Inherent lower-back inflexibility, or substantially improvable?

Discussion in 'Health and Fitness' started by djdejong, Oct 24, 2017.

  1. djdejong

    djdejong New Member

    If I could improve only one aspect of my day-to-day biomechanics, it would be how my lower-back tends to sit on my hips:


    This has always been this way despite working bridges and hamstring flexibility, though admittedly I haven't really focused with any sort of rigour on fixing the issue as progress has always been so frustratingly elusive. In the image above, this is the position my back naturally curves into – and I can't comfortable sit this way without support for long. The same issue occurs when otherwise seated without back support, such as cross-legged.

    Moreover, even if I do have back support, such as in a chair, the force pushing from my lower back against the support – as you could imagine in how my lower-back protrudes backward over my hips – tends to push my butt away from the back support, creating an increasingly slouched position the longer I'm seated.

    The result is that, in a world where sitting is so common, I'm often not comfortable – hence why this would be an aspect of my biomechanics I'd first choose to improve over any other.

    Here's me doing some hamstring stretches to show how the lower-back/hip issue persists despite above average hamstring flexibility:



    Here are some questions I have:
    -What is the likely issue with my biomechanics (please let me know if more info is needed) that's causing this?
    -Given that that's the issue, can I improve it – and to what extent can I improve it?
    -What specific exercises can I do to bring about this improvement?

  2. Dead_pool

    Dead_pool the merc with the mouth MAP 2017 Moi Award

    That'll be a big part of the problem then, focus on it, and it'll have a bigger effect!
    axelb likes this.
  3. Mangosteen

    Mangosteen Hold strong not

    Why do you want lower back flexibility?
  4. Smitfire

    Smitfire Cactus Schlong

    Looks plenty flexible to me.
  5. Ben Gash CLF

    Ben Gash CLF Valued Member

    Yeah, indeed I'd say the biggest problem is that he's not engaging his lower back, rather than it being stiff per se.
  6. axelb

    axelb Master of Office Chair Fu

    I have had the same problem, and still do to some extent.

    Many years of flexibility training I have done never really focused on back flexibly, always legs, this is part of my problem. Also a desk worker 40+hours a week.

    It was highlighted to me when I did freestyle wrestling which has a lot more focus on it.

    Part of what I see, which was the same with me is you just need more focus on all over flexibility, you may be about to touch your feet, but doing that your back should have little flex in it to show better form, it's not a bad thing, just not great form when doing that stretch.

    Also strength plays a big part (often neglected) towards flexibility training.
  7. djdejong

    djdejong New Member

    were you able to increase your back flexibility significantly, and if so what exercises were helpful?
  8. Dead_pool

    Dead_pool the merc with the mouth MAP 2017 Moi Award

    Just doing the same exercises but keeping your back straight would be a easy start.
    Ben Gash CLF and axelb like this.
  9. Fish Of Doom

    Fish Of Doom Will : Mind : Motion Supporter

    First of all: if possible, go see a physical therapist or similar professional actually qualified to screen you for movement and posture dysfunctions and fix them efficiently.

    Second: identify what the actual issue is. Do not assume, study, assess, and know, or as per the point above, ideally see someone who already knows how to accurately determine it. It'd be extremely easy to default to stuff like "oh, your lower back is weak", "oh, your psoas needs work", or whatever, but it's also extremely easy to be wrong in doing so, and potentially end up causing harm. Look at how the bones articulate, look at the muscles that move those joints, the ligaments that hold them together, see if you can voluntarily move said muscles, what your active ranges of motion are, if anything hurts, if anything feels tight, or if it's physically hard to execute the movements of each joint in different postures. If you had someone coaching who knew all that coaching you through the movements, you may very well end up with a resolved issue in 10 minutes flat, but unless you can see a physio (or an extremely competent personal trainer) you're left with self-experimentation, and for that, you need to start from a base of knowledge. Know your body first, then you know what you can try and how to interpret the results.
    axelb likes this.
  10. axelb

    axelb Master of Office Chair Fu

    General all over stretching.
    Your best route is to follow @Fish Of Doom advice and see a physical therapist, they will pick up on things that aren't visible in a picture.

    The immediate obvious items from the picture are that your hip isn't rotating forward, this is likely a combination of items - for me it was hamstring flexibility, hip flexor strength and general spine mobility.
    It is fairly common that people do this stretch by reaching for their legs/feet, rather than think about what the actual stretch is for, keep your back straight and rotate your hip forwards to stretch the hamstrings correctly without "reaching" for your feet.
  11. Morik

    Morik Well-Known Member Supporter MAP 2017 Gold Award

    I've had low back issues since I was around 19 years old. For me, I stretch my hip flexors regularly & get regular massage hitting the soaz/hip flexors through the front of my stomach area, which feels kinda uncomfortable.
    Stretching for about 10 minutes gets me from "can't really move like that without a moderate amount of pain" to painless or nearly painless movement.

    When I go to Muay Thai, I try to arrive early enough to do a bit of yoga for the back:
    - lying on your back, cross one ankle over the other, rock your hips side to side. 10x, then switch which ankle is crossed over the other. (Both legs basically straight.)
    - lying on your back, put your feet flat on the floor with a big bend in your knees. Drop knees to each side, keeping shoulders planted. Can help to have your arms stretched out wide in a T and planting your hands palm down on the floor.
    - then I stretch my hip flexors & do cat-cow stretch if I have enough time.

    But the best thing for you to do will depend on your exact issues. +1 to seeing a physical therapist.
    axelb likes this.
  12. Van Zandt

    Van Zandt Mr. High Kick

    Sports physical therapist here.

    Disclaimer: Advice given over the Internet is no replacement for hands-on examination, assessment and/or treatment performed by a therapist who sees you in person. My writing is based on the limited words and images you provided in your post and therefore cannot address all issues that may or may not exist.

    A problem with the positions you demonstrate in your photos is that they are not an accurate test of posterior chain (back, glutes, hamstrings, calves) range of motion because of the ease with which thoracic and cervical spine flexion can contribute to false positive results. A more accurate test for flexibility of the hamstring muscle group (biceps femoris, semitendinosis, semimembranosus) is the straight leg raise.

    But before testing muscle length, I would address possible motor control issues in the hip and pelvis complex. For example, your photos appear to indicate a posteriorly tilted pelvis. This could be due to hypertonic (short and tight) hamstrings, glutes and abs, or long and weak hip flexors and spinal erectors. But I would first give you instruction on how to actively rotate the pelvis anteriorly and posteriorly, and also how to properly hip hinge. This may correct the issue of not being seated on your "sitting bones" (ischial tuberosity) and place emphasis of the stretch on the hamstrings.

    On a personal note, I would eliminate toe-touching stretches from your training programme because better exercises exist, and such positions carry an inherent risk of rounding the back when leaning forward (as you do in your photos). Rounding the lower back can overstretch its muscles and ligaments and cause a lifetime of back pain.

    Finally, why do you want to increase flexibility in the toe-touching stretches? These positions have very limited functional carryover to most sports and daily living activities; the case may be that there is in fact nothing to fix.
    axelb and Dead_pool like this.

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