Lower Back Exercises That Work To Relieve Pain & Build Strength (10 Studies)



It is believed that almost 8 out of every 10 people may experience lower back discomfort at some point in their lives. This post is for you if you are experiencing or have had lower back discomfort. Because you’ll learn how to bring relief by strengthening your lower back with the greatest lower back workouts down below.


Lower back discomfort can be caused by a variety of circumstances. However, many reviews and case studies (here, here, and here) have indicated that patients suffering from lower back pain frequently have two major issues:

Neuromuscular control of the lower back.

As a result, boosting lower back strength and coordination appears to be a useful intervention for preventing and reducing pain.

There’s something more that’s intriguing as well. According to research, even well-trained individuals who routinely workout in the gym appear to have this lower back imbalance. It is believed that this is due to a lack of lower back workouts in their training programs.

As a result, incorporating lower back workouts that especially target and strengthen the lower back into your regimen will benefit you in two ways. First, to potentially avoid and alleviate lower back pain. Second, to reduce your chances of developing lower back weaknesses or imbalances over time.

The majority of people select the incorrect lower back exercises.

Unfortunately, most people who attempt to incorporate lower back workouts do them incorrectly. They either choose the incorrect exercises or do not choose any at all. Or they will implement and perform them incorrectly. Regardless of how you look at it, both approaches worsen the problem.

Take, for example, the regularly performed superman exercise.

This workout involves extending both the arms and legs. True, this does a good job of activating the lower back muscles. However, Dr. Stuart Mcgill of the University of Waterloo discovered that it also generates around 6,000 Newtons of spinal compression.

What is the significance of this?

Because the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health advises a lower limit of spinal compression of just 3,300 Newtons (730lb)! As a result, we can plainly understand how a widely performed lower back exercise, such as the superman, can aggravate the problem. Consider this: that’s a lot of extra compression on the spine.

Fortunately, I’ll clarify everything up for you. Learn how to include lower back pain exercises in your training program. I also give you a whole program that you can start using right away.

Lower Back Exercises Number 1 and 2: Squats and Deadlifts

Before we get into the individual lower back exercises, we need to go through two complex movements.

These should ideally constitute the majority of your lower back workout. Squats and deadlifts are two of them. Why? Because these two exercises, particularly deadlifts, have been demonstrated in numerous studies to elicit very significant activity of the lower back muscles. Even better, they outperform several lower back isolated exercises.

As a result, free-weight squats and deadlifts should be a regular part of your weekly regimen as low back pain workouts because:

They’ve been demonstrated to be quite helpful for increasing lower back strength and hypertrophy.

They are easily overburdened by weight. This allows you to keep the lower back muscles sufficiently challenged throughout time.

Squats and deadlifts, on the other hand, have a few drawbacks. These issues may explain why we continue to notice lower back deficiencies and asymmetries in those who practice them on a daily basis.

The first issue is that not everyone does them.

To begin with, let’s face it: not everyone does them. Is this your picture? If you don’t know how to do them, you can learn how to squat and deadlift in my prior posts.

Problem 2: Inadequate Stimulation

Second, we know that the heavier you go with these workouts, the more the lower back muscles are activated. However, the truth is that many people do not undertake these relatively rigorous exercises. As a result, they do not deliver enough stimulus to their lower back.

Problem 3: Inadequate Pelvic Stabilization

Finally, for those who do execute them and may go heavy enough with them, several studies have shown that without sufficient pelvic stabilization, the much larger and stronger hamstrings and glutes frequently take over. Instead, these muscles perform the majority of the back extension effort. As a result, the lower back muscles receive less stimulation and strengthen.

As a result, you’ll want to integrate the following two lower back stretching exercises to “fill in this missing gap.”

Exercise 3 for the Lower Back: Back Extensions

Back extensions are one of the finest exercises for lower back discomfort. It stabilizes the pelvis, allowing the lower back to be stimulated and strengthened to a far higher extent than with other exercises. This aspect of the exercise has been repeatedly emphasized in the literature.

Despite its efficiency and popularity, most people do not practice this exercise in a way that safely exercises and strengthens the lower back muscles. Instead, their implementation exacerbates the problem.

How to Perform Back Extensions Correctly

To carry it out properly, you’ll need to take the following actions. Although I’ll demonstrate a glute-ham raise, the same principles apply to the Roman chair back extension.

To begin, you must carefully position your pelvis at the top of the pad or slightly past it. Positioning the pad too far front, as most people do, may cause your back to circle excessively as you drop.

Then, while maintaining a neutral spine, simply lower yourself to the lowest position. Ascend by using your lower back muscles to bring your torso back into line with your legs.

