Great Ways to Exercise With a Bad Back

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I am always on the lookout for great ways to exercise with a bad back. I have been dealing with back problems for many years and find that exercising is a great way to fend off agonizing episodes of back pain. If you have a bad back and are looking for some great exercise options, please keep reading.

You don’t have to sit around and feel sorry for yourself if you are dealing with a bad back, get out there and do something about it!

Exercise has many benefits to those of us who suffer from back pain, including:

  • Strengthen the muscles that support your spine
  • Improving mobility
  • The endorphins that are released while working ou can put you in a better mood, and help to relieve pain [1]

For me, I look for great low impact exercises that will help to build and maintain muscle and get my heart rate up.  The exercise options I list below work well for me, and hopefully, you can receive some benefit as well.

At the end of the day, building muscles and endurance through exercise release endorphins which helps relieve pain and improve your mood. I don’t know about you, but I get cranky when I am in pain, so this whole exercise thing is perfect for me!

A word of caution

If you can’t, don’t. What I mean is, if this stuff causes you more pain, don’t do it.  Seems pretty simple right?  If you are able to continue to work out and it provides you relief, then that is a good thing.  If it hurts, you will not want to do it again.


Well, I am going to start off with one of my absolute favorites, the elliptical.  If you are not familiar with an elliptical trainer, these machines are kind of like jogging without the impact. Working out on an elliptical offers a great full body workout that will elevate your heart rate and help to strengthen core muscles.

I love using an elliptical and use different techniques, to target my glutes and lower back.  Elliptical trainers are by far one of my favorite pieces of equipment!


Walking may not be atop the workout list for very many people, but it is on mine.  I love walking, and it can also be great for back pain.  This is a fantastic, low impact exercise and you can go for a walk pretty much whenever you want to.

Walking is great for back pain
Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

I go for a walk when I take a break at work, and also during lunch.  Today I went for a little over one mile at lunch.

There have been times in my life due to back injuries that I was not able to walk much at all without excruciating pain.  We live in the desert and like to do a lot of hiking in the winter.  I had an entire winter season taken away from me due to an injury.  Walking is such a simple thing to do unless you can’t.

Anyway, I have written a few articles about the benefits of walking and the potential positive effects for folks dealing with back pain.


Now, if you are cool with walking but the weather is not cooperating, or you just want to do some serious people watching, head to the gym and use a treadmill.  One of the great things about a treadmill is you are in control on how strenuous your walk is.

Personally, I like to walk on an incline when I use a treadmill, which adds an extra element of intensity that I love.  Some people may have trouble with an incline, and there have been times in my life when I was injured that I could not walk up a slope, so I get it.

Walking on a treadmill is a great option, and you can watch TV or your favorite shows on your device while you do this at the gym.


Wait, what?  Yes, pushups are one of my favorite ways to exercises with a bad back.  For me, this works great: my spine is neutral, my back is flat, and pushups build and maintain core strength.  Currently, I do about 200 pushups per day!  I do mini sets throughout the evening when I get home from work.

Pushups are great from a low or no impact standpoint, and you can vary your stance to increase the difficulty level.  Start off slow and make sure you execute proper form.  You don’t want your hips to sag as you want to maintain a flat back and neutral spine position.

Front Planks

I  plank just about every day, again, this is a great core exercise for bad backs.  Typically I do 5 sets of 45 second holds with 30 seconds of rest between sets.

Planks are a great alternative to situps or crunches, which wreak havoc when it comes to my back pain.  It took me some time to build up endurance, but I am glad I have continued to progress.  Planks really involve more than just abs, as I engage pretty much my shoulders to my knees when I plank.

Side Planks

A variation on the traditional plank, side planks are great if you can do them.  These can be tough for people, as it did take me a while to get the hang of doing them.  When I started doing side planks, I did them in front of a mirror so I could be sure to perform them with proper form.

Form is vital. Again, you don’t want your hips to sag but keep your body aligned and spine neutral.  These are part of my morning routine just about every single day.


After doing all of this front side work, it’s a good idea to add some pulls to your routine and work the back.  If you can’t do chin-ups, you can work your way up to it using some suspension straps.

Pullups for back pain
Photo by Charlotte Karlsen on Unsplash

Conclusion: Exercise with a bad back

I hope you have enjoyed reading this post as much as I have enjoyed writing it.  I am a huge advocate of exercising as a way to build a stronger body to prevent or manage back pain.  There is no cure-all for back pain, and some programs work, and some don’t.  Back pain can be very finicky.

It is a great idea to keep your workout balanced as much as you can.  A balanced workout is good for your whole body and will help you build and maintain muscle.  This includes strength training and some cardio.

Do you have go-to exercises when dealing with back pain?

I would like to hear about your experience with these or other exercises you may perform if you have back problems.  Please leave your questions or comments below, and I will respond as soon as I can.

Thanks for taking some time out of your day to stop by.

Feel free to contact me anytime!


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