Improve your Backbends with this Isometric Technique

Back flexibility requires your delicate back muscles to contract. This gentle technique is a great way to warm up for backbend mobility training.

Backbending is the trickiest of all the flexibility arts. It is both coveted and difficult, and frought with potential for injury and frustration. A good backbend feels like heaven. A back backbend can have you lying on a heating pad for weeks.

One of the reasons that backbending is so challenging is because your spine is basically your brain’s tail. It is full of nerves and those nerves spread out through your entire body, carrying messages back and forth to your brain. When you move your spine it affects your entire body.

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Backbending is also intense because it is one of the few ranges where, at least for almost all beginner and intermediate level back benders, the restriction to movement has nothing to do with the muscles that are being lengthened. We are usually not blocked in our backbends because our abdominal muscles wont stretch. We are blocked because our back muscles do not want to shorten.

Backbends Require Muscles to Shorten

Shortening is scary for muscles. When a muscle is very, very short it is helpless since muscles can’t push, they can only pull. So the job of convincing a muscle to shorten is a slow and steady one, and it’s not a good idea to force it or the muscle just might freak out and take revenge.

This is especially true of those delicate little muscles in our lower and middle backs. This muscles are small dudes with big jobs. If you have ever over-compressed your lower back in a cobra or hanging backbend you will never forget it. It feels like getting hit in the back with a hammer.

The Importance of Warming Up for Backbends

That means that warming up the back muscles for a backbend is essential to happy, healthy, productive back bending. You have to gently and lovingly talk those muscles into shortening a little at a time so that by the time you get to your deep backbends they are all in for the journey.

I was recently shooting my presentation on overcoming isometrics for the Myth of Flow Summit (June 22-24, 2024) and I didn’t have time to include this lovely little isometric for back bending. It’s a divine warm up that you can tailor to your level of flexibility by adjusting the height and placement of the yoga block. It is gentle and safe and slowly encourages those back muscles to contract, leading them towards a shortened position.

I made a short for my youtube channel that shows this wonderful little back flexibility warm up drill so I could share it with you!

I’m going to be writing more about overcoming isometrics (as opposed to yielding isometrics like holding plank) and why I think they are a priceless tool for mobility training.

If you are usually using passive stretches to increase your flexibility, adding in some overcoming isometrics to increase your active range of motion could be just the magic ingredient to boost the quality of your training time.

If you are reading this as it comes out, please check out the Myth of Flow Summit for more overcoming isometrics as well as more than 20 other presentations from many of the leading movement coaches. And… it’s free!

If you have any questions about the overcoming isometric for improving your backbending practice, or you try it out and notice increased back flexibility, I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below.

Happy Bendings!

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