1. Iron Cross
This is an advanced stretch that should be used only by those with no history of back pain. For healthy backs, it’s an excellent warm-up to prepare for dynamic movements on several planes. This is important for the rotation needed for everything from gardening to housework to playing basketball.
- Start by lying flat on your back with your arms extended and palms down. Focus on pressing your lower back into the floor. Keep your left leg flat on the floor and lift your right leg straight up.
- Keeping your shoulders and head flat on the floor, pull your right leg across your body toward the left hand. Lifting only your right hip, reach as far over your body as is comfortable. Hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds and alternate between sides 8 to 10 times.
Caution: Though this is an easy movement, work at a comfortable pace. Do not do this stretch if you have any back pain or other limiting conditions.
2. Stability Ball Back Extension
Using the stability ball for this exercise will give you more range of motion than you get on the floor, plus you have the extra challenge of balancing yourself. You’ll quickly realize this does more than release tension in your back. Your abs, glutes, and leg muscles all play a role.
- Start by sitting toward the front of the stability ball with your arms at your sides and feet flat on the floor. Keep your back straight and core tight while facing forward.
- Extend your arms out to the sides and roll back onto the ball as you feel a gentle stretch through your back. For a deeper stretch, reach your arms fully over head and roll back a bit farther. Hold this position for 15 to 20 seconds.
3. Stability Ball Back Release
With practice, you can train your muscles to relax and let go of the tension that causes tightness and sore muscles. The goal of this stretch is to allow gravity to relax the soft tissue to restore optimal mobility.
- Start with your feet on the floor, stomach lying over the ball, and knees slightly bent. Place one hand on each side of the ball for balance and support.
- Let your arms fall naturally to the side and arch your back forward over the ball. Allow your neck to relax as you breathe deeply. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds or longer as necessary to release tension in the lower back.