Most people experience pain in their lower back at some point in their lives. The lower back is a sensitive area and can be easily injured. There are many different causes of lower back pain, but fortunately, there are also many exercises and workouts that can help alleviate the pain.
One of the most important things to remember when exercising with lower back pain is to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity of your workouts. It’s also important to choose exercises that don’t put too much strain on your back.
Here are 10 lower back workouts and exercises that can help relieve your pain and improve your strength and flexibility.
Lower Back Workouts
Lower back workouts are a vital part of any exercise program. They can help with function, stability and support to your spine and back overall. With the increase in sedentary lifestyles, increased risk for injury or just a lack of time during the day, this area of our body needs to be addressed and strengthened often.
Here are two lower back workouts:
1. Row-Centric Back Workout
The row-centric back workout is a great way to keep your back muscles strong and healthy. This workout uses a variety of exercises to target your back muscles from both the front and the back.
- Barbell Row | Sets: 4-5 | Reps: 6-8
- Lat Pulldown | Sets: 4 | Reps: 10
- T-Bar Row | Sets: 3 | Reps: 12
- One-Arm Dumbbell Row | Sets: burnout* | Reps: 30 per side
2. Hard and Heavy Back Day
This is an all-day workout focused on strength and endurance. The goal is to complete as many reps as possible of a certain exercise, until you can no longer complete the reps with good form.
- Rack Pull | Sets: 3 | Reps: 6-8 (rest 2min)
- T-Bar Row | Sets: 3 | Reps: 6-8 (rest 90 sec)
- Pull-up | Sets: 3 | Reps: 6-10 (rest 90 sec)
- Bent-Arm Dumbbell Pull-over | Sets: 3 | Reps: 12-15 (rest 90sec)
1. Barbell Deadlift
The barbell deadlift is the ultimate back exercise. With this exercise, your entire core is working dishing out all its pent-up strength and power. The barbell deadlift works your back, shoulders, traps and arms & hands as a well as stabilizing your spine by keeping you from rounding when you lift weights.
Here is how you do this exercise:
- To start, stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent.
- Then, bend at your hips and knees to grab the barbell with an overhand grip.
- Once you have a firm grip on the barbell, lift it off the ground by extending your hips and knees until you’re standing upright.
- Slowly lower the barbell back to the ground by bending at your hips and knees.
2. Barbell Bent-over Row
The barbell bent-over row is a compound exercise that works many muscles in your back. It also provides stability against the torque from gravity and helps transfer from your legs to your upper body. It can be performed with one arm on each side of the rack or by holding onto both ends of the bar with both hands.
To do barbell bent-over row:
- Start by grasping the bar with your palms facing down and your hands about shoulder-width apart.
- Bend at the hips and lower your torso until it’s nearly parallel to the floor. Keep your lower back in its natural arch and your head up.
- Bend your knees slightly and brace your core.
- From this position, row the bar up to your midsection, leading with your elbows. Pause for a moment at the top of the lift, and then lower the bar back to the starting position.
3. Lat Pulldown
The Lat Pulldown is one the biggest upper back exercises you can do. It’s an exercise that offers a fantastic blend of strength, size and safety for building muscle in your back. If you’re going to use heavy weight with this exercise you need to know your body, understand how to perform it correctly and get the most out of this exercise for your own development.
Here is how you do a proper lat pulldown:
- Sit down on a lat pulldown machine with a wide grip.
- Adjust the knee pad of the machine if necessary to lock your legs in.
- Grab the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart.
- Lean back slightly and bring the bar down to your chest.
- Contract your lats and bring the bar all the way down until it touches your chest.
- Pause for a moment and then slowly return the bar to the starting position.
4. Kettlebell Swings
Kettlebell Swings for your back can give you some of the hardest, most effective exercise for your mid-back and lower back area. But not all kettlebell swings are created equal. If you want to get the most out of this exercise, then you need to learn how to properly perform a kettlebell swing.
Here is how you do this exercise:
- Start with your feet shoulder width apart and your knees slightly bent.
- Grab the kettlebell with both hands, and let it hang at arm’s length in front of you.
- Keeping your lower back in its natural arch, push your hips back and swing the kettlebell between your legs.
- Squeeze your glutes, and thrust your hips forward to swing the kettlebell up to shoulder height.
- As the kettlebell reaches the top of its swing, guide it with your hands into the “hitch” position.
- Reverse the motion, and allow the kettlebell to swing back down between your legs.
- As it reaches the bottom of the swing, thrust your hips forward again to start the next rep.
Pullups can be thought of as a key back exercise. If you want to make your back look more sculpted and defined, pullups are one of the best exercises for you. And if you’re looking to build your back muscles, especially the lower part of your back, then make sure to include pullups in your routine.
Here is how you do proper pull ups:
- Start by holding a pull-up bar with your palms facing away from you and your arms fully extended.
- Keeping your core engaged, bend your elbows and pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar.
- Slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position.
6. Dumbbell Pull-Over
Pull-over with dumbbells for your back muscles is one of the best ways to work out different sections of your back. This great exercise will build an impressive set of muscles under your shirt, which means that you’ll not only see that your back looks great, but you’ll also feel it.
To do this exercise:
- Start by lying down on a flat bench holding a single dumbbell in both hands.
- Extend your arms above your head and hold the dumbbell directly above your chest.
- Keeping your core tight, lower the dumbbell behind your head until your arms are parallel to the floor.
- Slowly return the dumbbell to the starting position and repeat.
