USA Water Ski & Wake Sports

Fitness - Tips For A Healthy Back

This article first appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of The Water Skier magazine, the official publication of USA Water Ski & Wake Sports. If you are not a member of USA Water Ski & Wake Sports and you are interested in receiving the quarterly magazine, join now.


Written by Megan Lambert

Photography by Scott N. Atkinson

Megan Lambert Slalom SkiingHow many skiers do you know wear a back brace when they ski, or complain about lower back pain?

You can probably name a few skiers in your club or at your lake that fit this description.

Because of the intense nature of slalom skiing, lower back stiffness can be a common problem and I think it is important to look at the root cause. Is your lower back tight because of an injury to the bone, joint or muscles? Or is the stiffness caused by overuse, imbalanced muscles, or standing with one foot in front of the other on a slalom ski?

If the answer is an acute injury or a disc issue, then this article is not for you. But, if the cause is muscular imbalance, fatigue, or the unnatural athletic stance of water skiing, then stay tuned.

So, what do you do if you have a tournament coming up and your lower back is feeling tight and aggravated?

The answer…sit on the couch and watch TV. Just kidding.

Although there are times when passively resting for an acute injury is important; you can actively help relieve tension in your lower back to help your muscles feel better. Here are several exercises and stretches you can do to feel stronger and prepared for your future practice sets and competitions.          

Stretch Your Hamstrings

It is no secret that tight hamstrings lead to a tight lower back. Your hamstrings attach to your pelvis and are one of many muscle groups to do so. If a muscle group is consistently applying more tension to the pelvis than the surrounding muscles, then imbalances occur. In this case, tight hamstrings can lead to a rotated pelvis and painful lower back.

Regularly stretching your hamstrings is one way to prevent these muscle imbalances. One of my favorite hamstring stretches is to lie on your back with one leg elevated off the ground. Wrap an exercise band or towel around the ball of your foot and gently pull your leg toward your chest until you feel a moderate stretch in the back of your leg.

Mobilize Your Hip Flexors

Just like the hamstrings, your hip flexors also affect your lower back. While the hamstrings are located on the back of your leg, your hip flexors are located on the front and attach to your spine. Much like the hamstrings, this means that tightness in this muscle group will have an affect on your pelvis and lower back musculature.

One of my favorite ways to relieve tension in your hip flexors is to do a half kneeling stretch. For this stretch, kneel on the ground with one foot behind you and one foot in front. After engaging your core and maintaining an upright posture, slowly shift forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your hip.

Spend More Time Standing

Lastly, a lifestyle tip that I alluded to earlier to prevent lower back pain is to stand as much as possible. Remember my joke about sitting and watching TV? Well, the sitting position promotes tight hip flexors and disengaged hamstrings. So, if you have a career where you sit most of the time, getting up and taking a walk at lunch can do wonders to give your back a break and promote proper biomechanics for water skiing.

Megan Lambert, CSCS, can be found competing in local tournaments and working at the SkiSeth Waterski Training Center on John’s Island, S.C.