The low back is a complex network of muscles, bones and connective tissue. Unfortunately, it's a source of pain in 90 percent of Americans, including athletes, who are highly susceptible because of the extreme stress placed on their bodies. Typically back issues are due to a lack of mobility in the trunk and hips, or a weakness in supporting core muscles. A balanced and consistent stretching program will help eliminate postural issues and allow you to perform at your peak pain-free.
Three critical muscles need a great deal of attention to improve low back mobility:
There are three primary solutions to fix low back pain:
1. Foam Rolling
This is a proven method to release tension in muscles. Slowly roll over muscles, focusing on tender spots and avoiding rolling directly over bone. Perform 2x20 rolls each.
Quadratus Lumborum Foam Roll
Lie on side with foam roller between hip and rib cage. Slowly roll from hip to rib cage for specified reps.
Latissimus Dorsi Foam Roll
Lie on side with foam roller under armpit. Slowly roll from armpit to halfway down side of body for specified reps.
Erector Spinae Foam Roll
Lie on back with foam roller between shoulder blades and pelvis. Slowly roll from mid to upper back for specified reps.
2. Active Isolated Stretch
The three stretches below put tension on muscles by contracting the opposite muscle group. This technique results in an increased stretch compared to other stretching methods. Perform eight reps each, holding for two seconds each rep.
Bent Knee Crossover
Lie on back with arms out to sides. Bend right knee and hip to 90-degree angle, keeping opposite leg straight on ground. Drape right thigh across body and hold for specified time. Release and repeat for specified reps. Perform set with left leg.
Kneel on ground with hands clasped behind head. Bend torso to side, keeping back straight. Hold for specified time. Return to start position and perform rep on opposite side. Repeat in alternating fashion for specified reps.
Begin on all fours with back flat. Tuck hips forward and raise lower back up to create a dome shape. Hold for specified time. Return to start position and repeat for specified reps.
3. Static Stretching
Traditional stretches are the final way to eliminate low back pain. Slowly move into each stretch and avoid bouncing. Perform each stretch for 20 seconds.
Lie on back. Grab both knees with hands and pull to chest. Hold for specified time.
Quad Rock-Back T-Raise
Kneel on ground, sit hips back onto ankles and fold chest toward ground. Extend arms overhead onto ground. Lift right arm as high as possible to side without moving upper body. Hold for specified time and return to start position. Repeat on left side.
Quad Rock-Back Side Bend
Kneel on ground, sit hips back onto ankles and fold chest toward ground. Extend arms overhead onto ground. Reach arms to side at a 45-degree angle and press hands into ground. Hold for specified time and return to start position. Repeat on opposite side.
Is your back pain still lingering from a recent injury? Our Injury Recovery page may be the perfect compliment to your prescribed rehab plan.
Bryan McCall, CSCS, is the performance director with Michael Johnsons Performance Training Center, located at the SPIRE institute (Geneva, Ohio). He has worked in the performance enhancement field for more than a decade and was most recently the performance director at Champions Training Academy. McCall has also done sport-specific training for the Baseball Factory, the leading scouting organization for elite baseball players; the Dallas Texans, a top-ranked Nike-sponsored soccer club; and Nike high school football training camps. He has a bachelor's degree in exercise science from the University of Texas at Arlington.