Deep Spinal Muscle Stretches
Stretching your deep spinal muscles and their surrounding connective tissues, or fascia, can help decompress your spinal column and reduce your risk of spinal disorders and diseases, such as arthritis and disc hernia, according to physical therapist Chris Frederick, co-author of "Stretch to Win." You can perform stretches that hold a stretch position for a certain amount of time or repetitively contract and extend the muscles and fascia.
Stretching your deep spinal muscles in different directions allows more tissue elasticity in your muscles and fascia that moves your spine like a spring. This allows your spine and surrounding muscles and tissues to absorb shock and produce force with less risk of jarring or straining when you sprint, turn or jump. Stretching with emphasis in the lower back region can increase the space in the lumbar spine and sacral region to alleviate pressure in the sciatic nerve that runs through this region.
This yoga-based exercise stretches your entire spine along with your hips, the back of your legs and feet. As you hold this stretch, the muscles along the spine relaxes and elongates, opening the space in your spine -- particularly in the lower spine. Kneel on the ground on your hands and knees with your feet about hip-width apart and your toes curled on the ground. Exhale and lift your buttocks up, straightening your legs and pushing your hands against the ground. You should feel a stretch from your armpits, through your back and buttocks, and into the back of your legs. Hold this position for three deep breaths and kneel on the ground. Repeat this exercise three more times.
Active Lateral Flexion
Lateral stretching of the spine also stretches the muscles and fascia from your armpits, through your ribs and into your upper sides of your pelvis. By moving your torso side to side in a gentle, rhythmic manner, you can increase spine mobility in this plane of motion. Stand with your feet slightly apart and raise your left hand over your head. Exhale and slowly lean your torso to your right while pushing your hips to your left to increase the stretch. Hold the stretch for one deep breath and return to the starting position. Raise your right arm over your head and repeat the stretch on the opposite side. Perform this exercise for for two to three sets of 10 reps total.
Stride and Twist Stretch
Deep spinal muscles stabilize your spine to prevent injury and maintain your alignment when you move, especially when you rotate your body. This exercise stretches your spine in a rotational manner while maintaining your spine stability. Stand with your right foot in front of you with your right side of your body about an arm's distance away from a wall. Exhale slowly and rotate your torso to your right. As you place your hands on the wall, hold this position for two deep breaths without moving your lower body. Then turn your torso to face the front. Perform 10 reps, turn your body 180 degrees so that your left foot is in front of you, and perform 10 reps turning in the opposite direction.
- "Stretch to Win"; Ann and Chris Frederick; 2006
- "NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training"; Michael Clark; 2007
Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.