Office workers and anybody who tends to sit a lot will find these exercises very helpful in alleviating problems and symptoms associated with prolonged sitting. If you are diagnosed with a spinal or back injury, consult with your doctor if these exercises are suitable for you.
The series so far:
- Exercise #1: Cat-Cow
- Exercise #2: Back Extension
- Exercise #3: Back Stretching
- Exercise #4: Heel Kick (you are here)
- Exercise #5: Double Impact
- Exercise #6: Swimming
- Exercise #7: Stomach Rolls
- Exercise #8: Diving Swan
Please make sure to start from the 1st exercise and only after perfecting it work your way up to the more demanding ones to ensure a gradual progression and avoiding any injuries. For example, if you are out of shape and just starting out, it may take several weeks before you’ll feel comfortable of advancing to a follow-up exercise. Remember not to push yourself too hard, a smart stretch must be controlled, gentle and continuous.
Initial position. Lie on your stomach and leaning on the arms, lift the upper torso. The forearm should be placed so that the angle between the shoulder and the body was about 90 degrees. The hands are clenched into fists and touching each other. Legs are extended and closed, toes slightly pointed.
- Inhale. Lift both legs about 5 cm from the floor. Vigorously bend one leg at the knee, trying to touch the buttocks with the heel;
- Exale. In the same energetic movement straighten your leg at the knee, bending the other one and going for the buttocks. Repeat the exercise 20 times (10 per leg).
Make Sure You:
- Stretch the abdominal muscles during the exercise. Try to pull them up to limit the forward tilt of the pelvis;
- When raising the upper body control the lean with the forearms on the mat. This will activate the extensor arm muscles in the shoulder joint, and the extensors of the back. At the same time slightly lower and ease the shoulder blades;
- In the intended position, lift the feet off the mat only to such a height that allows you to do the exercise without tilting the pelvis forward. Keep legs at this height during the entire exercise;
- In the intended position, when bending the leg at the knee joint for a ‘heel kick’ towards the buttocks, the power and amplitude of this movement should not cause discomfort in the knee;
- Keep the movement of the feet locked in the knee joints. The body, however, must remain stable and motionless.
Heel kick is a very useful exercise for strengthening the stability of the back muscles. The spine extensors hold the body of the mat with some additional support from the arms. The movement of the feet is aimed at trying to challenge this stability and simultaneously improve tone and endurance of the back and thigh muscle groups, which is necessary not only to keep the feet in the air, but also to bend the knees. As with the previous exercises, the abdominal muscles play an important stabilizing function, limiting the forward tilt of the pelvis and avoiding hyper-extension of the lumbar spine. This is a crucial skill you’ll find invaluable for the more complex exercises later in this series.
If you feel discomfort in your back, limit the extension of the spine by moving your elbows a little further forward with the head resting on the hands.
On the other hand, if you place your elbows just below the shoulder joints, you’ll increase the extension of the spine and give the back and abdominal muscles a bigger load (which means extreme caution should be exercised).