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Low Back Fried? Try These 6 Miracle Mobility Exercises

BY Phil White

Most athletes will deal with back pain at some point in their training. Find relief with these key mobility moves from Dr. Kelly Starrett.

There are some days when, no matter how well you warmed up, how good your form was, or how well your run, swim, or ride went; your low back just feels trashed afterward. Maybe you feel it right away; or perhaps it creeps up on you the next morning when you try to get out of bed. Regardless, if you’re putting in a lot of miles or have just completed a race, you’re likely to struggle with some soreness and limited range of motion in this common trouble spot. 

When dealing with pain or tightness, many of us instinctively reach for the ice pack, but the physician who created the famed RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) protocol has actually changed his tune: ice can blunt your body’s natural healing process by suppressing inflammatory signals.

So what can you do instead? The answer isn’t “suffer” or “tough it out.” Rather, spend two to five minutes on the following mobility exercises, courtesy of Becoming a Supple Leopard author and doctor of physical therapy, Kelly Starrett. Starrett has worked with Levi Leipheimer, Rebecca Rusch, and many other champion endurance athletes. He also runs The Ready State virtual mobility coach. 

Before you get started, it’s worth noting that not all of these address the low back directly. That’s because excessive tightness travels upstream and downstream. In other words, if your hamstrings, glutes, obliques, hip flexors, and/or psoas are tight, they can pull on the muscles, ligaments, and tendons surrounding your lumbar spine. The good news is that slack also goes both ways, so by prompting these spots to relax, you’ll also alleviate low back pain and tightness. OK, now on with the matter at hand. 

QL Smash

  1. Lie on the floor on your back in front of a couch, plyo box, or bench with your feet up on it.
  2. Place an MWOD MUSH Gemini horizontally across your lower back, just above your pelvis.
  3. Slowly drop your left knee toward the floor.
  4. Come back to the middle position and then do the same with your right knee.
  5. Complete 20 to 25 reps on each side and then move the Gemini up your back, ending just below the base of your ribcage.

Hamstring Tack and Floss 

  1. Sit on a bench, plyo box, or hard chair.
  2. Place a lacrosse ball or small Supernova under your left hamstring, just below where it meets your butt.
  3. Slowly roll from side to side across the ball.
  4. You can also try extending and flexing your knee for a different stimulus.
  5. Keep moving the ball down until you finish with it just above the back of the knee.
  6. Switch sides.

Gut Ball Massage

  1. Lie face down on the floor.
  2. Place a big MWOD Supernova at the bottom of your gut, just above your pelvis.
  3. Slowly roll across the ball.
  4. Move the ball up your abs and across them, camping out in any sore spots. You can also take deep nasal diaphragm breaths into the ball while it’s stationary. 

Oblique Roll-Out

  1. Lie on your side on the ground.
  2. Place an MWOD Supernova just above your left hip.
  3. Slowly roll across the ball.
  4. You can also turn slightly more onto your front to capture the inside of the obliques.

High Glute Smash

  1. Lie flat on your back with your feet up on a couch, bench, or plyo box.
  2. Position a lacrosse ball on the left side of your upper glute.
  3. Slowly drop your left knee down and outward to move the ball to the outside edge of your glute.
  4. Move your knee back toward the middle, rolling your glute back across the ball.
  5. Repeat 30 to 40 times and then switch sides.

Couch Stretch

  1. Kneel in front of a wall, a plyo box, or, as the name suggests, your couch.
  2. Place your left shin flat against the wall, box or couch and turn your foot slightly inward.
  3. Your right foot should be straight and flat on the floor in front of you.
  4. Push your left hip toward the ground, squeezing your butt as you do so.
  5. Try moving into the corners by tilting your torso slightly to the outside or inside of your back leg.
  6. After a minute or two, put your left hand into a “sprinter’s start” position (making a bridge with your thumb and forefinger on the floor) and push your torso halfway upright.
  7. Repeat step #4.
  8. After another minute or two, push through your right foot, remove your left hand from the floor, and move your torso into an upright position. Try to squeeze your glutes. If you find yourself losing your balance, place a box, weight bench, or something else to the side of you to hold on to. 
  9. Switch sides.

If you’re suffering from back pain, try going through this routine once or twice a day. Stay consistent, and you’ll most likely notice that your symptoms calm down.

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About Phil White
Phil White is an Emmy-nominated writer and the co-author of The 17 Hour Fast with Dr. Frank Merritt, Waterman 2.0 with Kelly Starrettand Unplugged with Andy Galpin and Brian Mackenzie. Learn more at www.philwhitebooks.com and follow Phil on Instagram @philwhitebooks.

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