Stretch Your Way To A Pain Free Back
Inversion tables help to relieve the pressure of gravity off your back, and this lets back muscles relax completely and compressed discs return to their original size.
It feels fantastic, but there are additional benefits to doing other exercises on an inversion table, such as building core strength and flexibility. Let’s take a look at the basics of inversion table use and some of the exercises you can do.
Basics of inversion table usage
When using an inversion table, you’ll want to start slow. First, make sure the height adjustments are set correctly as well as the ankle support system. You may need to wear boots with thick socks depending on your ankle support system and how strong your ankles are for comfort.
For the first couple of weeks, don’t go beyond a 20 degree angle from horizontal – to let your body get used to inversion. Slowly increase the angle over the upcoming weeks until you reach a 60 degree angle.
For most people 60 degrees is sufficient to start seeing serious results in back pain relief, though some like to go deeper still. Certain exercises require a full 90 degree inversion. Most benefits are realized within 30 minutes, so there’s no need to stay on longer than that.
When coming back up, stay in a flat (horizontal) position for a few moments to allow your blood flow to equalize before coming to vertical, otherwise you risk light-headedness and dizziness.
Before You Begin Exercises
It is best if your table has a locking mechanism to hold the inversion angle (such as the Ironman ATIS1000 Inversion Table). Some tables will want to flip to their initial position if you attempt some of these exercises. However, most are possible to do with just a tension strap if your table is well-balanced, and set the height a little shorter to make you top heavy on the table.
For the inverted sit-up exercise, you’ll need to be able to do this in the normal upright position before attempting it inverted. Inverting the body makes this exercise much more difficult because you have to fight against gravity.
This one is really easy. Once you can get into a full inversion, find something you can grab onto (such as the inversion table frame) and pull yourself downward toward the floor. This lengthens your spine even more than gravity alone, but please be gentle. The spine is delicate!
Alternatively, reach your legs up toward the ceiling to stretch your hamstrings and glutes. This is a great preparation for inverted squats. If you cannot perform these two exercises well then hold off on doing any of the others!
Release the locking mechanism on your table if there is one, and lift your arms up and down to gently rock the table back and forth. This gives your arms a stretch and your back muscles a bit of dynamic stretching.
Reach to the side and grab onto the frame. Use the frame to twist your spine from side to side. Again, be gentle! Not just for your spine; if your table isn’t very heavy it could become unstable. Repeat these 3-5 times.
Go to a full 90 degree inversion and relax your legs as much as you can. Place your hands on your head and bend your upper body from side to side as if you were a pendulum in a clock. This opens up the lumbar area of your spine very well. Do at least five swings on each side.
Go to a full 90 degree inversion and grab the headrest with your arms. Push your hips away from the board to stretch your spine forward. Repeat this 5-10 times depending on your comfort level.
Place your hands on opposite shoulders and lift your body up until your shoulder blades are off the backrest. Hold for one second, then lower your body back down. This is a basic abdominal exercise that helps prepare you for full sit-ups.
These are really hard! The more inversion angle you have, the more difficult they become. They are a little different than a standard sit-up. Reach your arms up toward your toes and use your abdominals to crunch forward until you can touch them, then lower yourself back down.
*IMPORTANT!* Inverted crunches/sit-ups can do more harm than good if performed incorrectly. We highly recommend seeing a qualified therapist or personal trainer to teach you the correct method if you are thinking of performing this exercise.
If you trust your ankle supports, you can try this exercise for the hamstrings (which are the opposite set of muscles used for upright squats). From an inverted position, bend your knees upward and pull your body along the backrest as far as you can. You’ll need strong legs to do this exercise.
With these exercises, you can get a complete stretching and strengthening routine for your back and abdominal muscles. I’ll leave you with a final tip. Most inversion tables aren’t suited for weight lifiting, so avoid using free weights while using an inversion table. Happy stretching, and enjoy your inversions!