Bad Back Stretch: The Prayer Position

Everyone should be stretching a couple of times daily as everything we do to our bodies during the day results in short, tightened muscles – whether you have a physical job or a stationary desk job. Without stretching daily the muscles become tighter and shorter and it is this shortness that creates the inability to lengthen by choice or by some other outside force like tripping. When our muscles are suddenly taken out of their comfort zone an injury can quickly follow. Typically the back, especially the lower back is the first to get injured. This is because a lot of muscles when they become short will directly affect the back. So if you have a bad back or not this “Praying Stretch” could be well worth doing.

Why this stretch?

This stretch directly targets the lower back muscles around the spine known as the erector spinae muscles (the small back muscles that travel the length of the spine and sit either side of it). The erector spinae muscles are made up of many small muscles and when the back becomes injured these can lock up with an aim to protect you. However, more often than not it actually exacerbates the situation. This stretch will help these muscles lengthen to the length they are designed to be and therefore release the pressure on your back.

The Stretch

For this stretch you will need a reasonable amount of floor space, as some movement is required. I would also recommend using a floor mat or at the very least a room with a carpet to make it easier on your joints. Other than this you will just need yourself.

Sit on Your Feet

Start by kneeling on the floor and slowly sit down on your feet. Some people may find this bit tricky but it only means that your quadriceps are tight; if you want to learn how to stretch them click here, in the mean time just go as low as you can. Keeping your bum firmly on your feet (or as close as possible – .) lean forwards with your hands above your head (as though you are about to dive – .) until your hands are on the floor, arms are straight and your chin is tucked into your chest. At this point your bum may have come of your feet a little, do not let it! This is the most important part of this stretch, you must not let it move up even a fraction.

Lean Forwards

If your back is so tight that you cannot get your hands that low, just lean as far forwards as you can without your bum coming up then place your hands on the ground to support you. You should feel a stretch at this point right in your lower back. This is good and will be the starting stage. For those of you who can reach the ground without compromising your feet and bottom position use your fingers to crawl forwards. The movement, whilst small, should elongate your back which should result in increasing the stretch. Hold this position for around 20 seconds with nice controlled deep breathing. You can see this in the picture below.

Personal Trainer Malta lower back stretch also known as the prayer stretch

Work Round to the Left…

Don’t get up yet because there is more. At the end of the 20 seconds maintain the same position as stretched as you can be (with bum and foot position intact ). Now slowly work your hands round to the left as far as you can just before the point that your bum wants to leave its position. In this position your spine should be curved round to the left and your hands should be as far over to the left as they can be. Push you hips ever so slightly to the right and back to help exaggerate the curve. Again hold this position for 20 seconds breathing nice and deeply. As shown in the picture above.

…and Now to the Right

Are we finished yet I hear you cry? Well not quite: use your arms and hands to work your way back to the front, hold it for a couple of seconds and now work your way round to the right. Go as far as you can without letting your bum leave your feet (alright we get the point!). Again your spine should now be arching round to the right and your arms should be as far round as you can get them This time stick your hips out slightly to your left and back. Hold this position for another 20 seconds remembering to breathe deeply.

But Be Careful

Work your way back to a straight position and at this point be very careful! If you suddenly pull yourself up just using your back muscles you are very likely to damage the newly stretched muscles. Use your hands to push yourself back up to avoid any possible injury and move very slowly. Once you are sitting upright you can stand up in the confident knowledge that you are helping your back to avoid any nasty injury.

How much to Stretch?

To measure if you are stretching the right amount use the PRE (Perceived Rate of Exertion) Scale.1 is you can’t feel it at all and 10 is painful, therefore we need you to be taking it to a 6 or 7 so that it is a strong pull but not painful. Make sure that you hold the stretch in one position and don’t bounce up and down to increase the stretch on the muscle. This can cause an injury to your muscle.

Stretching your muscle “cold” (before you have warmed them up) can result in injury. My advice is to take it slowly and never just presume you can jump to the same point you could stretch to the time before. Always move slowly and in a controlled manner. Remember to breathe as holding your breath won’t allow your muscles to truly relax.

And a Warning…

If you are already suffering from a bad back then I would highly recommend that you seek advice from your doctor, medical practitioner or physiotherapist before even considering carrying out this exercise. Whilst I am confident that this exercise will help the majority of people everyone’s condition is different and should be treated as such. As I am unable to assess you personally it is paramount that you seek advice from a professional who can assess you personally.

Please make sure that you stretch daily, take a look at our stretching section to learn more stretches for your whole body. I wish you all the best good luck and if you have any questions or comments please do not hesitate to send them through.