Contortionist's Back-Stretching Exercises for Front Bending

Front bending is based on flexibility about the hip joint.
i Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images

Contortionists are known for their remarkable flexibility and the ability to demonstrate dramatic bending of their bodies. Contortionists are popular acts in circuses and acrobatic performances, such as those showcased by Cirque du Soleil. One of the contortionist's skill sets is front bending where the upper body folds forward at the waist with the legs straight. To improve your front bending abilities, you will need to increase the flexibility of your lower back as well as your hamstrings.

Back Warm-Up

Before you start stretching to open up your lower back, hips and hamstrings, begin your session with a gentle warm-up movement that will increase blood flow to the muscles and tendons you are about to work. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart and, looking straight ahead, bend at your knees and lower your hips toward the floor. Keep your upper back straight and your heels on the ground. If your heels raise up, place a folded towel underneath them. In the bottom position, your elbows will be between your knees. Hold this position for 30 seconds as you take deep inhales and exhales.

Standing Front Bend

Start by standing with your feet shoulder width apart. Keeping your legs straight, slowly bend forward at the waist, keeping a flat black. Imagine pulling your chest to your knees, not your head. Once you've reached the farthest position you can, grab your legs with your hands, as close to the ankles as possible, and pull your chest closer to your knees. Count to five, gradually increasing the stretch on each count. At five, hold the last position for one inhale and exhale of your breath, then slowly release and return to the starting position. You can increase the difficulty of this exercise by moving your feet closer together.

Front Flex

The front flex will improve your lower back flexibility when doing front bends while on the ground. Start by lying on your back and, keeping both legs straight, bring your right leg back toward your right shoulder as if you are doing the splits. Focus on bringing the knee to the ear while keeping your left leg on the ground. Gradually move the leg as far into the stretch position as comfortable and hold at the farthest point, using your arms as leverage to pull the leg closer to your shoulder. Hold the right leg in position and bring the left leg up and toward your shoulder. Hold both legs in the stretched position for 10 seconds before lowering to the starting position.

Chair Stretch

The chair stretch is nearly identical to the seated front bend but allows for a greater range of motion in the lower back. Start by sitting on a chair and placing each leg on its own chair in front of you with your legs spread as wide as you comfortably can. Lean forward at the waist and drop your chest to the floor. As your flexibility increases, your head, shoulders and chest, will drop below the level of the chairs. Hold your deepest position for a count of 10 before releasing and returning to the starting position.

the nest