This Simple Exercise Can Simultaneously Help Relieve Low Back Pain and Ease Tight Hamstrings, According to a PT

Photo: Getty Images/Westend61
There’s really no such thing as a cure-all in the world of wellness. But this simple daily exercise from Anne Collins Duch, DPT, of Physical Therapy for Women in Delaware, might come pretty dang close.

Tight hamstrings? Lower back pain? Weak pelvic floor? Just had a baby? Dr. Duch says this quick but effective move might be useful to you because it will help you connect with your “core canister,” strengthen your hamstrings, and activate your inner thighs—and you probably won’t even break a sweat. (Plus, it actually feels really good, trust us.)

In a recent Instagram post, Dr. Duch wrote, "I recommended a version of this several times this week for someone with back pain, someone with 'tight' hamstrings, and someone trying to re-establish a connection with their core canister after having a baby."

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So, uh, what’s your core canister?

Nowadays, when fitness figures talk about the “core,” they often mean your abdominals. But your core canister actually encompasses your diaphragm, abdominals, hips, back, and pelvic floor, Dr. Duch says. So many of our aches and pains in this area come from strength imbalances, leading to some muscles doing more work than others in order to compensate.

This particular exercise is so powerful because it fires up all these muscle groups at once. “We want to make sure that all areas of that canister are being asked to help out,” Dr. Duch says. “It distributes the work throughout the core canister more evenly.”

Give it a shot

Want to give this holy grail exercise a try for yourself? Here’s how to do it:

  1. Lie on your back with your feet propped up at a 90-degree angle on a couch or chair.
  2. Place a squishy ball or a rolled-up towel between your inner thighs, and press your lower back to the floor.
  3. Inhale, flex your feet, and press your heels into the couch or chair until your butt is hovering just an inch or two off the ground while gently squeezing the ball between your legs.
  4. Do three to five long, steady breaths while hovering. Think about expanding your ribcage on the inhale and drawing your pelvic floor up on the exhale.
  5. Slowly lower your butt back to the floor and shake out your muscles.
  6. Repeat that three to five times.

A word of warning: This can sometimes be a lot for your hamstrings. If you find that yours are cramping up when you hover, Dr. Duch suggests keeping your butt on the floor and just gently pressing your heels into the couch or chair. This will still activate and strengthen the hamstrings without leaving you limping.

Try incorporating this circuit into your daily routine, either as a standalone exercise or as a warmup, and see how your back, hips, and hamstrings feel. It may not be a cure-all, but it could save you a pricey trip to the chiro.

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