If you are like me and experience chronic back pain, please, keep reading. By concentrating on these back exercises, lower back pain may improve. I have been dealing with back problems since the late ’90s. That might make me old :). Anyway, I have tried all kinds of different exercises, and these are some that have really helped me through the years, and especially the past few years. The past few years are when I really started to understand the subject of back pain and have found the following back exercises have really helped to improve my lower back pain.
If you struggle with lower back pain as well, I really hope you can benefit from these exercises as I have. It is a really good idea to perform these exercises routinely in order to maintain back health. A strong core is really critical to alleviating back issues.
Back extensions are one of my favorites
Back extensions have quickly become one of my favorites. This exercise works so many different parts of the body. I will explain what I like about them, how I do them and a little variation I that I add. There are traditional back extensions done on a machine that sits at a 45-degree angle. You have the ability to adjust the height, depending on how tall you are. Back extensions are great for working the hamstrings, low back, glutes, and inner thigh areas. You can perform back extensions a number of different ways.
As I mentioned earlier these can be done using a stationary back extension machine. Back extensions can also be performed using an exercise ball. You can even do them on your floor at home. The basic premise of the back extension is the same.
What I like about back extensions is just how they work so many different areas of my body and not just the lower back, which is what most people would think. I really know when I am doing them right because, I can feel it in my hamstrings, glutes, lower back and inner thighs. I typically do 5 sets of 15 and let me tell you, I am burning by the time I am done. I usually have to let out a few grunts at the end, mostly because I like the attention (NOT). These babies will make you scream and want more! At least they do for me.
On the 45-degree machine, here are the basic steps
- Lay face down on the bench.
- Your thighs will be on the pads and you will be able to bend over comfortably at the waist. Adjust the height if the top of the bench is hitting you in the stomach. You want to be able to freely bend forward. Some of the machines have a place to secure your ankle and some just have a foundation to put your heels up against. When you get the right height, refer to step 1.
- The image below shows the added fly, but you can do the same motion without. I usually cross my arms in front. You can also hug a weight plate if you need more resistance.
- Bend forward slowly at the waist, keeping your back straight. You don’t want to round your back. Bend forward until you feel the stretch in your glutes and hamstrings.
- Once you reach the proper forward fold, raise up to the starting position. Be mindful to keep your back straight and flat throughout the exercise.
- My variation on this exercise is to add a fly (in the image shown below). I use two 5 pound weight plates, one for each hand. I start out in the same position as mentioned earlier, with one weight in each hand. As I bend over, I bring my arms together in front of me. When I reach the bottom and start my way back up, I extend my arms to the sides and squeeze my shoulder blades. This is an awesome workout. I can feel this working pretty much from shoulders to the back of my knees, it’s just a great way to engage so many different muscle groups. So this is now one of my favorites because it’s a compound movement that is functional.
I love to use the Glute/Hamstring developer to do my back extension flies. It’s a very similar motion to the 45-degree angle bench, but you start out completely horizontal to the ground.
You can do these at home or with an exercise ball
As I mentioned earlier, you can use an exercise ball as well. Basically, the same concept applies. Start face down on the ball, and raise yourself up using your low back and hamstrings. I see a lot of people interlock fingers and put both hands behind their head when they are using the exercise ball. Be sure to check out my post about Swiss ball core exercises here.
If you perform back extensions at home, you can do them on the floor. You lay on your stomach and put your hands behind your head, usually with fingers interlocked. Then you raise your upper and lower body up off the floor to form a concave shape, with your upper body and legs elevated off the floor.
More options to help with low back pain
A couple of other options are similar in concept but are performed differently. One is just a plain reverse dumbbell fly, kind of a modified version of the back extension with the fly I discussed earlier. With this exercise, you will use an adjustable bench and have it about 45 degrees. Lean into the bench facing forward. With a dumbbell in each hand, you will raise your arms to the side coming parallel to the floor. This is a great time to get a good squeeze in with your shoulders.
The other option is a dumbbell row. Same position as I just went over, front facing on the 45-degree angle bench. I usually adjust the angle on the bench, down further toward the floor, but do what feels right. This time, with dumbells in hand, you will let your arms hang down in front of you. Then row! Squeeze your shoulder blades and at the same time, pull the dumbells up, driving your elbows behind you.
Planks are a great core workout
Another great exercise to help strengthen your core is doing planks. Do you remember the planking craze many years ago, people were taking pictures planking, basically all over the world. If done properly, planks are a great exercise to help stabilize your core. When I do planks, I feel it in my abs, shoulders, butt, hamstrings and inner thighs. When I am really trying to power my way through, I literally squeeze everything together!
To start, I get on my hands and knees, then move into the top of a pushup. I then drop to my forearms and keep the rest of my body rigid. I keep my back nice and straight, so my midsection doesn’t sag toward the floor. If anything, I am more comfortable with my butt slightly raised as this takes pressure off of my pelvic region. If you can hold completely straight, that is great. Hold this pose, until you get tired, then rest and do it again. I started out with about 30 seconds on and 30 seconds rest. I do this for 5-7 rounds. Now that I have been doing these for a while, I do 45-second holds and 30 seconds of rest.
If you are looking for an interactive and fun way to do planks, check out my post about the Stealth Core Trainer Review.
Hamstrings, hip flexors and inner thighs benefit
As you can see from these exercises, many of them have similar concepts, to strengthen not just the upper and lower back, but also engage hamstrings, hip flexors, and inner thighs. Of course, there are many more options, variations, and modifications, but these are some of the exercises that have helped me. Here are some more suggestions, if you find you want to do some others.
One more thing…if you feel any pain STOP! Back pain is touchy in that if you have mild back pain, exercise may really help you feel better and prevent further back problems. But if you have severe back problems, or are really out of shape, definitely talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program.