Are you familiar with lower back discomfort?
If you have or haven’t experienced the debilitating effects of low back pain, you should do anything to prevent or reduce this discomfort. Trust me, I’m speaking from personal experience. Many exercise articles would like you to revamp what you’re doing to fit their narrative.
But not this article.
These bodyweight low back exercises can be performed at home, gym, as part of your warm-up, or inserted into your current program instead of another lower body exercise you’re doing. These five exercises are for you if your lower back is a problem or you don’t want it to be.
Here I will do a mini-deep dive on the lower back and five exercises to help you strengthen this critical area.
Why The Lower Back Is Important
Think of the low back as the foundation of your house, aka. Body. The stronger the foundation, the better and longer the house will stand. Having a stronger lower back means you’ll be more stable and possibly less prone to lower back aches and pains. Got it so far?
Your low back assists the glutes in extending your hips, and its strength and endurance play a role in keeping the spine neutral. Whether you like to get after it in the gym or be active in your daily activities, the lower back muscles work hard to keep your spine in a good position.
A stronger low back makes it easier to maintain good posture, especially during the workday when you are sitting a lot. Improved lower back strength and endurance hopefully reduce the aches and pain of being active.
Are you starting to sense a theme here on why the lower back is vital? I hope so.
A Little Lower Back Anatomy
The low back has three important muscles and five lumbar vertebrae (L1-L5). Understanding a little about both can give you a better idea of why it’s vital to train in this small but essential area.
The lower back has five vertebrae (L1-L5) and produces a lordotic curve ( a low back curve), the most prominent vertebra of the entire spine. Their size reflects the lower back’s responsibility to support the whole upper body.
The Lower Back Muscles
Three lower back muscles form a column known as the erector spinae. These muscles are posterior and lateral to the spinal column and run from the low back and hips to the neck. The erector spinae muscles are the tenderloin-looking that run vertically right next to the spine. Think of these muscles as a support system for your spine.
5 Bodyweight Lower Back Exercises
For two of these exercises, you’ll need equipment, the stability ball, which is easy to buy, a weight bench, and the back extension machine, for which you’ll need a gym. But you can perform the other three simple exercises daily to strengthen your low back.
Stability Ball Reverse Hyper Extension
The stability ball reverse hyper trains your lower back, glutes, and hamstrings as a unit but with a few bonuses thrown in. The unstable ball makes you more aware that you are using the correct muscles. And the increased range of motion, time under tension, hypertrophy, and endurance benefits does wonders for your low back.
How to Do it
1. Put the stability ball on the weight bench and lay your stomach on the ball with your hips slightly off the ball.
2. Take a firm grip on the bench on either side and raise your straight legs until you feel your glutes.
3. Slowly lower your legs until your toes touch the ground and reset and repeat.
Sets & Reps: Do between eight to 12 reps for two to three sets.
Side planks suck, right, but their benefits are undeniable. They strengthen almost every muscle from head to toe, including your lower back. The lower back muscles during the side plank contract isometrically to keep your spine neutral. As gravity isn’t directly acting on your spine, it’s an excellent exercise to strengthen the low back if you suffer from lower back pain.
How to Do It
Note: If you cannot do this, use the regressions in the video above.
1. Lie on your left side with your knees straight and your elbow directly under your shoulder.
2. Use your free arm to prop your body up on your elbow and forearm and raise your opposite arm until it’s perpendicular to your shoulder.
3. Ensure your feet, knees, and hips are together.
4. Brace your core, engage your glutes and hold for time.
Sets & Reps: Hold 15-45 seconds per side for one to three sets.
Back extensions are when you lay a back extension machine and flex your lower back muscles to lower and raise your upper body. The advantage of this machine is that it trains and isolates the lower back through a more extended range of motion, allowing for greater strength and muscle. It’s about as direct of a lower-back exercise as you can do, and as a bonus, it will aid your baby got back look.
How to Do it
1. Get your feet secure and your hips just above the padding.
2. Cross your arms across your chest, keeping your chest up and shoulders down.
3. Lower your upper body until it’s parallel to the floor.
4. Raise up using your glutes and lower back until your body is straight.
Sets & Reps: Two to four sets of 12 to 15 reps.
The bird dog might look easy, but it is often butchered, so watch the video. When done well, the bird dog forces your entire core, including your lower back, to stabilize your body when simultaneously alternating your opposite-side arm and leg. The bird dog is an excellent endurance exercise which is essential for one reason. Lack of low back muscle endurance can sometimes cause low back pain.
How to Do it
1. Kneel on the floor with your hands, knees, and toes on the ground.
2. Ensure your knees are under your hips and your hands are directly under your shoulders.
3. Raise your left arm and right leg straight out, keeping your core tight and your body in a straight line.
4. Slowly return to the starting position and do all the reps on one side or alternate sides. This is a matter of personal preference.
Sets & Reps: One to two sets of eight to 12 reps on both sides.
The superman is an excellent exercise to strengthen your low back, improve your posture, and build a better mind-muscle connection between your lower back and glutes. Superman has you lift your legs and arms off the ground by flexing your lower back and holding it for a few seconds. This great low-level exercise benefits the beginner to the advanced lifter.
How to Do it
1. Lie face down comfortably on a mat or rug, forehead flat on the ground with arms and legs outstretched.
2. Raise your hands and feet about four to six inches (depending on your mobility) off the floor while keeping your belly on the ground.
3. Hold this position for three seconds, then slowly lower your hands and feet to the floor.
Sets & Reps: One to three sets of eight to 12 reps.
You don’t often think about the lower back until it is too late. Ensuring this vital area has the strength and endurance to handle everything you throw at it makes life, love, and play easier. All you need to do is invest a little time there for it to pay great dividends. Happy back, happy life. Or is it a happy wife, happy life? Ahh, both are true.