Flexibility Into Back Bends

Hi Lisa,
The neck massage releases the fascia etc along the hamstrings to increase flexibility.
Is there a muscle release for the other direction when doing backbends?
Thanks! Anusha


Hi Anusha

Thanks so much for your comment. Yes, there are fascial lines that run through the front of your body, that actually include your abdominals, neck and even down into the front of your thighs! However, when working into back bends I rarely find that this is the issue. Most of the time back bends (Back Extensions) are limited either by joint restriction or by muscle weakness.

So how do you tell the difference?

The best way is to check your “Passive” extension against your “Active” extension. Lie on your stomach on the floor, side on to a mirror (or with a friend) and slowly push up into a back extension. Take care not to go to fast, and do not push into pain. Notice where in your back the arch happens, and how it feels. Does it feel like the bones are blocking the movement? Like there is too much “stuff” in the way? Or are you too tight up the front to allow yourself to go backwards?

Then, come up into standing and try going into a back bend. Notice the shape of your back and whether it bends in the same places. Is there any pain? Can you go back as far? Do you feel the strain in your back or in your abdominals?

If you have less range in your standing back bend than your lying back extension, chances are that it is a strength issue. If your abdominals are not strong enough (both deep and superficial ones) then you will not be able to use your full range. The strength of your deep back muscles is also vitally important here, and will help avoid that “squashing” or “pinching” feeling in your back.

Strengthening exercises for controlling into back bends must start with isolation of your deepest abdominals (Transversus Abdominis) and then work on maintaining this control while adding in movement. Doing a bridge or other static/bracing exercises will not make you stronger into your back bends.

If you find that you are restricted into back extensions whether on the floor or in standing, then the joints in the back may be stiff.

Instead of just pushing into extensions (which often results in pain and injury rather than better extensions!) I tend to focus on improving movement into all other directions, and then slowly bringing in extension. If the “facet joints” (The areas of each vertebrae that touch the next one along) are stiff into rotation (twisting) or into flexion (bending forwards) then you will also lose some of your extension. It is amazing how quickly you can get more range into your backbends just by mobilising your back!

In the Front Splits Fast Flexibility Program there are two sections that can really help with your back extensions. These are the “Thoracic Mobility” and “Spinal Mobility” sections. We don’t often think of the flexibility of our upper back having much to do with our back bends, let alone our splits, but it does!

If the upper back is stiff you will also take a lot more load down deep in the low back, which may cause instability and pain from too much movement.

So try out the tests above, then work on the two sections of the program and see how quickly your extensions improve!

Good Luck!

5 Responses to “Flexibility Into Back Bends”

  1. Jenni Cassella Says:

    Hi Lisa, Hurray, glad this issue has come up! The exercise I found extremely helpful in improving my back flexibility is your spinal mobility “sequential movement” through the spine exercise in FSF. Upper back was basically “frozen” while lower back was taking all the bending and strain. After “finding” and re-strengthening all the little spinal extensors and thinking “extending and bending” at each little vertabrae, forward and backward bending has really loosened up and feels safer! A bunch of little bends all along the spine adds up to a lot more bend in the back than just a couple of areas in the spine attempting all the bend and pinching, and a lot safer too.
    cheers, Jenni C.

  2. Soccer Says:

    Hi Lisa! The massaging for the back of the neck didnt seem to work on me, even though my neck tightens up easily! I have done this many times, but it never works! Do you have any suggestions, or maybe a technique for the upper back? Your help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

  3. lisahowell Says:

    Hi Sukhi

    Dont worry, the massage for the neck dosent work for everyone! It works well when I do it for about 80% of people, but for some people this is just not the area that needs work. If you do feel that you are tight in the neck, then I would suggest really focusing on the thoracic mobility section of the dvd instead as this will often have much better improvements that the neck massage alone.

    Let me know how you go!


  4. Aziz Cem Says:

    Nice, thank you…

  5. Vijaya Says:

    The Range is increasing as the neck relaxation and other deep muscles of the knee joint are stimulated. VMO is another muscle which I need to concentrate on. ‘Why won’t my knees fully starighten’ was a valuable article. Which needs to happen first , The rotation followed by the splits, or splits followed by rotation?

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