Updated: May 11, 2020
It's pretty amazing how many people simply cannot touch their toes! Back pain and the inability to touch your toes often go hand in hand.
If you are one of these individuals, its time to start improving your ability to simply bench over and touch your toes. The inability to bend forward, is a back pain waiting to happen. No matter if you think, "I'll never touch my toes", "I've never been able to touch them.", you will be able to touch your toes if you work on it! I promise there was a point in time when you could touch them easily!
Think about it... every time you bend over to pick up something off the ground, if you do not possess the ability touch your toes, you're going to compensate somewhere and your spine is going to be loaded more than it should be. I know what you're thinking, " But I don't bend over with straight legs"..."I squat to pick things up off the ground"..."insert rebuttal here." Those things all definitely may be true. But you need to be able to touch your toes! If we cannot flex our spine and our hips the way we need to; we are putting excessive pressure on the spine, which may lead to future back pain.
The reasons behind the inability to touch your toes will differ for everyone. It may be a true spinal or posterior chain mobility problem. It may be a spinal stability problem which is limiting your motion in forward flexion. Maybe its just that you do not know how to physically make your body bend forward in the way it was meant to do.
To work on fixing your forward flexion, we are going to focus on improving the movement pattern of forward flexion. Below are three exercises in which will help you touch your toes and most likely improve your back pain.
1) Active Hamstring Lowers:
1) Find a door frame or a vertical portion of the rig at the gym
2) Get your butt as close to the wall as you can and sit with both your legs raised into a L shape against the wall. One leg should be on the post or edge of the door frame, the other should have nothing behind it but in the same position as the other leg.
3) Slowly lower the leg that is not supported by the wall, down to the ground, then slowly move it back up into the air.
4) Repeat this for 30-120s.
The leg you should feel the stretch In is the non moving leg.
2) Banded Walk ups:
1) Step into a band of moderate tension and place the band around your hips.
2) Keep your feet together and legs straight and lower yourself down to a plank position. 3) walk your hands towards your feet while keeping your legs straight. Go until you cannot go any further and walk your hands back out. 4) Perform these reps slow and controlled and perform 15-20 reps.
3) Band Assisted Toe Touch
1) Set up 2 bands of moderate band tension or use the cross over symmetry bands
2) Put your feet together and lie down on your back, make sure you have tension on the bands
3) Tuck the chin and roll your body up slowly segment by segment
4) hold yourself for 2-3 seconds at end range
5) then slowly segment by segment roll yourself back down to the starting position.
Perform 10-20 reps on a slow tempo then retest your forward flexion.
Give them a try and then reassess how it feels to bend over and touch your toes? Don't expect miracles if you haven't touched your toes in 30 years. But, you should see some improvement. Spend 10-15 minutes 3-5 days a week working on these exercises. You'll see that your back feels less stiff and you will see improvements over time!
Questions about the content within this post?
Trying to find a way to resolve your problems [at the root], return to the workouts you love, and avoid an unnecessary surgery, medication, or injection?
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Send me an email at Tancini@groundtooverheadphysicaltherapy.com .
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Dr. Michael Tancini, DPT, PT, CSCS, CF-L1, Pn1