Prolonged periods of sitting lead to tightening of the muscles in the lower back and those on the back of the thigh, known as the hamstrings. Tight muscles not only lead to poor posture, but also significantly increase your chances of injury during strenuous activities. Incorporate a stretching routine into your daily regimen to improve your back and hamstring flexibility.
The standing hamstring stretch primarily focuses on the hamstrings with a secondary stretch flexing the muscles of the lower back. Start with your feet together and your arms at your side. Inhale through your nose and slowly exhale through your mouth as you bend forward at the waist. Keep your head in a neutral position with your eyes focused on the floor about 6 inches in front of your toes. Ensure your shoulders are rolled back as your chest moves toward your knees. Bend over as far as you can while still keeping your legs straight. Inhale and exhale three times, and then return to the starting position. Complete two more repetitions.
This seated stretch focuses on the hamstrings. Sitting on the floor with your legs in front of you and feet together, inhale deeply and then exhale as you lower your upper body to the floor. Keep your head neutral by looking at an imaginary spot about 6 inches above the floor in front of you. Continue to exhale as you bend at the waist, lowering your chest toward your knees while placing your hands on your shins. Do not bend your knees. Once you have dropped your chest as close to your knees as possible, hold the position for three inhales and three exhales. Return to the starting position, and complete two more repetitions.
The knee-to-chest stretch works the muscles of the lower back. Lie on the floor with your legs straight and your feet together. Keeping your left leg on the floor, inhale and then exhale as you bring your right knee up and toward your chest. Wrap both hands around the knee and pull it closer to your chest as you continue to exhale. Keep your butt on the floor. Take a deep breath, and then exhale as you return the right leg to the starting position. Repeat on the other side, and complete five repetitions per leg.
The cat pose emphasizes both flexion and extension in the lower back. Start with your hands and knees on the floor with your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Inhale deeply, and then slowly exhale as you pull your abdominal muscles, butt and tailbone up toward the ceiling, rounding your back. Inhale as you return your back to the starting position. Repeat for a total of six to eight repetitions.
Stretching is best done at the end of a training session when your muscles, tendons and ligaments are warm. The increased blood flow improves pliability and makes your efforts to increase flexibility more productive. Move slowly into each stretch, and stop as soon as you feel tension in the muscle. You should not feel any pain when stretching.