Back to Basics: Timeless Moves For a Healthy, Strong Back
Let’s start with strong back basics! Your backbone is the pillar of your body, holding you up and keeping you going strong. Many muscles, both large and small, help break up your back’s workload. Attending to these muscles not only makes you look F-I-N-E from behind, but also promotes healthy postures, increases the ranges in which you feel comfortable, and decreases tension from holding stress in these body parts. As with all areas of our bodies, strength and mobility combined play a vital role in having a healthy back. If feeling stronger, more comfortable, and more relaxed seems to fit your repertoire, we recommend these movements!
The Supine Trap Stretch
Your trapezius muscles, commonly called your “traps” help you perform a wide range of movements including shrugging your shoulders (elevation), pulling your shoulders down away from your ears (depression), drawing your shoulder blades together (retraction), and creating space between your shoulder blades (protraction). Moving your body in these ways is fundamental to many GymnasticBodies’ movements (think: scap shrugs) and for good reason; your trap muscles create stability in the shoulder and neck region. Having strength and mobility through your traps translates as safer training through a variety of movements, including protecting your shoulders from daily wear and tear.
One of the best stretches to help mobilize the traps is from the GB Thoracic Stretch Series. The Supine Trap Stretch creates space through the traps, and the after-effects will leave you feeling like you just left the massage parlor. Many people carry a lot of stress in their shoulders and neck, so stretching them out can provide relaxation that you didn’t know you needed!
Stretch it out with this incredible back stretch from our stretch courses.
Before we start, if this is uncomfortable in your neck, STOP! You may want to try adding more cushioning for your neck. If that does not help the sensation, consult your doctor as to whether this movement is right for you!
Start laying flat on your back, palms down by your sides. Slowly roll backward, bringing your legs overhead. For many people, this is plenty to reap all the benefits of this stretch. If you want more, bring your knees to touch the floor beside your ears. Hold this position for one minute, and slowly lower down. It’s quite possible that your muscles may need time to get comfortable here, so if that’s the case, only roll back as far as you are comfortable with, working further over time. You should feel a deep stretch in your upper and mid back.
Arch Body Hold: Building Back Strength
Another basic back movement from GB Foundations is the Arch Body. This drill also helps build strong traps, along with several other back muscles, not to mention mobility through the spine. Begin lying flat on your stomach on the floor, arms overhead. Squeeze your glutes and legs, then engage your back to lift your torso and legs off of the floor. Hold for 30 seconds, then release back to the floor.
Try 3 sets! This exercise is great for toning your back and creating strength to support you in all areas of daily living. Remember to arch the whole spine by looking up at the ceiling during your set. Given the amount of time many of us spend slumped over our phones or computers, this movement really opens up the chest and back, easing tension by moving the body in the opposite direction.
Side Pancake: Lat It Go!
Another huge workhorse muscle pair in our backs are the latissimus dorsi muscles. These muscles are responsible for a wide range of movement related to our backs and arms. Some common movements these monsters take care of for us include push-ups, pull-ups, and rotating the trunk. Since they are often working so hard, they are prone to tightening up from all that strength work. Giving the lats a good stretch can help keep them healthy and happy. A no-equipment needed exercise from the GymnasticBodies Middle Split Stretch Series is the Side Pancake.
This stretch will open up the lats along with the many other muscles powering your side body. Begin by sitting in a straddle position, legs open to about 90 degrees on the floor, with your spine straight. Bend through your right side, reaching for the left foot with your right arm. Reach over your right ear, rather than rotating the torso toward the left leg. You should feel this stretch all through the right side of your body. Hold for one minute, then switch sides. Enjoy the glorious feeling of opening up those tight muscles!
Back Up Your Training
Paying attention to the muscles keeping you standing tall can really make a difference in your overall well-being AND your training. Focusing on the back can help keep you strong, comfortable, and relaxed in your fitness routine, in your chair, in your car, and everywhere else your body takes you. Show us your best back exercises wherever your body takes you with #gymnasticbodies on Instagram!