At the beginning of July, we started a brand new 12 Minute Athlete Get Bendy 6-Week Flexibility Challenge.
If you missed the introduction post where we talked about the importance of flexibility and how to incorporate stretching exercises into your workout routine, make sure to check it out here.
Throughout the flexibility challenge, we’ll be focusing on one or two muscle groups each week. We’ll talk about why these areas of your body get tight in the first place, why you should be working on loosening them up, and also show you some of the best stretches that help you to increase your flexibility and get bendy.
We’re about to start Week 3, but if you’re joining us just now, don’t forget to check out Week 1 where we talked about stretching hamstrings and calves and Week 2 where we focused on quadriceps and hips.
Lower Back Tightness
In case you hadn’t noticed, we love full body workouts here in 12 Minute Athlete because they give you the most bang for your buck. But if your lower back is tight (or even worse, seriously injured), your exercise library can become pretty limited—there are simply not very many exercises that don’t involve the low back.
So taking care of your lower back is crucial!
A lot of sedentary people deal with low back pain, but it bothers many athletes and super active people as well. Tight hip flexors and hamstrings are often to blame for causing muscular imbalances that can be a result of hours of sitting but also working out a lot if you never stretch or do any mobility work.
Four Stretches to Loosen Up a Tight Lower Back
Below are the four stretches we’ll be working on during this week of the flexibility challenge.
The difficulty of these stretches varies: Level 1 designates the easiest stretches and the Level 5 the most difficult stretches. If you can’t do the Level 5 stretches, don’t worry—work on the easier ones for now, and as your flexibility improves, move on to more advanced ones.
Hold each stretch for about 30-45 seconds, 2-3 rounds.
Difficulty level: 2
In yoga, this pose is used for resting. It relaxes the back, neck and shoulders and also helps to open up the hips and glutes.
How to do it: Kneel on the floor and sit on your heels so that your big toes are together. Separate your knees hip-width apart. Bend forward, let your torso drop between your thighs and your forehead touch the ground. Your arms can be by your sides, palms up, or extended overhead, in which case your palms are facing down.
Difficulty level: 2
This twist stretches the muscles around the spine. If you have spinal disk problems, however, you should avoid twisting movements.
How to do it: Lie on your back and bend your knees towards your chest. Try to keep the upper back in contact with the floor, then lower your knees to floor on the right. Hold before bringing the knees back to the middle and repeating the same thing on the left side. You can either extend your arms as a “T” or rotate your arms in the opposite direction of your knees each time.
Total Back Stretch
Difficulty level: 2
This is a simple stretch that opens up not only the lower back, but also the upper and mid back, which is why we call it the total back stretch. As a bonus, your glutes and hamstrings get a nice stretch too–and we know most of us could use that.
How to do it: If you’re outside, use a fence or a park bench for this stretch; at a gym, a ballet bar works great. Holding from it with your both hands, press the shoulders and whole torso towards the ground. Keep the legs straight.
Advanced Stretch: Standing Pike Stretch
Difficulty level: 4
You probably remember this stretch from Week 1 where we focused on hamstrings, but it’s also a great low back opener, so it will be a part of this week’s homework too.
How to do it: Stand in front of a wall with your feet together, then lean over while crossing your arms above your head and pushing your upper back against the wall. Slowly slide yourself down the wall while keeping your legs straight. For a deeper stretch, take a step closer to the wall and bring your head as close to the floor as possible.
Flexibility Challenge Week 3 Homework
Here is your homework for Week 3 of the Flexibility Challenge! We will build on the previous week’s homework each week, so you’ll be doing all of the stretches from the last couple of weeks as well. We promise that you’ll be way bendier by the end of the challenge!
3-6 days a week:
Don’t feel like you have to do every single stretch—just focus on the ones that work best for you. You should be spending about 10-15 minutes a day most days of the week on these stretches.
And remember, if you’re not able to do the advanced stretches yet, don’t stress about it—just keep working on the other stretches and you’ll eventually be able to do them.
Make sure to post all your stretching photos and videos in the 12 Minute Athlete Facebook group to get feedback and support from us and your fellow athletes.
And have fun![/fusion_text]