Backbends strengthen the back and stretch the abs and chest.
If you've ever taken a Yoga or Pilates class, it's likely you've done some type of backbend exercise. Backbend exercises involve movements that hyperextend your spine, which in turn strengthens the back and stretches your chest and stomach. Backbends are common in exercises because they combat poor, hunched-over standing posture and the bent-over, shoulders-slumped position acquired when sitting for long hours. Before beginning backbends, walk for five to 10 minutes to increase blood flow and body temperature. If you suffer from back pain or are recovering from an injury, see your medical professional prior to doing backbends.
The locust pose is a beginner backbend exercise that specifically targets the lower back muscles. Lie face down on an exercise mat with your legs straight and arms down by your side. Begin by gently lifting your head up off the mat. Next, slowly lift your upper torso and arms. Finally, lift your legs up off the mat from the hips. Only your stomach and lower ribs should be in contact with the mat. Your arms should be parallel to the floor. Hold the position for as long as you can, up to 60 seconds.
Bridge pose challenges your lower back, as well as your glutes and hamstrings. Lie on your back on an exercise mat with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Your arms begin down by your side. Lift your hips up off the mat as high as you can. Hold this position as you lift your arms up and over until they're resting on the mat over your head. Lower your hips and return your arms to your side to complete the rep. Perform 10 to 12 reps.
The dog pose involves hyperextending your back from a quadruped position, which means you're on all fours. Your shoulders should be directly over your hands and your hips over your knees with your back parallel to the floor. Slowly create a c-shape with your back by pulling your abdominals muscles in toward the spine and tucking in your tailbone. Next, hyperextend your spine and lift your chin so your abs sag toward the floor. Return your back to the neutral position to complete the rep. Perform 10 to 12 reps.
The wheel pose is likely the exercise that most initially think of as a backbend. It's a more advanced backbend exercise that requires flexibility and strength. Lie on your back on an exercise mat with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Begin with your arms down by your side. Then move your hands toward your head and place your palms on the floor beside your ears with your fingers facing your shoulders. Lift your hips off the mat while keeping your head on the floor. Push off the mat with your hands to lift your shoulders off the mat while keeping the top of your head on the floor. Finish by stretching your arms out to lift your head off the mat and get into the full position. Hold the position for a moment and then lower your body to the floor. Complete five to 10 reps.