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Stretches for the Lower & Middle Back

author image Everett Callaway
Everett Callaway has been a writer and fitness trainer for more than 20 years, focusing on health, fitness and exercise topics. He earned his B.S. in sports and fitness from the University of Central Florida. Callaway is a personal-training instructor, a certified strength-and-conditioning specialist and holds several other industry certifications.
Stretches for the Lower & Middle Back
Tight hamstrings also contribute to pain or tightness in the lower back. Photo Credit: TongRo Images/TongRo Images/Getty Images

Back pain can be a result of chronic overuse, poor posture or an acute injury. If the pain is a result of acute or sudden injury, a medical professional should be sought before attempting to rehab your injury. However, tightness or pain from poor posture or muscular fatigue from improper bending or twisting is likely caused by the shortening of the muscles of the lower back. In this case, stretching is usually sufficient for alleviating the pain or discomfort felt in the cervical and lumbar regions of the back.

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Knees to Chest

The knee to chest stretch is like a massage for the lower back. The move is executed by assuming a face up position on the floor. Bend your legs with your feet and knees together. Slowly lift the feet off the ground bringing your knees toward your chest. Clasp your hands beneath the knees. Gently assist the knees toward the chest until you feel the stretch in the lower back. The buttocks should be lifted slightly off the ground. At the top of the stretch, inhale deeply and exhale and relax deeper into the stretch. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and release.

Spinal Twist

A good stretch for the spinal erectors of the lower back is the spinal twist. Assume a sitting position on the floor. With the upper body virtually vertical,, extend both legs in front of the body. Bend one leg and cross the foot over the opposite knee. Turn the body in the direction of the bent leg and place the opposite elbow on the outside of the bent knee. The arm that corresponds with the bent leg should be placed just behind the hips for support. Gently press the arm against the knee as you twist your torso as far as you can and hold. Release and repeat on the opposite side.

Standing Cat Stretch

To target the muscles of the middle back, grab a pole or other solid, stationary object. Clasp hands firmly around the pole. With a slight bend in the knees, lean your body away from the pole as if you are falling and the pole is keeping you upright. Round your back similar to that of a cat. To focus the stretch on the large latissimus dorsi muscles of the middle back, lean your torso to the desired side. For example, to stretch the lat muscle on the right side, while holding the pole, lean the body so that the right side of the torso curves out and the left side curves in.

Semi-Leg Straddle

A major contributor to tight low back muscles is having tight hamstrings. Tight or shortened hamstring muscles, situated on the posterior aspect of the upper leg, pull on the ischial tuberosity of the pelvic region. This in turn causes excessive pulling of the low back muscles that contributes to back pain and tightness. This can be addressed by sitting on the floor with legs flexed to approximately 30 to 50 degrees. The bottom of the feet should be facing inward while the knees are pointing out. Lean forward from the waist and extend arms as far forward as possible. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.

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  • Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, Second Edition; National Strength and Conditioning Association
  • Strength Training Anatomy, Third Edition; Frederic Delavier
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