Backbends are found in yoga -- where they are known as the Weel or Upward Bow pose -- gymnastics and dance. Although a backbend is a stretch in itself, knowing which muscles are supposed to lengthen can help you perform the pose with greater ease. Most of the muscles that are stretched in the backbend are located on the front of the body.
Your upper back does not naturally want to bend backward. To get the most movement in your upper back, think of lifting your ribs toward the ceiling as you perform the backbend. This stretches the muscles that connect the ribs, primarily the internal intercostals.
In a backbend, your hips are extended. This action requires you to stretch your hip flexors. These muscles -- the iliacus, psoas major and rectus femoris -- are located on the front of the hips and thighs. If your hips flexors lack flexibility, backbends can produce a pinching sensation in your lower back.
Chest and Back
Backbends produce a stretch in the pectoralis major and minor. These chest muscles must lengthen so that you can arch your back. Backbends also stretch your latissimus dorsi. This back muscle twists slightly before it attaches to the upper arm. Having your arms over your head, as in the backbend, stretches this muscle.
Backbends also require you to stretch your abdominal muscles to get the maximum amount of bend in your upper back. The abdominal muscles that stretch include the obliques, transversus abdominis and the rectus abdominis. All three of these muscles connect the ribs to the pelvis.
Kat Black is a professional writer currently completing her doctorate in musicology/ She has won several prestigious awards for her research, and has had extensive training in classical music and dance.