The Cat/Cow back stretch is a wonderful, balanced exercise for the back because it is both a flexion stretch (cat), and an extension (cow) exercise. It tones and stretches the abdominal muscles, develops flexibility in the spine, and is one of the exercises often recommended for back pain.
Target Muscles Back and Abdominal muscles
Action Desired Flexion and extension of the spine.
Start Position: STEP 1- Start on your hands and knees in a “tabletop” position (Fig. 1). Make sure your knees are set directly below your hips and your wrists, elbows and shoulders are in line and perpendicular to the floor. Center your head in a neutral position, eyes looking at the floor. Your fingers should point forward.
Step 2 Upward (Cat) Phase. Gently exhale. Tuck your tail under and use your abdominal muscles to push your spine upwards towards the ceiling, making the shape of an angry cat (Fig. 2). Hold this position for 10 – 15 seconds. Release your head toward the floor, but don’t force your chin to your chest.
Step 3 Rest in tabletop position (Fig.1) for 3-5 seconds.
Step 4 Downward (Cow) Phase: As you inhale again, slowly rock your pelvis forward, using the abdominal and low back muscles to tip your tail toward the ceiling, increasing the arch in your mid and low back. Allow the belly to stretch toward the floor. Look straight ahead and pull your shoulder blades down your back (Fig. 3). Hold this position for 10 seconds.
Note Be sure to keep the movements slow and controlled. Explore the entire range of movement in both directions. If these movements cause you any pain, please consult your chiropractor.
Repetitions Perform 10 repetitions one to two times a day holding each phase for 10-15 seconds.