Back bending and bridges are great flexibility exercises for your back. They help you increase flexibility and movement in your spine, but if you’re not using proper technique, you could injure yourself. That’s why it’s important to learn how to do a proper back bend from someone who knows what they’re doing before you try to do it on your own. A trainer can show you how to do your flexibility exercises in the most safe and effective way.
I often encounter common issues among new students learning how to back bend, which can be dangerous if not addressed right away, so I’ve compiled some safety tips that I teach at the beginning of any flexibility training program.
Safety Tip #1: Remember to Breathe!
Breathing is an incredibly important part of back bending, especially when you want to improve your flexibility. The best way to remember to breathe while you’re stretching is to focus on breathing IN when you’re still, and breathing OUT when you’re moving. Even if you’re sinking into a stretch and you’re only moving 1 cm, it’s still important to follow this rule and breathe out as you move.
Not breathing properly during back bending can lead to a number of problems, including headaches. If you’re holding your breath, you’re not getting enough oxygen into your body. As you bend backwards, the amount of oxygen carried through your body is limited even more. Breathing properly helps relieve any blood pressure that’s building in your head, thereby alleviating the risk of headache.
Headaches can also occur when you’re dehydrated, so be sure to drink lots of water. If you get a headache due to dehydration, it’s a good idea to pause your stretching workout and resume on another day, otherwise your headache will worsen.
Safety Tip #2: Don’t ‘Kink the Hose’
Whenever you’re bending your spine, it’s important to move in a way that doesn’t ‘kink the hose’. What does that mean? Basically it means you’re not moving your spine in a safe and orderly fashion. The correct way to move is to start with your head and finish with your head. Lifting your head prematurely, before your vertebrae have a chance to catch up can produce an uncomfortable kink in your spine. Your head should be the very last thing to come out of the bend in order to protect your spine from injury.
The Most Important Safety Tip
If you take anything from this article I would like it to be this: if you’re just starting out in flexibility exercises like back bending, seek professional help to ensure you’re using the proper technique. Don’t back bend on your own until your trainer is confident you can practice safely without supervision.
If you’re an advanced back-bender, focus on your breathing first, and your technique second, and always train safe!