Back Bend Drill: "Down-Ups"

The most difficult part of the waterfall backbend is the last few inches before your hands hit the floor. That is also the most difficult part of the return to standing. If you can get your legs straight you have a fighting chance of making it back up to vertical!

 This drill, we affectionately call “Down-Ups” is an intermediate exercise to help smooth out that transition. You *must* already be comfortable with waterfall backbends to try this! I can be intense on the lower back if you don’t have enough strength to support your spine in a deep hanging backbend.

This drill, we affectionately call “Down-Ups” is an intermediate exercise to help smooth out that transition. You *must* already be comfortable with waterfall backbends to try this! I can be intense on the lower back if you don’t have enough strength to support your spine in a deep hanging backbend.

1. Push up to bridge and shift all of your weight into your feet by tucking your pelvis and engaging your downstairs butt to open the front of your hips. This is the most important phase because if you set up wrong and try to lift with your quads you will most likely catapult forwards or fall back onto your hands. Not the end of the world but we want to float!

2. Make sure that your heels stay down!!! Otherwise you will be trying to balance in a backbend on the balls of your feet. No one needs that kind of stress in their life.

3. Use your downstairs butt to lift your hips up and forward. If you are doing this right you will feel a stretch in the front of the hips. If you are doing this wrong you will feel a lot of pressure in your lower back. If you feel lower back pressure, STOP! Do more strengthening first and come back to this later. The meat corset (transverse abdominus) must be engaged and working to keep the back supported.

4. Try to float your hands up off the floor. Sloooooowly. Maybe you just get up to your fingertips at first. That’s groovy too. The idea is to use no momentum, just downstairs butt.

5. Gradually straighten the legs all the way, staying in full spine extension looking and reaching for the floor. Again, the leg-straightening movement comes from the downstairs butt with minimal help from the quads. 

6. Then, slow like melting ice cream, lower your self back towards the floor until your fingers, then your hands roll back down to bridge. Try to avoid thumping. As you get more advanced you can try using your shoulders, upper back, and hips to kip your hands in closer to your heels every time. This will help when you want to try catch ankle some day!

Again, don’t do this if it feels crunchy in your lower back. Strengthen your transverse and obliques in extension to keep from collapsing into the lumbar spine. Just work on the top part of the waterfall backbend for now.

And as always… happy bendings!

*Like this post? We will be having a ‘Backbend Basics’ webinar covering the basic anatomy of the spine and the muscles that support it. We will talk about gentle, accessible ways to prepare your body for backbends that will slowly build the awareness and control that you need to be safe and comfortable.

Click here for more info!