Health Weight Loss & Fitness

8 Exercises to Kill Pain and Strengthen the Muscles in Your Lower Back

Approximately 80% of the world’s population will experience back pain at some point in their lives. While such pain is associated with aging, it’s far from being elderly-specific. In fact, suffering from back pain in your 20s and 30s is not as rare as you might think.

Here at FoxSumo, we’ve compiled a list of the best lower back strengthening exercises designed to tone your muscles and relieve pain.

1. Bridges

Bridges are an important exercise for anyone looking to improve their flexibility or strength. They’re also useful in relieving back pain by strengthening the muscles around it. In its simplest variation, the bridge encourages a straight line from knee to shoulder, meaning it favors alignment over extreme flexibility. This makes it particularly helpful for those looking to realign their spine and improve their posture as well as relieving pain.

How to do it:

  • Begin in the same position you would start from for the pilates imprint, ensuring that your feet are as close to your body as possible.
  • Push through your heels to lift your back off the ground, aiming to create a straight line from your thighs to your torso.
  • Hold for at least 5 seconds and slowly release before repeating. Allowing your lower back to hover over the mat instead of resting it will increase this exercise’s intensity and also challenge your core.

Note: By applying pressure through the heels and stretching the hamstrings, the bridge pose can strengthen and relieve pain in the lower back without adding unnecessary weight.

2. Cobra pose

Another light (and very popular) lower back exercise is the cobra pose, which soothes lower back pain by targeting the spine. This elegant backbend can correct slipped disks and poor posture caused by hunching over throughout the day.

How to do it:

  • Begin flat on your stomach with your hands by the base of your ribcage (if you’re less flexible, try bringing your hands nearer to your chest).
  • Leading with your chin and keeping your hips pinned to the mat, push up until your back begins to arch. Aim to direct your gaze to at least ceiling-height.
  • To increase the stretch, bring your hands closer to your ribcage and arch further back. It’s important to relax your glutes as this will increase your range of motion.

Note: By focusing on each vertebra, the cobra can release built-up pressure from air pockets and realign the spine.

3. Child’s pose

Pairing the cobra pose and child’s pose is the perfect compound move for soothing back pain. By rounding the back and elongating the spine, child’s pose reverses any tension caused by the cobra.

How to do it:

  • From your hands and knees, lean back until you’re sitting on your heels.
  • Reach your hands as far in front of you as possible, making sure to press them both away and into the mat.
  • Allow your back to stretch out and relax.

Note: This is a great move for strengthening the lower back and thighs, promoting circulation and stretching out any tension areas.

4. Body rolls

Body rolls are the ultimate feel-good back exercise. While it involves the recognizable cat/cow variations, this dynamic movement involves rolling the body slowly and fluidly both clockwise and reverse clockwise.

How to do it:

  • Starting on your hands and knees in a neutral spine position, begin to roll your back in a slow circular motion, focusing on the shoulders and hips.
  • You should pass through the cat/cow poses as you circulate clockwise and anti-clockwise. It’s important to do this slowly so back tension can release.
  • Reverse the direction after around 5 circuits.

Note: The difference between this and the cat/cow variations is that body rolls target the entire torso—including the obliques—which means it can better target tension areas and stretch out the muscles.

5. Supine twist

The supine twist (also known as the spinal twist) strengthens the back by lengthening and gently rotating the spine.

How to do it:

  • Lie flat on your back with your arms spread out horizontally.
  • Bend one knee and cross it over your straight leg, making sure your shoulders are touching the mat.
  • While allowing your hips to rotate in the direction of your leg, turn your head to face the opposite direction. This increases the stretch and helps to target the obliques.

Note: The key to this pose is allowing your shoulders to relax, allowing gravity to pull them down to the mat while the hips face the side. Slow and controlled breathing will also help you to release built-up tension.

6. Bird dog

The best lower back exercises don’t just target the back—they help to stabilize the entire core and maximize your overall strength. The bird dog is a core-focused stabilizing exercise that encourages good posture and core strengthening.

How to do it:

  • Beginning on your hands and knees with your legs at a right angle and your spine in a neutral position, slowly lift your left arm and right leg so that they form a straight line through your torso.
  • Keep your breathing pattern steady and pull in your core to keep you stable.
  • Switch your arms and legs to get an even workout. If raising both together is too difficult, focus on one limb at a time.

Note: Like most pilates and yoga exercises, this move values slow and controlled movement as opposed to momentum. This makes the workout harder by adding balance and core strength to the challenge. Similarly to the other exercises on this list, it’s also great for spine-lengthening.

7. Sphinx pose

The sphinx pose is similar to the cobra in that it reverses the hunching position we find ourselves in throughout the day (also known as the desk/office pose).

How to do it:

  • Begin flat on your stomach as you would in the cobra pose.
  • Bring your forearms to either side of your ribs to form a right angle.
  • Press up through your arms to create a slight back arch, making sure you’re also pushing your chest forward and opening your shoulders.

Note: By resting your weight on your forearms rather than your hands, the sphinx pose encourages some light spinal stretching while also allowing your shoulders to extend. This is a great chest-opener and helps your spine to return to its natural curvature.

8. Pilates imprint

In itself, the pilates imprint is a basic move. But it’s also the foundation for more intense pilates exercises that target the back, and it’s an important step in any back-focused routine.

How to do it:

  • Lie flat on your back with your feet shoulder-length apart (it’s easier to lie with bent legs to improve your stability).
  • Slowly tilt your pelvis forward so that your lower back lifts off the mat and the gap between your hips and the base of your ribcage widens.
  • Reverse the motion by rolling your hips back towards your ribs and pressing your lower back into the mat. It helps to squeeze your core for this move as it will encourage more muscle groups to work harder.

Note: The latter stage is the foundation for many pilates-style ab workouts. Even when used alone it can relieve lower back pain by exercising the spine (and can also improve your posture).

Bonus: downward dog

The downward dog is regarded as an advanced yoga pose but if performed correctly, it can help to stretch out the lower back and lengthen the spine.

How to do it:

  • Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, walk your hands along the mat until your body forms a triangle.
  • Press your fingertips into the mat to encourage a stretch while keeping your feet as flat as you can.
  • Encourage your chest toward your knees to deepen the stretch.

Which of these exercises are you most likely to try? Let us know in the comments below!

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