5 Exercises to Strengthen Your Lower Back
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5 Exercises to Strengthen Your Lower Back

by Steve Theunissen on Aug 06, 2021

Lower back pain is chronic in society today. It’s causes are many, including bad posture, constantly hunching over our phones and doing exercises that compress the spine. Adding exercises to your routine that specifically strengthen your lower back muscles will go a long way to offsetting lower back pain and enhancing your posterior kinetic chain strength. In this article, we lay out the 5 absolute best exercises to strengthen your lower back.

What is the Lower Back?

There is no lower back muscle? What most people consider to be the lower back is the erector spinae, also known as the spinal erectors. This muscle actually runs from the back of the pelvis all the way up to the neck. Most of the muscle is hidden behind other muscles of the back. The only part that is visible on a lean, muscular person is the ‘christmas tree’ shaped band of muscle at the base of the spine.

The function of the erector spinae muscle is to extend the spine by pulling it backward and preventing it from tilting forward. It is also partly involved in torso rotation.

The erector spinae is actually made up of three distinct columns of muscle:

  • The spinalis, which is the column closest to the spine.
  • The longissimus, which is the middle column.
  • The Iliocostalis, which is the furthest column away from the spine.

These three muscles originate on the upper portion of the back of the pelvis, as well as the sacrum and lumbar spine. They insert on the mid and upper spine, the ribs and the base of the skull. 

5 Best Lower Back Exercises

Seated Torso Extension

Why Do It

The key to dynamically working the erector spinae is to activate a pivot through the mid spine. This involves a rounded back position. This will cause your erector spinae to lengthen and then shorten.

How To Do it
  1. Sit on a bench with your hands clasped in front of your chest and feet firmly set on the floor.
  2. Round your spine forward and lower your torso toward your knees.
  3. Reverse the movement to arch in your spine and pull back to the start position.
  4. You can increase the intensity of this exercise by holding a dumbbell at chest level.
  5. Perform 3-4 sets of 20 reps.

Hyperextensions

Why Do It

The hyperextension machine allows you to lower your torso below the level of your body. This means that you are lifting a greater level of your body weight than in the previous exercise.

How To Do It

  1. Lie on a hyperextension machine with your ankles under the ankle pads and your torso hanging over the bench pad. Place your hands alongside your ears.
  2. From a hanging position arch your lower back and pull up to a horizontal position.
  3. Lower and repeat.
  4. Do 3-4 sets of 10 reps.

Superman

Why Do It

The Superman is an excellent bodyweight exercise that will strengthen your spinal erectors. This is a combination between a dynamic and an isometric exercise.

How To Do It

  1. Lie on the floor on your stomach with your arms extended above your head and your legs out straight, feet together.
  2. Simultaneously arch your back as you lift your hands and feet into the air. Your body should form a banana shape in this position.
  3. Hold the arched position for 5 seconds.
  4. Lower and repeat.
  5. Do 3-4 sets of 12 reps.

Bird Dog

Why Do It

The Bird Dog is an excellent body weight move that improves spinal stability that enhances a person’s anti-rotation ability through the core. This allows the person to more effectively brace their core and resist unstable forces.

How To Do It

  1. Get down on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders.  The points of contact should be your palms, knees and toes.
  2. Simultaneously extend your left arm and right foot up and out horizontally to full extension. Maintain a straight line through your body, with a natural arch in your spine. 
  3. Hold for 3 seconds.
  4. Lower and repeat. Do all of the reps on one side and repeat on the other side.
  5. Do 3-4 sets of 10 reps on each side. 

Cat Cow

Why Do It

The Cat Cow exercise is another excellent body weight flexion and extension exercise that will strengthen your erector spinae muscles while improving and retraining proper spinal movement patterns. 

How To Do It

  1. Get down on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders.  The points of contact should be your palms, knees and toes.
  2. Round your lower back and pull in your belly button as you lift your hips. In this position your body should resemble that of a scared cat. Hold for 2 seconds.
  3. Reverse the movement as you arch your back and push your stomach down to the floor. Hold for 2 seconds.
  4. Perform 3-4 sets of 12 reps.

Your Lower Back Workout

Your lower back workout should involve 2 or 3 exercises for a total of 8 sets. If you are working out at the gym, you should have access to a hyperextension machine. In that case, do this exercise first for 4 sets of 10 reps. Then choose 2 of the other exercises above and do 2 sets of each. If you are training at home, choose 3 of the bodyweight exercises and combine them for a total of 8 sets. Work your lower back once every 5 days to get the proper balance between stimulation and recovery.

Strengthening your lower back will provide greater support to the lower spinal area. It will also strengthen your entire core, which is the power base of your body. The best 5 exercises to strengthen your lower back that have been highlighted here will allow for erector spinae flexion and contraction without overloading the spine. Perform them regularly to offset back pain and strengthen your lower back muscles.