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  • Writer's pictureCoach Matt Pippin

5-Minute Fix to Relax Your Lower Back




Have you ever finished a lifting session where you crushed your weights with absolutely perfect form, but your lower back is killing you? You stretch it, do every core strengthening exercise you see on Instagram, and spend 30 minutes on your warm-up to make sure everything is perfect for your session, but your lower back is still blowing up.  


Here’s the wake-up call you’ve been looking for… your lower back is always going to be tight as long as it’s doing all the work when standing or lifting. Those tight muscles need a break too!


Lower back problems are personal to me, which is why I want to share all of the resources I can with you, including today’s coaching where I’m going to show you a quick exercise to get that lower back tightness to finally relax. This is great to do before and after your lifting session.  


WHY IS MY LOWER BACK ALWAYS TIGHT?

Imagine you’re carrying around a bowling bag all day long with your bicep fully flexed. Then when it’s finally time to use your bicep to throw the ball, guess what happens… it’s already exhausted from carrying the bag, and now you’re asking it to do more work.  


It’s the same thing with your lower back.


If you love lifting weights, it’s a safe assumption that your back is always hyperextended (think sticking your butt out), which means your lower back is going to be exhausted, and no matter how awesome your form is during your lifts, eventually, that tight lower back is going to go boom boom. It’s time to ditch the heating pad, ice pack, and massage therapy, and get some real relief. You'll be surprised at how simple it is to do.


HOW TO RELAX YOUR LOWER BACK

If the lower back muscles are “on” all of the time, that means your abs are relaxed and your ribs are extended. One of the simplest things you can do right now to get your lower back to relax is to engage your abdominal muscles, specifically the internal obliques. A great way to do that is with this breath work sequence that forces exhalation and gets your lower back out of hyperextension.


Equipment Needed

  • Some kind of towel to put behind your neck

  • A chair or bench - if you don’t have these you can put your feet on the wall


Starting Position

  • Lay down and put your feet up on a chair, with bent knees at 90 degrees

  • Put the folded towel behind your neck, not your head. This will tip your chin up which is what we want to help you breathe and avoid neck pain.

  • Put your hands on your ribs 


The Sequence

  • Take in a nice casual inhale and notice how your ribs expand

  • Exhale and blow all of that air out and notice how your ribs come down

  • Make sure your hamstrings are on by digging your heals into the chair, just so you feel like your hamstrings are doing something, like a 1 out of 10 intensity

  • Take in a casual inhale again

  • This time when you exhale, keep those hamstrings engaged and blow out all of the air you can

  • Hold for 2 seconds

  • As you take the next inhale, keep your abs down. This should be nice and casual, don’t force it

  • Repeat again with that exhale


What you should start to notice is that your sternum has to move away from the bottom of your chin to get those ribs down as you exhale. Every exhale you take, your sternum should get farther and farther away from your chin, as you engage your abs more and more to bring the ribs down. 


After 4 or 5 rounds of this, your abs should be on. If they’re not, you’re not getting your ribs down enough. If needed during the exhale, you can use your hands to gently push your ribs down.


The more you do this, the easier it will get and the more your abs will turn on. 


Coaching Tip

The hardest thing about this exercise is keeping your neck muscles out of the party. You’re going to want to lift your head up to “help” get your ribs down but the range of motion for how far you're moving your ribs shouldn't be so big that you need to help with your neck.


Your head should feel heavy against the towel, with your neck staying relaxed, and the only part of your body moving is from your sternum down. Check in with this after each exhale. 


Programming

  • Do this on a regular basis, either as part of your daily stretches or before and after your lifting session

  • You only need to take 5 deep breaths, you'll never do more than that

  • To progress, you’re not going to take more breaths, you’ll want to take a longer exhale. The longer the exhale, the more your abs have to contract to pull your ribs down.


LOW BACK FRIENDLY EXERCISE ALTERNATIVES

On the topic of not doing anything that causes pain or pinching in your low back, I've put together resources with low back friendly alternatives for common exercises that can cause pain. Note: This is not a pass to skip the exercises above but should hopefully give you relief if you still want to lift.



GET MORE LOWER BACK RELIEF

If you’re always feeling your lower back then you'll love a hip mobility exercise I have for you that will blast through any pain you're experiencing. Click the link below to get my must-have mobility tools that will help you get to work on this. It’s free so don’t miss it.

 

ABOUT COACH MATT PIPPIN

Matt is a Strength and Mobility Coach with over 15 years experience in his field and has coached over a thousand professional, collegiate and everyday athletes with the goal to help them move, feel and perform at their highest level. He's incredibly passionate about bringing simple and effective online mobility training programs to everyone who wants to take control of their self care and make lasting change. CLICK HERE to learn more.


Certifications:

  • NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

  • Level 3: Fascial Stretch Specialist

  • Level 1: Institute of Motion Health Coach

  • Certified FRC Mobility Specialist (FRCms)

  • Level 1 Kinstretch Instructor

  • Weck Method Qualified


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