If you suffer from lower back pain, you’re not alone. Estimates suggest up to 80% of us experience lower back pain at some point in our lives.1 But can lower back exercises help?
It makes sense that strengthening your lower back could be a smart preventative measure.
In fact, low-impact, strengthening exercises may help protect the muscles in your lumbar spine (lower back).
So, let’s take a look at some gentle, low-impact exercises for your lower back that you can easily do in the comfort of your own home – with zero equipment.
5 Gentle Lower Back Exercises
If you’re considering doing exercises to strengthen your lower back, you’ll also want to target other supporting muscles. These muscle groups can also help protect your lower back area.
Such as your:
- Hip flexors
- Pelvic muscles
- Abdominal muscles
These muscles all play a role in protecting you from lower-back pain and strengthening your posture. Here are 5 simple exercises to get you started.
Bridges work your glutes (gluteus maximus). Keeping your glutes strong can help support your lower back.
How to do a bridge stretch:
- Lie on your back with the knees bent, feet touching the floor, hip-width apart. Hands should be by your side.
- Press the feet into the floor, and slowly raise the buttocks off the ground, keeping the shoulders in place on the floor. Your shoulder blades and knees should be relaxed.
- As you raise your pelvis toward the ceiling, aim for a nice straight line from the shoulders, through the spine, to your knees.
- Squeeze your buttocks, and then lower your pelvis back to the ground.
- Repeat 15 times, resting briefly between each one.
Aim for 3 sets of 15 reps.
2. The Cat Stretch
The cat stretch is similar to a “cat-cow” in yoga. It can help lengthen your back, ease muscle tension, and strengthen your muscles. But rather than a complete cat-cow, this gentler version brings the spine back to neutral, rather than dropping the belly toward the floor.
How to do a cat stretch:
- Get down onto your hands and knees in a table-top position. Your knees should be hip-width apart. Your hands should be in line with your shoulders.
- Now arch your back, imagining that your belly button is being pulled up toward your spine.
- Then, relax the muscles and return to the neutral starting position on your hands and knees with your spine parallel to the floor.
Repeat 5 times. You can also do this several times throughout the day.
3. The Bird-Dog
The bird-dog strengthens your abdominal muscles, lower back, hip flexors, butt, and thighs. These are key core muscles, as well as the long muscles that run down the length of your spine (erector spinae). The bird-dog is also a great exercise for balance.
How to do a bird-dog stretch:
- Get down onto your hands and knees in a table-top position with your knees hip-width apart. Your wrists should be in line with your shoulders.
- Raise your right arm with your thumb pointing toward the ceiling, keeping your arm straight.
- At the same time, slowly raise your left leg so it’s straight out behind you. Your hips and your leg should be parallel to the floor.
- Hold for a count of two, and then return to the starting position on your knees. Switch sides.
Repeat 8-10 times for each side.
4. The Superman
The Superman exercise works muscles down the length of your spine while also helping you to maintain a better posture.
How to do a Superman stretch:
- Lie face down on a rug, or prop something padded under your pubic bone, and hips.
- Slowly and smoothly raise both arms and both legs (and your chest) off the floor like you’re “Superman” flying.
- The aim here is to really use your back muscles, not your arm or leg muscles, to do the work.
- Hold for a count of two, then slowly lower your chest and limbs back to the floor.
Repeat 8-10 times.
Variation: If you find this a little too much at first, you can modify this exercise by lifting only the opposite arm and leg until you get a little stronger.
5. The Plank
Another wonderful exercise for your lower back, core muscles, and posture – that’s slightly more advanced – is the forearm plank.
When it comes to core exercises, the forearm plank is hugely popular. The key to proper form is that you should maintain a slight pelvic tilt at all times while squeezing your glutes and thighs. Your shoulders should also stay directly over your elbows.
How to do a forearm plank stretch:
- With your forearms on the floor and elbows directly underneath your shoulders, extend your feet out behind you so that you’re resting up on your toes.
- Your body should form one straight line but with a slight pelvic tilt in your hips.
- Squeeze your abdominal muscles, your glutes, and your quads.
- Make sure not to drop your hips or raise your butt too far toward the ceiling.
- Your neck should be in a neutral position with your shoulder blades relaxed. You should look toward your hands.
Hold the plank for as long as you can, slowly increasing the time as you get stronger.
Lower Back Exercises To Support A Strong Spine
These lower back exercises may seem simple, but they can really make a huge difference to the health of your lumbar spine.
You can also incorporate some low-impact aerobic exercises, like walking, to help your lower back. Basic aerobic exercises work to relieve lower-back pain by improving blood flow to the spine. This helps decrease stiffness.2
If you’re unsure about doing lower back exercises due to an injury, talk to your doctor or physical therapist. They can tell you what’s safe and what’s not, to help you strengthen your lower back muscles without hurting yourself!
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