Lower back strengthening exercises can help stabilize your lower spine and support your upper body. They can also help reduce and prevent lower back pain.
Stretching the back muscles after performing a back strengthening exercise can help prevent muscle soreness and injury. They may also provide other benefits, such as improved range of motion and flexibility.
This article presents strengthening and stretching exercises for the lower back. Together they can help people minimize and manage lower back pain.
The following exercises can help strengthen, stabilize, and support your lower back. Note: Back exercise should be discontinued if it causes acute or increased back pain.
The gluteal bridge works the gluteus maximus, the largest of the gluteal muscles that form the buttocks. This muscle engages when a person extends their hips, such as when rising from a squat. It also helps with both external rotation, which is when the knee and hip open away from the body, and abduction, which is when the leg lifts away from the body.
According to a 2019 review, researchers have linked weak gluteus maximus muscles to lower back pain. Strengthening these muscles can help prevent this symptom. The glutes help stabilize the lower back by acting as both a stabilizer and a mobilizer. Strong glutes can stabilize and support the lower back and hips, and they can also help stabilize the knees when extended.
To perform a gluteal bridge, follow these steps:
Step 1: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Place your arms along your body, palms facing up.
Step 2: Squeeze the abdominal muscles and contract the gluteal muscles.
Step 3: Lift the basin off the ground. Continue lifting so that the body forms a straight line between the shoulder, hip and knee.
Step 4: Hold this position for at least 2 seconds.
Step 5: Slowly return to starting position.
Step 6: Repeat the above steps 10-15 times.
The Bird-dog exercise works the gluteal muscles. It also works the back extensor muscles, which attach to the back of the spine and allow a person to stand, bend, and lift.
To perform the dog-bird exercise, the following steps must be followed:
Step 1: Begin the exercise on the hands and knees, shoulders directly over the hands and hips directly over the knees.
Step 2: Contract the abdominal muscles and extend the right arm in front of the body.
Step 3: Hold the position while remaining balanced.
Step 4: Slowly lift the left leg and extend it towards the back of the body.
Step 5: Hold this position for 15 seconds.
Step 6: Slowly return to starting position and repeat on opposite side.
Step 6: Repeat 5 times.
The plank exercise primarily works the abs, but also works the arms, shoulders, hip flexors, and feet, making it a good stability exercise for the whole body. This position can also activate the back extensor muscles and the quadratus lumborum, which is the deepest back muscle. It extends from the lowest rib to the pelvic bone.
A plank can be made by following the steps below:
Step 1: Lie on your stomach with your forearms on the floor and your elbows directly in line with your shoulders.
Step 2: contract the abdominal and gluteal muscles.
Step 3: Lift hips and both knees off the floor.
Step 4: Hold this position for 10-30 seconds without letting the pelvis sag towards the floor.
Step 5: Slowly return to starting position, then repeat 5 times.
Modification: A person can make the exercise less difficult by bending their knees slightly and keeping them on the ground. She should strive to maintain a straight line between her knees and shoulders.
The side plank is a modified version of the plank that works the quadratus lumborum as well as the gluteus medius and tensor fascia lata (TFL). These muscles are important for hip stability.
The side plank includes the following steps:
Step 1: Lie on your right side with your right leg slightly bent and your left leg straight, foot on the floor. Make sure the right arm is directly below the right shoulder and the forearm is stretched forward.
Step 2: By contracting the abdominal muscles, lift the right hip off the floor.
Step 3: Lift the right knee off the ground to straighten the right leg and overlap the feet on top of each other.
Step 4: Keep your body straight and hold the position for 10-30 seconds.
Step 5: Slowly return to starting position and repeat on the other side.
Step 6: Repeat the above steps 5 times.
Modification: People who find this exercise too difficult can keep the lower knee slightly bent and on the floor.
Abdominal stretching maneuver
Strong abdominal muscles help support the spine and keep the hips properly aligned. Weak abdominal muscles can lead to a lack of core strength, which can cause lower back pain.
The transverse abdominis (TA) is a deep abdominal muscle that helps stabilize the spine. The Abdominal Suction Maneuver (ADIM) is an exercise that can help strengthen TA.
To perform the ADIMTrusted Source maneuver, a person must follow these steps:
Step 1: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your arms along your body.
Step 2: Hold the spine in a neutral position and pull the belly button towards the spine.
Step 3: Inhale.
Step 4: Exhale contracting the abdominal muscles and bringing the navel towards the spine.
Step 5: Hold this position for 10 seconds and then release. Rest for 15 seconds.
Step 6: Repeat 10 times.
Abs help strengthen the core, which improves spinal support and hip alignment.
Sit-ups involve the following series of movements:
Step 1: Lie down with your back flat on the floor, knees bent, and feet flat, hip-width apart.
Step 2: Cross your hands over your chest or stretch your hands along your body towards your feet.
Step 3: Squeeze abdominal muscles and lift head and shoulder blades off the floor as you exhale.
Step 4: Lower back to starting position.
Step 5: Repeat the above exercise 10-15 times.
Back strengthening exercises should be followed by stretching exercises. This approach restores range of motion and flexibility while preventing muscle soreness and injury.
Below are some lower back stretching exercises that you can incorporate into your daily routine.
Knee to chest stretches
Knee-to-chest stretches can help lengthen the muscles in your lower back, relieving tension and pain.
A person can perform the knee-to-chest stretch as follows:
Step 1: Lie on your back with both legs flat against the floor.
Step 2: Raise the right leg by bending the knee towards the chest.
Step 3: Use both hands to pull the right knee towards the chest.
Step 4: Hold the right knee against the chest for several seconds.
Step 5: Return to starting position.
Step 6: Repeat with left leg, then return to starting position.
Kneeling back stretch
The kneeling back extension can help stretch the lower back muscles, relieving pain and tension in these areas.
To perform the kneeling back extension, you can follow these steps:
Step 1: Begin the exercise on the hands and knees, positioning the knees hip-width apart, with the shoulders directly over the hands.
Step 2: Round your back, pulling the navel towards your spine and tilting your lower back towards the floor.
Step 3: Hold this position for 5 seconds.
Step 4: Gently rock back, bringing your buttocks as close to your heels as possible. Make sure your arms are stretched forward.
Step 5: Hold this position for 5 seconds.
Step 6: Slowly rise back to starting position. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
Modified seated side straddle
This exercise stretches the hamstrings, abductors and extensors of the mid and lower back muscles. To perform this exercise, you must follow these steps:
Step 1: Sit with both legs flat against the floor and stretched out in front of the body. The feet should be far enough apart so that the legs form a “V”.
Step 2: Bend the left leg, bringing the left foot up to touch the right knee and letting the left knee drop away from the body.
Step 3: Keeping your back straight, bend your hips and extend your arm toward the toes of your right foot.
Step 4: Slowly round the spine, bring the hands towards the right ankle or shin while lowering the head as close to the right knee as possible.
Step 5: Hold for 30 seconds, then relax for 30 seconds. Repeat the operation on the other side.
Step 6: Perform 5-6 repetitions.
Together, lower back strengthening and stretching exercises can help improve lower back strength, stability, and flexibility. In doing so, they can help alleviate and prevent lower back pain.
If any of the above exercises make back pain worse, it is essential to stop performing them immediately and contact a doctor.