Try This When Your Low Back Feels Tight

low back feels tight exercise

Stephen Holt, Timonium personal trainer

Millions of readers of national fitness magazines including Shape, Women's Health, Fitness. Woman's Day, Family Circle, Runner's World, (and many others) have made their exercise programs both more effective AND more efficient with fitness and nutrition advice from "America's Baby Boomer Expert," Stephen Holt.

When your low back feels tight, this is a great short-term solution that should make you feel better right away.

However …

Most of the time when you low back feels tight, it’s because your low back muscles are doing the work your entire core should be doing. Your long-term solution is to strengthen all of the muscles of your core in all three planes. More on that some other time, though.

Back to your short-term low back tightness solution …

The key to this series of stretches is to stay relaxed. Support your body weight with your arms and lean forward from your hips (as opposed to rounding your upper back) until you feel a mild stretch in your low back muscles.

If you want the fancier version (as in, “Reciprocal Inhibition,” or “Muscle Energy Technique”), contract your abs slightly to increase the stretch.

The three positions are:

  • Chest straight ahead
  • Chest toward your knee
  • Opposite shoulder toward your knee

At our Timonium gym we usually do all three positions on each side. (Yes, that means we do “straight ahead” twice.)

Not only does this stretch help with stiffness in your lower back and hips, it’s especially effective if you have a tight lower back on one side.

How long?

If it’s before the workout, we hold each position for about 5 seconds. Remember, the main reason your low back muscles feel tight is because you’re overusing them for stabilization. Your goal here is to decrease the resting tone slightly right before we go into the Core Stabilization Circuit part of your workout.

You DON’T want to relax the heck out of your low back right before your workout if that’s where all of your stability is coming from.

After the workout or in the middle of the day when you’re having issues, you can go ahead and hold each position for 20-30 seconds if that makes you feel better.


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