The world sits. A lot. And according to the National Institutes of Health, eight out of 10 people experience back pain at some point in their lives. Though sedentary living is the No. 1 reason people experience back pain, gym-goers are not exempt: Heavy lifting without adequate stretching can do a number on your lower back, causing chronically tight muscles that can inhibit your range of motion and prevent you from reaching your lifting potential.
Tight hip flexors cause your pelvis to tilt anteriorly, allowing your glutes to slack off and making your low-back muscles work double time to support your spine. Tight hamstrings only exacerbate this issue, pulling the pelvis more out of place and adding even more load to the lumbar spine.
Release your lower back from active duty with these two stretching techniques that target those troublesome hamstrings and hip flexors while also relieving your lumbar musculature.
Perform the active stretches preworkout or postworkout to warm up your lower back and hip complex, and do the passive stretches postworkout or even before bed to increase your range of motion while gently stretching chronically tight areas.
Active Stretches Toe Touch to Extension
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Fold forward and touch your toes, then stand up and reach and look overhead, even reach backward a little if flexibility allows. Continue, alternating toe touch and extension, moving at an even, moderate pace and trying to increase range of motion in both directions for a total of 10 reps.
Get on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Tuck your tailbone and chin and round your back like a Halloween cat, exhaling as you rise. Then slowly reverse the move, arching your back and lifting your tail and chin toward the sky as you inhale.
Return to neutral, then look over your left shoulder toward your glutes, contracting that side of your body to pull your left hip toward your shoulder. Repeat in the other direction to conclude one rep. Do 10 total reps.
Lie facedown with your arms extended outward to form a T, palms down, head neutral. Stretch one heel toward the opposite hand, trying to bring it as close as you can, allowing your hips to lift as you turn to the side. Hold for three counts, return to the start and repeat on the opposite side.
Do 10 reps each side, trying to go a little farther with each rep.
Passive Stretches Legs Up the Wall
Lie faceup with your glutes close to a wall. Extend your legs straight up, so your hips make a 90-degree angle to the wall, feet flexed. Work to get your knees straight as you hold and breathe for up to five minutes.
Get on all fours with your toes close together, knees spread a little wider than your hips. Sit back on your heels, reaching your arms in front of you, dropping your tailbone toward your heels and lowering your head toward the floor. Hold and breathe for a minute or more.
Foam Roller Extension
Lie on top of a foam roller that is positioned under your lower back and relax all your muscles. Hug one knee into your chest, hold and breathe. Do 60 seconds on each side.