How To

1 Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
2 Place your hands by your head, fingertips pointing towards your shoulders and palms flat on the floor.
3 Push through your shoulders and heels to lift your body. Straighten your arms as much as possible while keeping your core and legs tight.
4 Hold this position and breathe.

Muscle Worked in Learn to Backbend for Spinal Health

Primary Muscles

Lower Back The low back helps stabilize your spinal column and connects your upper body to your pelvis.
Middle Back The middle back helps you rotate your torso

Secondary Muscles

Calves The calves are the muscles at the back of the lower part of your legs
Forearms The forearms help you grip objects and move your hands, wrists and fingers
Glutes The glutes help you extend your thighs from the hips and drive you forward.
Hamstrings The hamstrings flex your knees and extend and rotate your hips
Shoulders Your shoulders are ball-and-socket joints which connect your arms to your torso

Pro Tips

  • Try to push your hips toward your shoulders once you are up in your backbend. This will help you stop bending your knees as much to come to a straighter-legged back bend.
  • Spread your fingers out wide to give yourself more balance and stability in your backbends.
  • Focus on straightening your elbows. This will help you lift your head off the ground.
  • Keep your knees pointing forward. Don’t knock the knees in toward each other or let them splay out to the sides. Focus on keeping your knees tracking in line with your toes. This will help ensure that you create a solid foundation for your body once you push up and off the ground into your backbend.
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Benefits

  • Backbends help open up your chest. This can help you hold yourself taller or improve your confidence.
  • Backbending helps with stress or tightness in the back muscles.
  • Performing this exercise regularly can help to improve poor posture.
  • Working on backbends is positively correlated with being in a good mood. Backbending may lead to feelings of increased energy. Opening up through the front of your body while bending your back helps to release tension and relieve stress or worry.
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Alternatives

Exercises that target the same primary muscle groups with different equipment

Common Mistakes

  • One common error is keeping a deep bend in your elbows. This doesn’t allow you to fully engage your spine and will cause your head to droop towards the ground.
  • Not stretching your spine in the other direction after a backbend is a common error that can cause pain or soreness. After a backbend, try to neutralize the spine for a moment and then move into a forward bend to reset the spinal alignment.
  • Forcing too deep of a bend into your lumbar spine (lower back) and not distributing the back bending movement along the whole back is a common error. Many people with hypermobile backs tend to dump too much of the work into their lower backs, leading to future back problems. Focus on bending from the middle back (thoracic spine) as well. This will help you maintain an even curve along your whole back and keep your backbends pain-free. This promotes more longevity in this exercise, and you should be able to keep up your backbends into older age if you focus on strengthening all parts of the back.
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Warm Up & Cool Down

Activate your spine with a cobra stretch to warm up before your backbends. Warm Up Before Barbell Squat
1 Lie face-down on a mat. Place your hands on the floor beside your shoulders.
2 Push your torso up while keeping your pelvis on the floor. Draw your shoulder blades backwards and downwards.
3 Hold this position, breathing comfortably throughout.
Cool Down After Barbell Squat Try a lying knee-to-chest stretch to cool down. This will help reset your spinal position by bending it forward again.
1 Lie flat on the floor or on a mat with your legs fully stretched out.
2 Bring both knees into your hands and gently let your arms pull your knees toward your chest. Hold as long as needed. You can also alternate knees if you prefer.

FAQ

Do backbends hurt your spine?
A backbend can be damaging to your spine if you’re not warmed up or if you don’t have adequate flexibility in your back to perform this move.
Do you need to be strong to do a backbend?
Backbendds require a combination of strength and flexibility. You need good back flexibility, along with arm and leg strength to hold your body in place. You also need efficient core muscle activation to master your backbends.
Why are backbends good for you?
Backbends can have not only physical benefits but emotional too. Research on how yoga poses increase subjective energy indicates that using back-bending poses to open your heart can make you feel more energetic than forward-bending poses.