Top 6 Strengthening Exercises For Lower Back Pain

by Raksha Hegde last updated -

Lower back pain is a common complaint, and 80 percent of adults experience it at some point in their lives. Men and women equally suffer from it, according to the National Institute of Health. In most cases, lower back pain can be treated successfully. The Physical Therapy Journal reveals that exercise is the most effective and consistent way to recover from lower back pain. Furthermore, these exercises for lower back also are important to minimize the number and severity of recurrences of back pain.

Best Exercises for Lower Back Pain

The best exercises for lower back pain involve gentle stretching of the lower back, abdominal, glute, and core muscles. Each of the exercises given below help strengthens these muscles but it should be done with caution. If you feel pain in your lower back, you must stop the exercise. Discomfort or soreness of muscles may be felt, but there should be no sharp pain. With each of the exercises, you can start with 5 repetitions, increasing the count as you gain strength. Here are the top exercises to strengthen your lower back and to relieve back pain. [1] [2]

A woman in gym clothes performing a donkey kick-back

Stretching exercises can strengthen your lower back. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Glute Bridges

Glute bridges help strengthen the biggest muscle of the buttock, the gluteus maximus. It also works on the rest of the core muscles such as the rectus abdominis and is effective in preventing back pain, according to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science. While doing glute bridges, make sure to lift the hips only as much as it feels comfortable. [3]

  • Step 1: Lie on the floor, with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground, hip-width apart.
  • Step 2: With your palms on the side, lift your hip off the ground while pressing your feet on the ground.
  • Step 3: Try and hold it steady for 3 counts, before resting the hip back on the ground.

Lower Back Rotational Stretches

It is important to release the tightness in the muscles in the lower back to relieve pain. Lower back rotational stretches are simple twists which gently work the lower back and core muscles. [4]

  • Step 1: Lie on the floor, with bent knees and feet flat on the ground.
  • Step 2: Stretch your arms perpendicular to the body.
  • Step 3: Roll your bent knees to one side.
  • Step 4: Hold for 3 counts and bring the knees back to starting position.
  • Step 5: Gently roll your knees to the opposite side.
  • Step 6: Hold for 3 counts, and come back to starting position.

Drawing-In Maneuver

Drawing-in maneuver exercises, also known as the tummy vacuum, help strengthen the transverse abdominis muscles. These muscles are the innermost core muscles that help stabilize the pelvis and the lower back. According to the book, “Therapeutic Exercise: Foundations and Techniques” by physical therapists Carolyn Kinser and Lynn Allen Colby, the drawing-in maneuver is key to contracting the transverse abdominis muscles and strengthening the lower back.  [5] [6]

  • Step 1: Lie on the floor, with bent knees and feet flat on the ground.
  • Step 2: Gently pull your belly button towards your spine.
  • Step 3: Make sure you contract the abdominal muscles slowly, without moving the pelvis and chest.
  • Step 4: Release the abdominal muscles and relax.

Knee-To-Chest Exercise

The single knee-to-chest exercise is a gentle way to release tension from the spine while stretching your glute muscles. It is also recommended by therapists to relieve pain from degenerative disc disease or spinal stenosis. [7]

  • Step 1: Lie on the floor, with bent knees and feet flat on the ground.
  • Step 2: Gently bring your knee towards your chest, while keeping the other foot on the ground.
  • Step 3: Hold for 3 counts and release it to starting position. Repeat with the other knee.

Back Extensions

The press-up back extensions should be done with care as it actively engages the muscles of the back. If you have sciatica, you may first want to begin with lying prone (on your belly) and check if you feel pain in the position. Once you are comfortable lying prone, you can begin with the easy version of back extensions.

  • Step 1: Lie on your stomach, with your elbows bent underneath you and your palms flat on the floor.
  • Step 2: Lift your upper torso, while making sure your elbows, hips, and pelvis stay in contact with the floor.
  • Step 3: Hold for 3 counts, before going back to starting position.

Bird-Dog Exercise

The bird-dog exercise, or the quadruped, can help strengthen the core muscles and improve balance, according to research published in Sports Health. It is safe for people who have suffered a back injury. However, since the bird-dog exercise engages the core and the back muscles at the same time, it may take some time to get your balance and coordination right. [8]

  • Step 1: Begin on all fours, with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
  • Step 2: Gently stretch your right arm forward and your left leg back, while trying to keep your hips stable.
  • Step 3: Return to starting position, and repeat with the opposite side.

Word of Caution: Always consult with your doctor or physical therapist before beginning an exercise regimen, especially when you are in pain. When you do begin your exercises for lower back, make sure your movements are gentle and easy, without jerks. Stop if you feel lower back pain or sciatic pain down your leg. Protection Status
About the Author

Raksha Hegde is the content director at Organic Facts and helps oversee a team of brilliant, dynamic content writers. She completed her MS in Broadcast Journalism from Boston University, US. A former business news journalist and editor, Raksha followed her passion for wellness to become a certified Yoga teacher and a wellness festival curator. She believes that learning is a life-long process; she did a certificate e-course on “Introduction to Food and Health” in 2019 from Stanford University, US. 

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