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As you age and perform day-to-day activities, the vertebrae of your spine become compressed, often leading to irritating back pain and stiffness. While expensive gravity boots offer one option for stretching out your spine, a simple chinup bar at the gym or at home does the trick. Stretching the vertebrae with a chinup bar, a form of spinal decompression, is as simple as hanging from the bar for a few minutes at a time. Try this easy and effective stretch before your workout routine, especially if your regimen includes back-intensive exercises such as pullups, rows or deadlifts. Consult a doctor if you are new to exercise, have been inactive for a long time, or have any existing back pain.
Grasp the chinup bar with both hands, using either an overhand or underhand grip. Place your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. If you're not used to doing pullups, use a sturdy step stool to reach the bar.
Bend your knees so your feet don't touch the floor. Cross your feet at the ankles if it makes holding your legs steady easier for you. Allow your body to hang. Breathe steadily and deeply. Let your body relax completely until you feel your tension drain from head to toe.
Hang for as long as you comfortably can, or until you feel a loosening of tension in your spine. This exercise stretches out the vertebrae of the thoracic and lumbar regions. It also loosens the shoulder muscles; if done properly, you should feel a release of tension in the upper and lower back as well as the shoulders at the end of the stretch. With regular practice, you'll be able to hang longer on the bar each time.
- Use chalk to increase your grip strength if you have trouble holding on to the bar.
- Once you've mastered hanging from the bar, vary your grip to stretch new muscle groups. Try a wider, narrower, overhand or underhand grip. If you're very comfortable hanging, try a one-handed hang to stretch your shoulders.
- Use this hanging stretch as a segue into doing pullups; this bodyweight exercise works the back, shoulders, arms and abs.