Healthy back expertise: The plow pose

Have you ever considered which stretches truly create lasting effects? Stretching is part of any complete fitness program and whether you are a serious athlete or recreational fitness buff, you most likely practice at least a few good stretches to relieve tight muscles.

You may not be aware that by choosing stretches that target the back muscles you're also choosing to enjoy greater ease and comfort while simply driving your car, sitting at your desk, and even while sleeping.

As much we stand to benefit from stretching in general, it is possible that stretching our back muscles is the most beneficial to overall health in movement and builds a foundation of good postural habits every moment of life.

Stretch for a healthy back

Considering a plethora of stretches being taught in fitness and yoga, stretches that focus on back muscles are prevalent because a healthy back directly determines your ability to move without pain and function in activities of daily living as well as sports and recreation.

For instance, when a sore calf muscle or tired arm muscles are nagging we can still conduct an ordinary day. Occasionally, over-the-counter pain medications are needed to relieve symptoms, but the situation is not life altering. In contrast, sore, tired and/or injured back muscles can be debilitating, causing immobility and prompting a visit to the chiropractor.

If the pain becomes chronic, prescription pain medications will be an option but drugs of this caliber may be habit forming. If you suffer from chronic back aches, there are numerous back stretches to aid in prevention of serious back ailments. One of the best is plow stretch, but quite often the positioning of this stretch is misunderstood, even by fitness experts.

The plow pose

Plow pose is a terrific stretch for the back muscles (and hamstring muscles of the legs) and makes a nice addition to a floor stretch routine but is contraindicated according to fitness rules. This implies that performing plow has been deemed unsafe for several populations therefore the general public is advised against it. However, if it is executed with skill and care results are powerful and no one should miss out.

Plow is also an essential yoga pose. With yoga rapidly becoming part of the fitness world, you may have a desire to try a yoga class. What a good idea to have jump start knowledge for a pose that is potentially dangerous. With those words of caution, let us learn plow.

Plow stretch is a basic movement that is undoubtedly familiar. Often, Plow is done with poor form causing stress on the back of the neck. Beware of the natural tendency to allow weight to fall into the neck and back of the head. Body weight must be held and controlled by the arms with hands placed on the lower back.

It's important to keep the spine as straight as possible, not rounded. Making an effort to lift your buttocks toward the ceiling will not only encourage a straight back but will help keep body weight correctly distributed. You may need to bend your knees and let feet come off the floor to feel your spine straighten.

Positioning of the spinal column must take precedence over leg and feet position. Use your elbows on the floor to adjust. If you experience burning or shooting pain in the neck muscles, come out of the position you immediately! The potency of the stretch is fierce. For best results, learn it as a process going a little deeper when it feels good and coming out when it doesn't. Do it slow and continue to breathe.

Extra cautions

Never turn your head to the side! Keep head centered. This stretch is NOT recommended for those with glaucoma, untreated high blood pressure, migraine headaches or previous injury to the cervical spine. If you are concerned about safety in this exercise, please consult a health professional before proceeding.

Monica Schmidt has a BS in exercise science and health promotion and has been teaching fitness and yoga for 10 years. She can be reached at 561-789-8080. For more information on yoga classes, please visit

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