If you’ve ever seen a gymnast or an athlete suspended upside down, perhaps doing a headstand, you may have wondered, “what are they even doing?” “What is the benefit of all these?” For some people, these upside-down exercises, known as inversion exercises, are a special form of torture with no apparent benefit. However, if we’ve learned anything from the workout world, it’s that there are no meaningless or unbeneficial workouts.
Here, we explore what inverted exercises are, their benefits and how you can perform some of them.
Inversion exercise is a type of exercise therapy in which your body is suspended upside down. The purpose of the inverted exercise is to stretch your spine and help relieve back pain. When suspended upside down, your body’s gravity is shifted, and your back releases the pressure, providing traction for your spine. This type of exercise is beneficial to people who have scoliosis, sciatica, chronic lower back pain, and poor circulation. Inversion exercise helps straighten up the spinal curves and stretch the muscles around the spine.
Inversion exercise might look like a form of torture, but it can help relieve back pain in the long run. It is a form of therapy that works with gravity and your body weight to help pull your backbone apart, helping to increase space between the vertebrae and, in turn, making movement more comfortable. This exercise reduces nerve pressure and, thus, relief from pain.
Inverted exercise helps to stay refreshed, energized, and revitalized. It takes gravitational pressure off your nerves and spinal disks. Suspending your body upside down for a minute or two helps increase balance and physical strength. It brings the body to equilibrium, making you more comfortable and lighter on your feet. Besides the physical benefits, inversion exercises have numerous mental health benefits. These exercises are effective in treating depression and anxiety. It also relieves arthritis aches and reduces wrinkles and inflammation.
The benefits of inverted exercises are numerous. Some studied and observed benefits of this kind of exercise include;
Inverted exercise helps to relieve back pain and stiff backs. This exercise is best for people who carry heavy loads on their backs or those whose work causes them to sit for long hours, causing bad postures.
The disks are meant to protect the spinal nerves and the spines and act as shock absorbers; however, the spine becomes vulnerable to injury and less mobile when dehydrated. Inverted exercise helps to reverse the pull of gravity, decompress the spine and create space between the vertebrae. It also helps to rehydrate the discs by absorbing moisture into soft tissue and plumping them.
Inversion exercise helps to support the lymphatic system in the body. Inversion exercise helps to improve the flow of lymph, which is important for cleansing. The lymphatic system helps maintain a healthy immune system and drains waste cells from across the body. Doing inversion exercises helps to support this drainage by increasing the force of gravity, especially in the legs; this causes the waste to free up and move easily.
Inversion exercise aid digestion by stimulating stronger peristalsis. Peristalsis is the movement of the gut walls to push food downwards. The colon comprises the ascending and descending portions, and the stomach has the tricky task of pushing food against gravity in the ascending colon. However, inversion exercises change the direction of gravity and thus allow this food to easily move through the ascending colon, thus, giving the stomach a break.
Inversion exercises also improve blood flow to the gut muscles, which stimulates peristalsis and aids digestion.
Tension reduces oxygen supply to the muscles and reduces lymph flow through the muscles. These result in waste accumulation, slower post-workout recovery, and muscle stress. Thus, muscle tension is associated with several conditions, including; sore backs, stiffness, headaches, etc.
Inversion exercises improve blood, oxygen, and lymph flow to muscles, helping to relieve muscle tension and the problems that result from it.
Other benefits of inversion exercises are:
- Posture and overall balance
- Increases concentration and self-confidence
- Reverses the aging process
- Boosts positive energy
- Increases immune strength
- Increased heart health
- Works as a natural antidepressant
- Improving muscle strength
- Helps detoxify the body
- Builds core and upper body strength
- Stimulates creativity
- Balances the glandular, hormonal, and endocrine system
The type of inversion exercises depends on the equipment used for the exercise.
- Inversion Tables: Inversion exercise with inversion tables helps stretch your back when you stand on them upside down. Inversion exercises with tables allow you to do torso rotations and ab crunches.
