Healthy back workout

Reduce chronic back pain and fatigue with this gentle workout designed to stretch and strengthen the postural muscles of the body. 

Watch the video below to follow along or scroll down to see the step-by-step instructions.


Options provided for chair, standing or floor variations of the exercises.  You can use of a bolster (blanket or pillow), strap (belt or scarf) and/or blocks (any small supportive item) to help make the workout more comfortable.

Begin seated in a comfortable position that allows you to achieve good postural alignment: head high, chest lifted, shoulders back and down, ears above shoulders, shoulder above hips, neutral spine.

Take a deep breath inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. Continue breathing, allowing your breathing rhythm to slow as breaths become deeper. Your heart rate will also become steady and calm.  

Scan your body for areas of tightness, tension or pain. Draw your next breath into that area of your body and then release the tension as you exhale.

Head Turns: turn your head to the right so that you feel mild tension in the muscles you are stretching. If you feel pain, strain or dizziness, ease off or completely release the stretch. Stretch the other side by turning to the left. Hold each stretch for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times.

Head Tilts: tilt your head to the right bringing your ear toward your shoulder. Feel the mild tension of the stretch.  If you feel pain, strain or dizziness, ease off or completely release the stretch. Stretch the other side by tilting to the left. Hold each stretch for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times.

Chin to Chest: drop the chin toward the chest stretching the muscles along the back of the neck. Allow the stretch to creep down into the upper back and shoulders. Do not force the head forward.

Overhead/Side Stretch: place one had on the floor or on the edge of the chair. Raise the other arm overhead and reach toward the ceiling. You should feel the stretch in your arm, shoulder and down the side of your torso toward your waist.  For additional stretch, lean slightly to the side, still stretching upward to keep length in the spine. Hold each stretch for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times.

Torso Rotation: place one hand behind your back to help you maintain tall posture. Reach across your chest with the opposite arm and turn your head, shoulders and rib cage. Hold each stretch for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times.

Round and Release: place your hands on or under your knees for support. Round your back by dropping your head and shoulders forward and tuck your hips under. Round your back and stretch along the spine from neck to tailbone. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times

Knee Drops: place hands behind you for support and lean back slightly keeping the spine extended. Bend your knees and place your feet shoulder width apart. Drop both knees to the same side, rotating from the waist down. Return to center and then drop both knees to the other side. Hold each stretch for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times.

Transition to a lying position. Bend the knees and position the feet a comfortable distance from the hips. Take a moment to adjust the neck, shoulders and hips to achieve good postural alignment. There should be a small space between your neck and the floor and your lower back and the floor.

Take a deep breath and as you exhale engage the core and tilt the pelvis, bringing the lower back toward the floor as your hips gently tuck and curl away from your mat. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times.

For greater challenge, place your hands on your thighs and as you move into the pelvic tilt, slide your hands toward your knees and lift your head and shoulder away from the floor. If needed, support you head with one or both hands. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times.

To engage the obliques, add rotation to the movement by sliding your hands up and over to the outside of one knee. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Complete 3-5 repetitions on each side.

Knee to Chest: Bend one knee and pull it toward your chest until you feel a stretch in the hip and lower back. Hold 10-30 seconds. Repeat on the other leg. Hold for a total of 30 seconds on each side. Your bottom leg can be bent with the foot on the floor, slightly extended or completely straight. 

Hamstring Stretch: raise one straight leg toward your chest. Support the leg using your arms or a strap. Hold 10-30 seconds. Repeat on the other leg. Hold for a total of 30 seconds on each side. Your bottom leg can be bent with the foot on the floor, slightly extended or completely straight. Pull your toes toward you to add a stretch for the calf.

Modification: From a chair-seated position, extend one leg forward and support the leg by placing your heel on the floor or elevated surface. Hinge forward from your hips bringing your chest toward your thigh.  Support your back by placing your hands on the non-stretching leg. Pull your toes toward you to add a stretch for the calf. Hold 10-30 seconds. Repeat on the other leg. Hold for a total of 30 seconds on each side.

Roll over onto your stomach or move to a standing position. Stretch the torso and extend the spine, reaching out through the arms and legs. Place your forehead on the floor.

Raise one arm away from the floor and reach forward through the fingertips.  This is a low lift, just enough to feel the muscles of the upper back and shoulder engage. Think lift and lengthen. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat on the other arm.

Raise one leg and reach out through the toes. This is a low lift, just enough to feel the muscles of the lower back and hip engage. Think lift and lengthen. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat on the other leg.

Raise one arm and the opposite leg. Reach out in both directions. Again, this is a low lift. Feel the muscles working on a diagonal line from the shoulder to the hip. Think lift and lengthen. Repeat using the other arm and opposing leg. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times on each side.

Place hands under shoulders and push up to an “all fours” position (hands and knees).

Cat Back Stretch: drop the head and shoulders and scoop the hips under, rounding the back. Stretch along the spine from neck to tailbone. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times.

Release to a neutral spine and then reverse the movement, lifting the chin slightly and turning the hips out to create a small arch in the lower back.  You should feel a stretch through the abdominal muscles, but no strain in the neck or low back. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat the cat back stretch/reverse movement combination 2-3 times.

Turn your toes under and walk your hands toward your knees, rolling back onto your feet. Move to a standing position. 

Stand tall in good postural alignment: head high, chest lifted, shoulders back and down, ears above shoulders, shoulder above hips, hips above ankles with soft knees and a neutral spine.

Take a deep breath in raising your arms out to the side above your head, bringing your palms together. Exhale, drawing your hands to your heart. Reverse the movement with another deep breath in and out. With arms hanging at your sides, roll the shoulders backward 3-5 times.


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