Back Mobility Exercises That Feel Amazing


Each month, a new trainer takes us through four of the best workouts they have in their back pocket. Follow along weekly for new ways to sweat it out with us. See All

There are some exercises that are the bread and butter of the stretching and mobility world. Cat-cows, open books, and glute bridges are just a few of the staples that come to mind.

A new mobility and stability workout for back pain for Well+Good’s Trainer of the Month series contains all of the classics, which are must-dos for a reason. They bring blood flow and lubrication to joints, and length to muscles shortened from staying in one position all day.

But one move that physical therapist Winnie Yu, DPT busts out during this 16-minute routine truly blew my mind. Well actually, it’s a Frankensteined combo of two moves.

Experts In This Article

  • Winnie Yu, DPT, CSCS, sports & orthopedic physical therapist, specializing in manual therapy, chronic pain, and sports-related injuries

Windshield wipers, which involve laying on your back with your knees bent, and then dropping your knees back and forth from side to side, are one of those classics that are great for people experiencing back pain and hip stiffness. “Why this is one of my favorite exercises to do is, if you think about the position of sitting all day at your desk, or standing all day at work, some of those lower back muscles and hip muscles can get really tight,” Dr. Yu says. “So if you do lower spine rotations, it’s a great way to get blood flow and mobility to the area.”

Another delectable classic is the figure four hip stretch, in which you start in that same lying down knees bent position, but you place one ankle on top of the opposite knee, then use your hands to draw that knee closer to your chest. This is a must-have move in your hip and glute stretching arsenal, with some added benefits in releasing your lower back, and even stretching your inner thigh.

Here’s where things get interesting. After going through classic windshield wipers, Dr. Yu instructs you to place your lower body in a figure four position. Then, you’ll do that same side-to-side rock, extending your knees towards the ground, while still in figure four. It’s like a windshield wiper with added oomph, creating space in your hip joint and glute muscles, and adding an extra stretch to your lower back as you twist.

You might not get your knees very far down at first, but keep at it, and your trunk will limber up. Don’t be surprised if you hear cracks or pops, says Dr. Yu. “Things will move, things will shift, it’s totally fine,” she says.

Do the whole mobility and stability routine in the video above to bring that same level of deliciousness to your upper back, too.


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