Baby Got Back - Yoga to Strengthen Your Back
We know you’re forward-oriented (and Fast!), runner chicks. But, don’t forget your back! As we explained last month, running can easily tighten your chest, causing your shoulders to flop forward and your arms to cross your body when you run — not ideal. Those stiff pecs also overstretch aka strain your upper back by forcing your shoulder blades and surrounding muscles outside their optimal alignment to accommodate floppy posture. So, you know that sore “I need to stretch my upper back” feeling? Most of the time, you don’t actually need to lengthen that area, because it’s already overstretched!
Surprisingly, the feeling of “overstretching” can sometimes mimic the feeling of overworking. What does that mean? Your upper back is likely pissed off because it’s tired from being asked to be too long, because it is designed to be stable and strong. The solution? Hit up the below sequence to help increase circulation to that area, activate and strengthen your muscles, reduce tension, and remind your bones where they should be — you’ll improve your posture and even get some core work in along the way. Disclaimer: Getting strong sucks. It’s hard effing work. But so, so worth it.
Hold each pose for 5+ deep breaths. Be sure to keep your neck and face relaxed…
Shoulder Row (note this one is also our fave refresh from desk work)
1. Reach your arms out in front of you with your palms facing each other.
2. Inhale — Reach your arms forward more so that you feel your upper back broaden.
3. Exhale — Squeeze your shoulder blades back together, as if you’re doing a row.
4. Continue moving to the rhythm of your breath for about 30 seconds.
5. Be sure to keep your neck still — As you reach your arms forward, don’t take your head with you.
1. Lie on your belly with your arms along your sides, palms facing down and forehead on the floor.
2. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and lift your arms, then lift your legs (your glutes should initiate that lift, your hammies should just be helping).
3. Look at the floor about a foot in front of you.
4. Inhale — lift higher.
5. Exhale — get longer.
Back Core Isolation
1. Lie on your belly and prop yourself up on your forearms, bringing them shoulder’s distance apart and parallel, with your palms facing down.
2. Lengthen your chest forward between your arms, like you’re trying to drag yourself forward.
3. Squeeze your shoulder blades together.
4. Engage you core and focus on bringing your ribs together,
as if you’re trying to “knit” your front ribs together.
5. Keeping your shoulder blades flat on your back and your core engaged, lift your hips off the floor and take your butt a few inches back toward your heels.
6. Lower your hips to the floor and repeat for 10 reps.
1. From Back Core Isolation, tuck your toes under and lift your knees off the floor, and walk your feet about a foot forward (it’s like Down Dog, except your forearms are on the floor).
2. Push down strongly through your forearms, keeping your shoulder blades stable on your back as you drop your heels toward the floor.
3. Bend your knees as much as needed in order to keep your spine long.
Don’t forget: Optimal upper body posture and running form are dependent on both the strength of your back body, and the space/flexibility of your front body, so make sure you hit up our upper bod stretches for runners, too!