on, so both sides of the body get this exercise
- Continue to alternate sides, aiming to have brought each elbow down to touch the opposite knee at least 10 times each
- Half-kneeling on your mat, have your right leg forward with your foot on the ground and your left knee on the ground
- Move your left knee as far back as you can. Place your left hand opposite your right leg, palm flat on the ground
- Bring your right arm straight up into the air and rotate your chest up to look up at your hand. Hold pose for five seconds
- Repeat pose on other side, switching to your left leg forward and right knee on the ground
- Aim to carry out this exercise at least five times on each side
It is very important to warm up your body before exercise, particularly areas that may require slightly gentler treatment. Therefore, it’s just as important to make sure you wind down properly after your workout, to make sure your body is getting the best out of your workout experiences.
Exercise is important and we don’t want the risk of back pain to put you off of your workout. With these pre-workout stretches at hand, we hope you will warm up and exercise effectively, treating your body kindly as you build it up. If you have more concerns about your back, you can read more of our articles here or explore our website to see which treatments we offer.