Also called the erector spinae, the muscles of the low back are responsible for maintaining the spine’s structure by holding it up. A strong low back helps prevent injuries and pain during motions such as bending forward and picking up items.
Like any muscle, unless we actively work the muscles of the low back, they will weaken over time. It’s not uncommon for someone to pull a muscle in this area due to muscle imbalances. That’s why it’s crucial to strengthen your low back muscles and core to prevent injury.
Here are 11 exercises you can do to strengthen the low back — add a few to your current bodyweight strength routine or string them all together for a low-back workout.
This exercise engages the entire back of the body, from the upper back to the bottom of the legs. Lifting up into this position teaches the back to work together in tandem, with the shoulders lifting the arms and the glutes, hamstrings and muscles of the back working to lift the legs. Lie on your stomach and reach the arms forward and legs back. Open the legs as wide as the hips and the arms as wide as the shoulders. Pull the belly button in, away from the ground, to engage the abs. Relax the shoulders as you reach the arms up off the ground and squeeze the quads as you lift the legs off the ground. Avoid putting too much pressure on the low back by ensuring that the abdominals stay contracted. All the muscles in the back of the body will be engaged, from the calves up to the upper back muscles.
This exercise trains the back of the body to work in opposition to improve balance, spinal strength and mobility. Similar to the superman exercise, you’ll start by lying down on your stomach. This time, instead of reaching up both arms and legs simultaneously, you’ll lift the right arm and the left leg off the ground, and then alternate. Be sure to pull the abs in the entire time. Perform 10 repetitions on each side.
Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and hands behind your head. Add a slight bend to your knees, tucking your pelvis under and engaging your core. Keeping your back straight, hinge at the hips, lowering your torso toward the floor. Slowly lower down until your upper body is parallel with the floor, pause, and then return back to the starting position. Repeat for 10 repetitions.
Begin in a tabletop position with hands and knees on the floor. Engage your core and try to keep your hips stable as you extend your opposite arm and opposite leg out. Pause for a few seconds, maintaining your balance. Return back to the starting position. Repeat with the opposite arm and leg. Continue alternating for 10 repetitions on each side.
Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent. Engage your core, pressing your low back into the ground. Then, slowly curl your back off the ground driving your hips toward the sky. Do not hyperextend your back by lifting up too high. Stop when your hips have created a straight line from your knees to your upper back. Hold the position, then slowly lower back down to the starting position. Repeat for 10 repetitions.
Start on your hands and knees on the mat. Line your shoulders up over your wrists. Come down on to your forearms and walk your knees back a few inches. Pull your navel in toward your spine, tuck your toes under and lift your legs up off of the ground. Squeeze your quads and reach your heels toward the back of the room. If you have a mirror, check yourself out to ensure that you’re in one straight line! Engage your core, maintaining a straight back. Hold the position for 30 seconds. Rest, then repeat.
Dumbbell-free renegade rows
Start in a high-plank position. Engage your core before raising one of your hands off of the ground, pulling your hand up to your shoulder and hugging your elbow in toward your side to engage your upper back. Return to the starting position, then repeat the movement with the other arm. Complete 10 repetitions on each arm.
Start on your hands and knees with your hands flat on the ground below your shoulders and knees directly below your hips. Move into cow by breathing in, dropping your stomach toward the floor and looking up toward the ceiling, arching your back. Exhale as your move into cat pose, pulling your belly button toward your spine and rounding your back up toward the ceiling. Let your head drop toward the ground. Repeat 10 times.
Pilates half rolldown
Seated on the ground, bend your knees. (For a more advanced exercise, straighten your legs.) Then, reach your arms out in front of you with the shoulders relaxed. Pull the naval in toward the spine and slowly roll down onto your low back. Pause and then slowly roll back up to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.
Side forearm plank
From a forearm plank position, turn your body to the left, balancing your weight on your right forearm and the edge of the right foot. Reach your left arm up into air, keeping the elbow bent. Stack your left foot on top of the right and pull your right side up away from the ground to work the entire right side of your body. Come back to forearm plank and repeat on the other side. Continue alternating sides, performing 10 repetitions on each side.
Lie face down on a yoga mat. Place both palms flat on the mat directly beneath your shoulders. Add a bend to your elbows, keeping them tucked into your sides. Inhale, then raise your chest off the mat as you exhale. Roll your shoulders back, keeping your neck neutral. Maintain the position for up to 30 seconds.