7. Single-Arm Dumbbell Row
The single-arm dumbbell row is a great exercise to develop your back, as well as some of the upper body muscles involved in pulling. The single-arm dumbbell row is one of the traditional exercises that you’ll see used to develop overall back strength. The way this exercise works is by using one arm at a time, which limits how much weight you use on each side of your body.
Here is how you do single-arm dumbbell row:
- Using a dumbbell, place your left hand on a bench for support.
- With your right hand, pick up the dumbbell and row it up to your chest.
- Slowly lower the dumbbell back down to the starting position.
- Repeat the movement with your left arm.
8. T-Bar Row
The T-bar row is a great exercise for building up the lats. It works your back and biceps at the same time, because it targets both the lower and upper back muscles. It’s a multi-purpose core exercise that can be performed from many different angles, making it perfect for all levels of fitness.
Here is how you do proper T-bar row:
- Start by loading the weight onto the bar.
- Place your feet shoulder-width apart and bend your knees slightly.
- Lean forward from the hips and place your hands on the bar.
- Keeping your back straight, pull the bar up towards your chest.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement.
- Lower the bar back to the starting position.
9. Inverted Row
The Inverted Row is one of the most effective training solutions to build wide, strong and muscular back. This exercise works every muscle of your back, including your traps and rhomboids (shoulders), but it also activates your core muscles by providing a full range of motion on the way up and at the end.
To do Inverted row:
- Start by positioning a barbell in a squat rack at about hip height.
- Grab the barbell with an overhand grip, and step underneath it.
- Place your feet shoulder-width apart, and lean your body forward until your arms are extended and your back is at a 45-degree angle to the floor.
- Keeping your body rigid, pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar.
- Slowly lower yourself back to the starting position.
10. Seated Row
Seated Row is the best exercise for strengthening, toning and sculpting your lower back. Seated row involves pulling the weight up against a seated form reaching behind you and holding it in place while you drive through your heels. This exercise helps to strengthen your lumbar spine and glutes which will help improve posture as well as build muscle.
Here is how you do this exercise:
- Sit with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and back straight.
- Grab the cable with an overhand grip and pull it towards you, keeping your back straight.
- Return to the starting position and repeat.
Lower Back Anatomy
The lower back is the lower part of the back and consists of the lumbar spine. The second (L2), third (L3), fourth (L4), and fifth (L5) lumbar nerves pass through the four muscles, which are attached to the spine: quadratus lumborum, erector spinae, iliocostalis, and transversospinalis. Each muscle is innervated by a different nerve.
The lower back is a weight-bearing area and therefore is susceptible to injury. The most common injuries are strains and sprains.
The lower back is also the site of the lumbar plexus, a network of nerves that innervates the lower extremities. The lumbar plexus is formed by the L1-L4 nerves.
How To Warm Up Your Lower Back
Using the warm-up routine suggested below can help to warm up and loosen the muscles in your lower back before doing lower back workouts.
1. Stretch your legs
Start by acing yourself with your feet hip width apart, with your palms facing forward. Slowly lift your hips up and forward, slowly lowering them back to the starting position. Repeat the stretch cycle ten times.
2. Hamstring stretch
Lie on your back on the ground with your feet flat on the ground, and your knees bent to 90 degrees. Pull your hamstring towards your glutes and hold for 30 seconds. Reverse the motion and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat the stretch cycle five times.
3. Low back extensor stretch
Lie face down on the ground, placing your hands on the floor next to your hips. Move your feet back a few inches so your bottom is on the floor and your chest is off the ground. Reach your right hand up towards the sky and hold for 10 seconds. Reverse the motion and reach your left hand up towards the sky. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat the stretch cycle three times.
4. Thoracic spine stretch
Kneel down on one knee, extending your arm behind you. Reach your right hand behind you and pull your left shoulder towards your chest. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat the stretch cycle three times.
5. Calf stretch
Extend your calf muscle as far as possible and hold for 30 seconds. Reverse the motion and rest your calf for 10 seconds. Repeat the stretch cycle three times.
6. Ankle stretch
Sit on the ground with your left knee bent in front of you and your right ankle resting on your left thigh. Extend your left arm out in front of you and hold for 30 seconds. Reverse the motion and rest your left foot for 10 seconds. Repeat the stretch cycle three times.
Safety and Tips
When performing back exercises, be sure to position your body in a safe and effective way. Follow these safety tips to keep your back safe and healthy:
- Avoid Parallel Lifting: When performing partial range of motion exercises, it is important to avoid parallel lifting. Lifting weights in this manner puts unnecessary strain on your back and may lead to injury. If you find it difficult to avoid parallel lifting, use a belt to help support your weight.
- Avoid unnecessary Movement: When doing back exercises, be sure not to move your spine more than it is able to move. This will help to prevent back injury.
- Keep Your Eyes Up: When performing back exercises, keep your eyes on the spot you are trying to reach. Looking down can lead to back pain.
- Warm Up First: Always start your back workout with a warmup before you commence any weightlifting. This will help to prevent injury and soften your muscles.
- Use Correct Weights: When using weights for back exercises, be sure to use the correct weight for your level of fitness and experience. Overloading your back muscles with too much weight can lead to injury.
While it’s true that your lower back is probably capable of doing a lot more than you’re currently doing with it, your muscles will respond to the right type of exercise. The best lower back workouts draw on a variety of exercises that include plenty of balance and joint-stabilizing moves.
Proper breathing technique is also key; you’ll want to focus on stretching your back muscles so that they have plenty of room in which to grow stronger and more flexible.