However, avoid pushing beyond this stage into hyperextension. As you move back, this generates more and more spinal compression.

Instead, keep your spine neutral throughout by coming to a complete halt before going into hyperextension:

Back Extension Rep Range Recommendation

When it comes to how to work out the lower back with back extensions, you should start with a rep range of 8-15 reps. Begin with your own body weight. Then, when your lower back strengthens and you can easily execute 15 reps, you can continue to stress the movement by holding onto weight or dumbbells.

Exercise 4 for the Lower Back: Bird Dog

In addition to the previous exercise, you should include one that tests your stability to a greater extent. Yes, according to a study published in the Australian Journal of Physiotherapy, high loading of the back extensors is an excellent technique to strengthen them.

However, an additional exercise requiring more stability is required to preferentially engage certain muscles that play a stronger role in lower back stabilization. As an example, consider the multifidus:

This is extremely significant. Why? Because many persons who suffer from lower back pain have strong and large backs. They simply lack cohesion and stability.

Lower Back Stability is Improved by the Bird Dog Exercise

The bird dog exercise is an effective approach to enhance lower back stability and coordination. The activity successfully accomplishes two goals:

Increase the activation of the numerous lower back stabilizer muscles.

It has also been demonstrated to do so with minimal spinal compression. In fact, according to Dr. Stuart Mcgill’s studies, this exercise produced a considerably safer 2,000 N (450lbs) of strain on the lower back when compared to the superman exercise.

How to Execute Bird Dogs Correctly

But, once again, it is critical that you do it right.

To begin, get on all fours with your hands under your shoulders, knees under your hips, and back slightly arched.

Brace your core and extend one arm all the way in front of you. Reach with your opposing leg behind you at the same time until they’re both straight. As you do so, push down into the floor with your support hand so that your upper back is slightly elevated off the floor. Hold this top position for around 5 seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat with the opposite arm and leg.

You want to avoid arching your lower back and elevating your arms and legs too high. Instead, elevate your arms till they are parallel to your torso. And remember to keep your back neutral during the movement:

However, if this is too challenging, you can easily regress the exercise by reaching out with only one arm:

Then move on to a leg reach, and ultimately both the arm and leg:

Bird Dog Rep Range Recommendations

When it comes to working out the lower back with the bird dogs, I’d follow Dr. Stuart Mcgill’s advice and use a declining pyramid for rep ranges:

For the first set, begin with 8 reps on each side.

Reduce the number of players to six for the second set.

Then it was down to four for the final set.

And, over time, you’ll want to work on increasing the length of the upper holds. Do this until you can hold for 10 seconds or so on each rep.

The Most Effective Lower Back Strengthening Exercises

To summarize this information into a weekly regimen for you, here’s what I’d propose for how to work out the lower back. According to research on the frequency and volume of lower back exercise, you don’t need much to notice substantial improvements in strength. You also don’t want to go overboard. Excessive volume is not required for effective lower back workouts.

Lower back strength can be improved with little effort.

In fact, several studies have shown that even for highly trained individuals, doing only one lower back exercise 1-2 times per week can greatly boost lower back strength:

Study 1 = 1x/week for 10 weeks, 70% strength improvement

Study 2 = twice a week for 12 weeks, with a 30% rise

1st scenario:

As a result, if you’re already able to squat and deadlift with free weights on a weekly basis, I’d recommend adding in the following two lower back exercises once a week for a few sets each and overloading them as you get stronger.

3 sets of 8-15 reps for back extensions (add weight overtime)

3 sets of 8-6-4 repetitions for the Bird Dog (build up to 10s holds each rep)

Scenario number two:

If you can’t do squats and deadlifts or don’t go extremely heavy with them, you can do them more frequently (e.g. 2x/week):

3 sets of 8-15 reps for back extensions (add weight overtime)

3 sets of 8-6-4 repetitions for the Bird Dog (build up to 10s holds each rep)

Lower Back Strengthening Exercises That Work (Takeaway)

By now, you should have a good concept of how to treat your lower back pain by implementing some of the lower back pain treatment exercises suggested in this article. Regardless of how you set it up, by including these exercises into your current routine, you’ll be able to: Significantly increase your lower back strength

Lower back pain could be reduced.

And reduce your chances of developing lower back problems or asymmetries over time.

At the same time, you must ensure that you are not unwittingly overlooking other parts of your body.

That’s why, with the Unorthodox Training membership program, we’ve taken the time to carefully choose each exercise included in your weekly training routines. …so that you can grow muscle and lean down while also improving your posture and addressing muscular imbalances.

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