Exercises to Improve Flexibility of Your Back and Spine
If you are just joining us, make sure to start at the beginning of this program of exercises to improve flexibility and movement of your spine. Today we’ll demonstrate a challenging, but unusually fun, exercise, the Crab.
The series so far:
- Exercise #1: Rolling Over
- Exercise #2: Seal
- Exercise #3: Crab (you are here)
- Exercise #4: Rocking Chair
- Exercise #5: Extended Legs Back Roll
- Exercise #6: Boomerang
- Exercise #7: Controlled Balance
- Exercise #8: Jackknife
Exercise #3: Crab
Initial position. Sit on an exercise mat and bend your knees and cross them at the ankles. Bend the spine in the form of the letter “C”. Take hold of your feet with the opposite hand (the left hand taking the right foot and the right hand the left foot). Slightly bend your elbows and spread them apart. Thumbs lie on the outer surface of the feet while the remaining fingers go beneath (see the picture). Raise the feet of the mat and bring your knees to your shoulders, keeping the balance on the buttocks:
- Breathing in, roll backwards onto your back;
- Breathing out, roll forward to the original position, and then even further to kneel down and rest against the forehead on the mat. Return to starting position and repeat the exercise 6 times. After the last repetition return to the starting position, staying balanced on the buttocks.
Make Sure You:
- In the 1st phase of the Crab, use the abdominal muscles to tilt the pelvis back and bend your spine evenly in the form of the letter “C” – from the head to the tailbone. At the same time, pull-in your belly, bringing the front the abdomen towards the spine. Use the leg extensor muscles in the hip to lift your feet from the mat and bring the legs close to the chest. Use your arms to help keep the legs close to the body;
- At the beginning of the 2nd phase, give a stronger pull to your stomach and tilting your pelvis back – roll back on the mat; Try not to change the angle of curvature of the spine and the leg flexion in the hip and knee joints;
- To facilitate the transition of the return movement in the 3rd phase of the exercise, use the leg extensor muscles in the hip and thighs to take them a little further from the chest. Arm extensors in the shoulder joint pull your feet in a downward direction towards the buttocks. As mentioned in the analysis of Rolling Over, simultaneous coordinated contraction of the leg extensor muscles at the knee and the bending the arms at the elbow minimizes changes to the position of the body and facilitates its movement as a whole. By pulling on the abdominal muscles even more, bend in the lumbar spine and torso forward (middle of the 3rd phase);
- In the 3rd phase of the exercise, when the head touches the mat, manage carefully the strength and speed of the movement so as not to damage the small vertebrae of cervical spine;
- Returning to the original position by using the leg extensors at the knee and hip joints. This is important for controlling the movements of the pelvis and the knees;
- The most difficult part of the exercise is the movement across the knees and the head touching the mat. Try to keep a mental image of your exercise partner pulling you over the waist to raise your pelvis. The same image can be maintained when returning to the starting position. This will help you perform the movement more easily and smoothly.
Perhaps Crab got its name because of the specific positions of the limbs with the elbows and knees out to the sides. Anyhow, Crab is a complex exercise that should be performed only by those who have already gained experience and mastered the technique of both Rolling Over and Seal. It has much in common with these exercises. It is just as good at stretching the spine extensor muscles and developing coordination assistance of the abdominal muscles. It also refines the skills of using movement inertia and maintaining balance on a small support area. This is why it’s part of the exercises to improve flexibility and strengthen the muscles that support the spine.
However, the Crab presents an additional complexity – continuing the forward movement, building on the knees, which are in a very vulnerable position since they are bent and held strongly to support the entire body weight. In addition, the knees are slightly separated to the sides, which further puts them at risk if the performing technique is compromised.
The end position can create undue stress on the neck, if you are not in control of the movement. Therefore, this exercise is not recommended for those who have problems with their knees, or neck, or have other health issues which may increase the potential risk.
When you perform the Crab, while on the back, you can release the legs and then cross them again. At the same time, they either remain bent at the knees, or they can be straightened, and then bend again (as shown on the image above). This option brings the exercise some variety. Quick change of the positions of the hands and feet requires coordination of many muscles, especially since we cannot disrupt the stability of the center and the smoothness of the overall movement.
Since the introduction of new elements takes time, it is recommended to slightly change the breathing pattern. Exhale in the phase of rolling back, followed by taking a breath when changing the position of the legs. Exhale again during the return movement and breath-in once again when the head hits the mat and the mild stretching of the neck muscles.
Once you’ve had your taste of the Crab, it’s time to move on to through our program of exercises to improve flexibility and movement of your spine.