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How To Do A Back Twist Exercise

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Updated January 31, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Back Stretch Knee Drop

Back Stretch Knee Drop

Lorenz Timm
A back twist is a whole body exercise that tends to have a lengthening effect throughout the spine. Many people find a back twist helps improve their ability to turn and reach. If you have a back injury or condition, ask your doctor if it's safe for you to twist your spine. Once you've been cleared for a back twist, start gently to get your joints and muscles used to the challenge. This back twist exercise is for beginners and people with back problems. Here is how to do a back twist exercise.
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: 3 min

Here's How:

  1. Start Position of Lower Body and Legs: Lie on your back on a hard surface, preferably the floor. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. If you're wearing socks, remove them, as wearing them may make your feet slip. You want your feet to feel firmly planted on the floor. Take a nice deep breath and let it all out. Take a moment to sense your body weight as it sinks into and is supported by the floor or bed. Let any tension release.
  2. Start Position of the Upper Body And Arms: Extend your arms out to the side. If you put them straight out from your shoulders, this will result in the most extreme stretch to your back. Arms straight out is an ideal position, not a required one. Therefore, adjust the angle of your arms so that you are comfortable but still feel the stretch. (You'll have to try the exercise a few times to identify the optimal position for your arms, so begin with them closer to your side and increase the angle until you get the right stretch for your back.)
  3. Drop The Knees: Let gravity take your knees over to one side. Control the movement just enough so that you don't jar your hips, knees or back on the way down. In other words, your knees should not thump down, but you shouldn't put them into position, either. Let them fall gently to one side. This will result in a twist through your low back. One knee will be stacked on top of the other.
  4. Breathe: Stay in this position for a moment or two and just breathe. As you do, you'll likely feel the stretch and you'll feel your muscles release tension. Enjoy!
  5. Turn Your Head: If you're doing well with this back twist, stay where you are and turn your head to look at the hand on the side opposite to the direction in which your knees point. Just as in the previous step, breathe into this position for a moment or two.
  6. Come Back To The Start Position To return to the start position, unwind in such a way as to avoid causing pain. You can start by bringing your head back first, or your hips and legs first. A more advanced version of this exercise is to bring your head and pelvis/legs back simultaneously. Try to use your pelvis to leverage the weight of your legs, rather than the other way around. This gives you extra strengthening work in your oblique abdominal muscles.
  7. Repeat 3 to 5 times to start. Over time, you can build up the number of reps you do for the back twist exercise.

Tips:

  1. If you find any part of this movement bothers your neck or back, try placing pillows under the area where your knees will land. This will support you and let you stretch without strain.
  2. Experiment with other ways to prop with pillows to make this exercise comfortable.

What You Need

  • A firm, level surfact to lie on.
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  5. Back Twist Exercise - How to Do A Back Twist Exercise

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