This is the one exercise a physical therapist says you should be doing if you suffer from lower-back pain

Improve your posture, and strengthen your upper and lower back with this simple move you can do at home

Woman lies on her front, head and hand propped up on a Pilates ball, looking at a tablet. Her hair is tied in a ponytail and she is wearing sportswear
(Image credit: filmstudio / Getty Images)

Back pain is an all too common occurrence. If you work a desk job or find yourself slouching a lot, stretching to promote more flexibility and range of motion in your spine is a good idea. Movements that strengthen the muscles in and around your back could help to reduce tension too.

Alysha Eibl is a physiotherapist at Complete Pilates and knows how much back pain can affect people's lives. "Lower back pain is something we see a lot," she tells me.

There's one movement she often recommends to her patients who are dealing with back tension. Unlike exercises that are focused only on the lower back, this one, known as the dart, works the upper back too.

"Upper-back strength affects your posture and how much pressure you put on your lower back," says Eibl.

Strengthening the whole area can support a healthy spine and relieve tension, which is particularly important as the muscles in the back weaken with too much sitting down.

The dart is an exercise you can incorporate into your strength workouts or mobility routines. It is accessible for all fitness levels and doesn’t require any equipment, although a Pilates mat—typically thicker than a yoga mat—will be welcome since you will be lying face down. (There's 25% off this deluxe Stott Pilates mat on Amazon right now.)

How to do the dart

How to do Pilates Exercises: Dart - YouTube How to do Pilates Exercises: Dart - YouTube
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  • Lie on your front with your forehead on the floor.
  • Moving slowly and with control, lift your head an inch or so off the mat. Keep your chin tucked down towards your throat so the back of your neck is long.
  • Place your arms by your sides with your palms facing up. Gently draw your shoulder blades together, thinking about lengthening from the collar bones at the front. Try to lift your chest and hands off the floor. If this feels like a challenge, hold this position and leave step four until this position begins to feel easier.
  • To increase the intensity, lengthen your legs, press your big toes together and slowly lift your legs off the floor, so your body is shaped like a banana. Your pubic bone should be gently pressed into the floor. Think about drawing your belly button towards your spine to engage your core.
  • Hold for 30-45 seconds.

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Alice Porter
Freelancer Writer

Alice Porter is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle topics including health, fitness and wellness. She is particularly interested in women's health, strength training and fitness trends and writes for publications including Stylist Magazine, Refinery29, The Independent and Glamour Magazine. Like many other people, Alice's personal interest in combining HIIT training with strength work quickly turned into a CrossFit obsession and she trains at a box in south London. When she's not throwing weights around or attempting handstand push-ups, you can probably find her on long walks in nature, buried in a book or hopping on a flight to just about anywhere it will take her.