Refine the Spine: The Best Exercises for Lower Back Pain

Best exercises for lower back pain

As anyone who lives with lower back pain will tell you, it is definitely no fun. Well, actually, it’ll probably sound a bit more like, ‘AAAAAAHHHHHH ….OOOOOOOO…. UGHHHHHH…… OOOWWWWWW!!!’ 

Lower back injuries are known to be some of the most debilitating experiences, more so than almost any other area of the body. While having sore wrists, arms, or shoulders can be annoying and frustrating, for sure, you can usually work your way around the pain by substituting other parts of the body to complete particular tasks. Not with your back, though. In fact, your back tends to be the body part that steps in when you need it most! It’s basically the endlessly dependable, ever-generous friend who’s always there to lend you a couple bucks (even when they’re flat broke).

But what can you do if you’re looking to get fit while alleviating some of that twisting in your trunk? Not to worry, spine sufferer, because here’s our list for the best exercises for those with lower back pain!

A Note of Caution, Before We Start…

As with any fitness routine, but especially when dealing with lower back pain, you’ll want to take this slowly and carefully. Remember to always listen to your body, and to stop immediately as soon as you feel anything even closely related to pain. Some soreness is to be expected, but if your back pain is sharp or severe, be sure to check with your doctor before beginning any vigorous workout routine. 

Got it? Good. Now, let’s get on with the list!

Glute Bridge

This wonder-exercise is great for strengthening the lower back, along with other muscle groups that help support it, like the hamstrings, glutes, transverse abdominis, and hips. 

How it’s done: 

  • Start by lying on your back, feet on the floor with knees bent
  • Dig your heels into the floor, squeeze your glutes and elevate your hips 
  • Raise your hips until your shoulders, hips, and knees make a straight line
  • Bring your hips down to the floor, rest for ten seconds, and repeat
Bird Dog

This core stabilizing exercise helps to focus attention on your lower back, through isometric arm and leg holds. 

How it’s done: 

  • Starting in a tabletop position on your hands and knees, tighten your abs slowly
  • Keeping your hips level, lift one leg behind you
  • Slowly lift the opposite arm, holding the position for five seconds
  • Bring both your arm and opposite leg down slowly, simultaneously
  • Repeat on the other side, 8-12 times
Pelvic Tilt

Your pelvis works directly with the core muscles along your spine, so strengthening this area is a must. Remember, just because this is a slight and subtle movement, does not mean it’s not amazingly effective. 

How it’s done: 

  • Lie flat on your back, with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, shoulder-length apart
  • Pull in your stomach slowly, imagining your belly button is being pulled in toward your back
  • Your hips will rock slightly as you press your spine into the floor
  • Hold the movement for ten seconds and slowly release
  • Repeat 8-12 times
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Hamstring Stretch

Your hamstring muscles work very closely with the muscles of your lower back, so it’s a great idea to train, stretch, and strengthen them. 

How it’s done: 

  • Lie flat on your back, both feet on the floor, knees bent, with a towel in your hand
  • Bring one leg up with a slight bend in the knee
  • With the towel wrapped around the middle of your foot, and your hands on either side of the towel, bring your leg back as far as is comfortable
  • Hold the position for 20 seconds, switch to other leg and repeat
  • Try and do four sets of 20 seconds, each side
Piriformis Stretch

Another muscle, located amongst your glute muscles, the piriformis, is also important to your back’s overall support and strength. 

Piriformis Stretch

How it’s done: 

  • Lying on your back with knees bent and legs elevated, cross one foot over the opposite knee to make a figure 4 
  • Place both hands, with interlocking fingers, behind the leg that’s on the bottom, as seen above
  • Gently pull back and rock slowly, holding the stretch for 20 seconds, then repeat on other side
  • Repeat the exercise once more on both sides
Lower Back Twists

You know this one, you love this one. Lower back rotation is one of the best ways to open up, soothe, and alleviate pain in your lower trunk, while also helping to improve stability. 

How it’s done: 

  • Lay flat on your back, feet on the floor with bent knees, then stretch out both arms at your sides
  • Holding your knees together, slowly bring your knees down to one side
  • Keep the position for 5-10 seconds
  • Slowly come back up and work the other side
  • Repeat 3-4 times on each side
Lateral Leg Lifts

Your lower back consists of an entire chain of different muscles that work together. That’s why these lateral leg lifts, which work the hip abductor muscles that support the pelvis and reduce back strain, are so effective. 

How it’s done: 

  • Lie down on one side of your body, lower arm supporting your head, with your shoulder/elbow resting on the floor
  • Keeping your lower leg slightly bent, lift your upper leg slowly
  • Raise the leg around 18 inches in the air, or as high as you can comfortably
  • Hold the position for two seconds and bring the leg back down
  • Repeat 10 times on both sides of your body. 

Well how’s that lower back feeling now? Nice and loose, we hope. And when you’re ready to take things up a notch, why not sign up for a 7-Day Free Trial with Studio SWEAT onDemand? You’ll get access to our huge library of onDemand workouts that are perfect for building your back (and legs, and butt, and arms, and chest, and you get the drill). We offer tons of classes like HIIT, Bootcamp, Yoga, Pilates, indoor cycling (using any bike you like), Tabata, Barre, and a whole lot more — guess that’s why we were named ‘Best Fitness App for Variety’. Sign up today, and you’ll be back on the attack, cutting-no-slack, takin’ no flack, and gettin’ on track in no time!

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