In this article you will find some of the most effective lower back exercises that you can use to strengthen, and eliminate as much weakness as possible from your lower back area.
If you are here because you suffer from back pain, the back strengthening exercises included in this guide are all safe to perform, and should provide you with the means to eliminate your weaknesses. However, one should always check with a medical expert beforehand, if there are any underlying problems or serious injuries that would make the exercises unsafe.
The importance of lower back training
The lower back is a sensitive part of the body that is for many people around the world sometimes a source of pain and other problems due to lifestyle, old and recent injuries, posture, and more.
We live an increasingly “immobile” lifestyle, where we are often required to sit for long periods of time, perform awkward movements, and remain in positions that develop of kinds of other problems in themselves, in the long and short term.
Reinforcing your lower back is not only a way of preventing, or reducing pain, if it’s already present, but also of improving your posture, and everyday life with a stronger, more functional body.
Hyperextensions are one of the best exercises you can perform for your lower back. Find a place where you can safely flex your spine and extend back up, and anchor your feet firmly. Perform a controlled eccentric, and as you extend, remember to stop at neutral, when your body is in a straight line. Hold the top position for one second and repeat.
This exercise will burn, but as you gain in strength, you can choose to add weight by holding a weight plate against your chest. Former Russian weightlifter, Dmitry Klokov, favors a hyperextension variant where one holds a barbell on his/her upper back (just as you would in a squat). This forces you to maintain thoracic extension and promotes improved posture, but should only be done if you can do it with perfect form.
No need for equipment with this exercise; just a floor (and maybe a yoga mat of some sort), and you’re good to go. Lay flat on your stomach, extending your arms and legs. To begin the movement, initiate tension in the entire body, extending from the lower back, and holding the top position for a short instant, before coming back to the starting position.
Another variant of this exercise would also be to simply hold the top position for time, in an isometric contraction. Aim to work up to a single set of 1 minute.
Bridging is another safe way to fire up those lower back and glute muscles that are often underused. Lie down on your back and place your legs almost perpendicular to the floor as demonstrated above, and extend up through the hips, holding the top position for a second or two before going back down. When at the top of the movement, try to squeeze your glutes for extra tension.
This GIF wonderfully illustrates how some weightlifting movements translate directly into everyday movement patterns like lifting grocery bags or any heavy object in general. If you have serious back problems or injuries, the deadlift should only be performed if you have been cleared by a medical professional to do so.
When performed properly, the conventional deadlift is a beastly functional exercise; it will work your entire body, whilst building strength and muscle in all the necessary places. Here are some important cues to keep in mind when deadlifting:
- Entire body is under tension before commencing lift
- Squeeze lats and bar firmly
- Brace the core
- Aim to push the ground away from you with your legs (like you would in a leg press)
- Proper hip hinge is CRUCIAL
- Maintain the bar close to your body through it’s entire trajectory.
This is another wonderful lower body exercise but similarly to the deadlift, should be performed with caution. The good morning (performed above with a resistance band) requires a lot of hamstring flexibility and a great hip hinge to be performed properly, and one should therefore spend a lot of time making sure that their form is perfect before adding any weight.
This exercise is highly favored among strongmen and powerlifters as an accessory exercise that allows you to strengthen the lower back in preparation for the deadlift and squat. You can perform it with resistance bands as pictured above, or with a barbell.
Integrating them into your workout
How, when and how frequently you use these exercises will depend on each person’s individual goals. In most cases, picking just one of these movements is enough to give your lower back a solid workout, but in some situations, more work will be needed. Here are a few examples:
Example 1: Maximum strength
In this example, you could perform a warm up with a set of superman holds/extensions, to then move into a variant of deadlift, which will act as your main compound movement. Depending on how you want to program your deadlifts, you could perform the standard 5 sets of 5 repetitions strength template.
You then move on to hyperextensions as an accessory movement to work on your lower back strength separately. Do this for 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Example 2: Basic strengthening/pain prevention
In this example, you could start with a basic warm up, and then move on to 3 sets of superman holds/extensions with 1 minute rest intervals, followed by 3 sets of 10 repetitions of bridging, also with 1 minute rest intervals. This requires no material and can be done 2 to 3 times a week to maintain lower back health and help correct posture.
Lower back exercises – Conclusion
In this article we have seen how and why strengthening of the lower back is important and one should devote some time in their workout routine to that effect. We have also gone over 5 different lower back exercises that you can effectively use, how to perform them, and some examples as to which situations each exercise is best used.
Do you train lower back? If so, which exercise is YOUR favorite? If you think I have left out any other helpful exercises comment below and we can add them to the list!