86% of Americans sit for their jobs all day, and then we go home and sit at the dinner table, and sit to watch TV. We sit a lot. And generally most of us don’t sit up straight either. This leads to forward head posture, curved shoulders and a rounded spine. This can tighten up the muscles in the front of our body and weaken the muscles in the back. This is why extension postures are important.
The muscles in our back help with posture and the ability to move our spine. If we let those get weak and stiff, we are predisposed to having back pain and other issues.
So what can we do about this? When babies are growing and developing, we have them do ‘tummy time’ to help strengthen their back muscles and encourage proper development of the spine. While adults are done growing, prone (on your stomach) positions are good to help encourage extension of the spine and strengthen your posterior muscles.
How should I do this at home?
There are several ways to safely perform prone strengthening and stretching exercises in extension postures.
The first thing to try is what we therapists call ‘prone on the elbow’. To perform this motion, start on your stomach on the floor or bed, and prop yourself up with your elbows directly under your shoulders. Let your glute muscles (butt) relax and take deep breaths. If you feel sharp or radiating pains discontinue exercise and seek medical advice.
This exercise will help with low back and mid back extension and help strengthen your posterior neck muscles.
Once you have mastered the prone on elbows exercise, you can move to a cobra pose.
This pose is very similar but you will be actively moving up and down. For this exercise make sure you inhale on your way up and exhale on your way down. This pose you will start on your stomach as well, and place your hands underneath your shoulders. Keeping your elbows tucked in to your sides, lift up and leave your hips on the ground.
This exercise helps to strengthen your back and neck muscles and stretch out the front of your body. Make sure you are keeping your glutes relaxed and stop if you feel pain or radiating symptoms down your back and seek medical advice.
Next, you can move onto the superman pose. This strengthens many of your posterior muscles including hamstrings and back muscles.
To perform this pose, start on your stomach. Lift your head, arms and legs off of the ground, leaving just your hip bones and stomach on the floor. You can inhale up and exhale relax or you can hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times. Make sure your head is in a neutral position and you are not straining to look up or down.
If you spend a lot of time at a computer or a desk, I would encourage you to spend some time on your stomach to encourage extension of the spine. A rounded spine is very hard to correct once muscles have gotten used to a slouched position, and can lead to pain and injury.
Try to spend 10 minutes a day on your stomach to keep you standing tall for a long time!
Check out this video for some other stretches if you’ve been sitting all day!