- Inversion chairs: Inversion exercises with chairs allow you to sit upside down instead of stand.
- Gravity (inversion) boots: Inversion exercise boots make it easier for you to hang upside down as they are heavy-duty ankle wraps boots.
- Alternative methods: Alternative methods of inversion exercise are plow pose, handstands, should stands, headstands, aerial yoga, etc.
It is important to note that inversion therapy is not meant for everyone. This is because there are risks involved for people with certain conditions. Suspending upside decreases the heart rate, increases blood pressure, and puts pressure on your eyeballs. Therefore, you should avoid inversion exercise if you are under these conditions:
- Heart conditions
- Elderly (depending on the individual)
- Bone and joint disorders like osteoporosis, fractures, spinal injuries, herniated disk, etc.
- Cerebral sclerosis
- People suffering from severe inflammation
- Ear infection
- High blood pressure
- Pregnant women
- Retinal detachment
- Glaucoma or an eye condition
- Recovering from surgery
- Weak spine or cervical problems
- Severe nearsightedness
When incorporating the inversion technique into your workout, it is important that you prepare your body and your mind for the exercise. There are full inverted poses and semi-inverted poses you can try out for your exercise.
- Forward Fold: To do the forward fold semi-inverted exercise, stand at a wider than hip-distance, then interlock the fingers behind the back with your arms straight. Keep your spine stretched and swing your head forwards towards the floor. Do this and breathe.
- Downward dog: Assume a plank stance with your shoulders on top of your wrists and your legs out long. Keep your arms and legs straight, and press your hips up and back to form a triangle. Shoulders and neck should be relaxed. As you breathe into the position, extend your fingers, straighten your spine, and stretch the backs of your legs.
- L-Pose: Lie flat on your back with your legs straight and together. To make an “L” form, raise both legs parallel to the body. This can also be done by leaning against a wall. When doing an inversion exercise, it is important that you always listen to your intuition so as know when to stop or when you feel uncomfortable.
- Inverted Bicep Curls
The first step is to attach cables, face the tower downwards and then roll down until your spine is flat on the glide board. Use your heels to hook on the edges of the glide for stability. After this, perform bicep curls by hovering the back of the arm off of the glide board. To make advanced inverted bicep curls, lift your legs with your knees bent over at 90 degrees or stretch your legs straight to activate your core.
- Inverted Lat Raise
In the inverted lat raise technique, assume the same body position as above with cables attached. Then raise the arms out to the sides or the front from the inverted position. Lift your legs to 90 degrees or stretch them straight for core activation to make advanced moves.
- Roll Over
The first step for the roll-over method is to disconnect the cables and stay facing the tower. Then cup the edge of the glide board and roll down to a lying or horizontal position. Bend your legs to 90 degrees and straighten them towards the tower. Lift your hips as your legs lengthen overhead. Engage your spine as you roll back to the glide board. Separate your legs on the roll-over and roll down for an advanced roll-over technique.
- Bridge with Hamstring Curl
Sit on the floor facing the tower and mount the glide board. Roll back to a lying position and cup your hands around under the glide board to stay in place. Raise your hips into a bridge position, creating a straight line between knees and shoulders. Press your weight to your heels, and then stretch your legs out and in to challenge the hamstrings.
- Inverted Outer Thighs
Attach cables, and sit on top of the glide board while facing the tower and holding onto the handles. Assume an upside-down lying/horizontal position on the glide board and place the outer sides of your feet against the cables. Open your legs to each side and hold onto the cables. You can add static hold, pulses, or crunch as your legs are extended for the advanced method.
Inversion exercise is known to help relieve back pain. Inversions are powerful, fun, adventurous, and playful exercises. However, it is important that you consult your physician to know if inversion exercise is best for you, as some conditions can restrict you from doing inversion exercise. Speak to your physician before trying an inversion exercise.