4 Simple Back and Leg Stretches

How to Do the McKenzie Press Up Exercise

The McKenzie Press Up Exercise is ideal for decreasing lower back and leg pain and strain caused by disc problems or sciatica. It’s important to note that if this exercise increases your pain level or causes tingling or numbness, you’ll want to stop immediately and consult a professional. 

Also Known As

  • Prone Press Ups
  • McKenzie Method



McKenzie Press Up - Exercises and Stretches for Low Back and Leg Pain


Lower back and core / abdominal muscles. 

Step by Step Instructions

  1. On a firm mattress or on the floor, lay on your front
  2. Keeping your pelvis and hips down, position your hands shoulder-width apart
  3. Press up slightly, so there is a bend in your elbows and your torso is off the ground
  4. Hold for 3-5 seconds and slowly bring your torso back down
  5. This time, press up higher and hold for another 3-5 seconds
  6. As you press higher (within your comfort level) you’ll feel a bend in your lower back and you should feel the pain in your legs work its way up to your back. This is normal and it’s good.
  7. Repeat 5 times to start, working your way up 10-15 of these stretches each day.

Tips/Common Mistakes

  • If laying on your front is uncomfortable, place a pillow underneath your pelvis to relieve some of the pressure
  • If the pain decreases with a pillow, try removing the pillow 
  • If you experience numbness, pain, or tingling in your toes, stop immediately
  • Work your way up to a full press up slowly to prevent injury

[Video Transcript]

McKenzie Press-Up for Low Back Pain

I know that some of you are experiencing low back and possibly leg pain due to a disc problem. So I’m going to teach you some exercises to help relieve a lot of that low back tension, pain, and decrease symptoms in your leg.

The first exercise we’re going to do is something called the McKenzie press-up. You’re going to lie on your front, and you can do this on the ground or you can do this on your bed. It looks like this. So I’m going to lie on my front. Now, some of you will find that just lying like this puts a lot of strain on your low back and increases your leg pain. So try putting a pillow underneath your pelvis or your hips, and you might need two pillows, and lie here. If you notice the pain start decreasing, then you know you’re in the right position. If the pain starts increasing either in your low back or leg, you need to discontinue this exercise immediately. So lie here, and once the pain starts dissipating, you can take the pillow out from underneath your hips.

For this exercise, you want your hips or the pelvis to be stuck to the floor. You don’t want it to come up. The first thing you’re going to do, hands just go right up to your shoulders, and you’re going to do just a mini press-up. You’re going to hold that three to five seconds, and then you’re going to come down. Now, if you can do that, and that’s not a problem, try going a little bit further. If at any point the low back pain increases or the leg pain starts going down your legs towards your toes, discontinue the exercise. If after doing a few of these, you notice that the pain starts coming up your legs towards your back, that’s great. That’s called centralization of pain, and that’s exactly what we’re looking for.

Now, eventually, you’re going to want to do a press-up and actually do a full press-up. Start by doing five of these. Move your way up to 15. I do it three to five times a day, and that can really help with some disc problems.

Some stretches you can do are you can lie on your back. Of course, I like to put my lumbar fulcrum right under my low back for this, to protect my low back. I like to get down on my back first, and I like to lift up my hips and line it all up. Great.

The first exercise you can do, or stretch, is just bringing one knee towards your chest. Hold that three to five seconds. And again, repeat on the other side. If you can, and your core is strong enough, bring both knees towards your chest. Hold three to five seconds. Do each of these exercises five to 15 times.

The next one is, we’ve done this in a previous video, is a nice, easy windshield wiper motion. If the pain starts increasing, discontinue the exercise right away.

The last one is a figure four exercise, stretching out the hips. So you cross your right leg over your left leg, and then you can push with your right hand just above your knee to give an extra stretch in that hip. If you find this easy, go ahead and actually do the full stretch. It’s called thread the needle, where you can feel a really good stretch through the glutes in an opening through the back.

When you’re done, roll on your side, come on up. These are some exercises that can help you with low back or leg pain from disc problems.

If you’re looking for a chiropractor in Victoria, look no further than Mind Body Spine chiropractic clinic near uptown.