With These Simple Core Exercises Back Pain Can Be Managed

I have been dealing with back problems for a long time.  I will walk you through my experience with a few different core exercises and describe which ones have helped me. With the help of these core exercises, back pain can be very manageable.  I have been dealing with back problems for about 20 years.  It wasn’t until recently that I discovered, and understand how to take care of my back.  If you are interested in reading about core exercises that may help you out with back pain, please continue reading.Row of kettle bells for core exercises for back pain

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I am in the maintenance mode currently

I do a lot of work to strengthen my core, to stabilize not only my spine but my entire body. I have been through a lot of visits to the chiropractor, to get my body (specifically my pelvic area and a blown disc in my back) fixed. When I started seeing a chiropractor, my back was a mess.

The chiropractor told me I was a tough adjustment. This was due to the fact that I had never healed correctly, or been instructed on how to care for my back, or how to properly workout post-surgery, from 1999.

My muscles were super tight and had been conditioned to protect my really weak areas. Muscles tighten when there is an injury to protect. Add to that my most recent injury (I sprained my SI joint and blew a disc in my back) and I was truly a mess. I spent months getting adjustments to fix my condition. You can read my story here.

My back issues started in 1999 and I never really understood why core exercises were so important. I just thought core meant six-pack abs. There’s more to the core than abs, but they certainly do play a part. I now understand that core muscles are a little more difficult to define. Man showing abs after doing core exercises for back pain

What is the core?

Some people think the core is just the midsection in front. Others include the upper and lower back. The definitions I have found online really seem to vary depending on who is defining the core. Really, what I have learned is that the core muscles serve one purpose and that is to stabilize. They stabilize the spine and really the whole body. Someone said that core muscles are from the chin down! I consider the core to be from my armpits to my hamstrings.

Core muscles serve so many critical functions. Not only do athletes work on core strength, but everyday people doing everyday things really need to focus on core strength. Whether it’s putting on your shoes, lifting a package, vacuuming your carpet at home, you are using core muscles to complete these everyday tasks.

I can’t stress the importance enough, of really strengthening the core. Strong core muscles help tremendously with posture as well. A weak core can lead to slouching. I am constantly reminding myself to maintain solid posture. Core muscles need to be strong and flexible. This article from Harvard Health Publishing speaks to the importance of strong core muscles. They discuss every day, real-world benefits of strengthening your core.Man performing dumbell rows for core exercises for back pain

If you are active at all, hiking, swimming, maybe you are a runner, a strong core will help you with these activities as well.

By doing the following core exercises back pain has been significantly decreased for me.

Start your morning with a nice swim?

I start each day doing what I have come to call “Swimmers”. There are some variations on this exercise, but this is how I do it. I lay on my stomach, on a mat on the floor. We have hard floors throughout our house, so a yoga mat works great. If you have carpet, that may work as well, you can always put a mat on the carpet. With arms out in front of my body, legs with toes pointed away from me, I arch my back, lift my arms and legs up off the ground. Squeeze the shoulder blades and butt.

Be sure to keep your head in a neutral position, you don’t want to strain your neck. You can look down at the floor if needed. Now, the way I do it, is I kick my legs up and down as if swimming and doing a freestyle type swim. So, alternating legs slowly kick up and down with your toes pointed behind you. Then I alternate my arms in a freestyle swimming motion.

So I am literally “swimming” on my living room floor. Think of it like a surfer on a surfboard, swimming to catch a wave. They are laying on a surfboard, paddling with their arms with legs extended behind them. I hold each alternating arm repetition for a few seconds. This exercise really works my low back and hamstrings.

Hard work and really boring…

Now, the goal of this exercise is to do this for as long as you can. I started slow, and I could only do this for about 30 seconds. When your legs start to drop, you are most likely done. I have been doing this for a while now, and I can do this motion for 5 minutes straight. It’s really boring, but you can listen to music, dream, pray, do whatever you want during the exercise.

Honestly, sometimes I just get lost in thought and the 5 minutes flies by. Other days, not so much. It really works the upper back, hamstrings, butt, and inner thighs and lower back. I really concentrate on squeezing my butt and inner thighs when I feel like I am fatigued.

I do this exercise 5 days per week, first thing in the morning (right after I let the dog out). It took me a really long time to be able to hold this for 5 minutes, kicking and paddling, but it’s awesome for pretty much the entire back side of your body.

Walking lunges are a great core exercise

Walking lunges are another one of my absolute favorite exercises to improve core strength. If lifting weights is just not for you, then walking lunges are a great way to improve core strength. There are so many awesome benefits of walking lunges, I could probably write an entire post on just that. First, there is very little impact with walking lunges.

You have a chance to literally work the entire leg with this exercise, hamstrings, glutes (butt muscles), quads, calves, they all work hard with this singular exercise. The thing I really like is that I can feel the stretch in my glutes and hamstrings, so this helps with flexibility.

But it doesn’t stop there. Walking lunges engage my abdominal muscles and low back as well. Another fantastic benefit is that you don’t even need to go to the gym. You can do walking lunges in your driveway, on the sidewalk, in your hallway at home.

You want to make sure you do them correctly though, or you can hurt yourself, mostly your knees. So when you do walking lunges, be sure that your knee doesn’t stick out over your ankle. You want to keep your spine nice and straight as well. Walking lunges for core exercises for back pain

I believe that walking lunges are underrated. With my back injuries over the years, this is the best possible leg workout I can do. Instead of racking a bunch of weight on my shoulders and doing squats, which will put unnecessary pressure on my spine. When performed properly, squats are not bad but for me, there is some risk there, so I opt for other exercises.

Walking lunges also help improve balance and posture. It is such a basic and yet overlooked exercise. As you progress, you can add weights if you want, start with small dumbbells at your side as you walk. When I do walking lunges, I always make sure that I keep my upper body straight, almost like a piston in an engine, trying not to lean forward. By keeping my upper body straight, I can get a good deep stretch in the glutes and hamstrings as I go to parallel with my front leg. For me, I do 5 sets of 20 reps and I do this 3 times.

I do 300 walking lunges on my leg days. I do this about 3 days per week. Because I am not lifting heavy weights, I am able to do this several times per week. It builds endurance in addition to strength.

Leg curls really hit home

Leg curls are another awesome exercise I do for core strength. Leg curls target mostly the hamstrings and glutes. I use the prone (lying on my stomach) leg curl machine. There are also machines that you can sit in, like a chair and also a standing leg curl machine. These are a little uncomfortable for me, so I prefer the lying down version. Leg curls are great core exercises for back pain

Again, here I do 5 sets of 20 reps, for a total of 100. It’s challenging to find the right weight when you are doing low weight/high reps, so I started really low and worked my way up. I am not so much interested in maxing out weight as I am with building solid muscle and endurance. That is why I do so many reps. And per the advice of my chiropractor who is probably the most insanely well-built person I have ever met.Leg curls show core exercises for back pain

There are a ton of core exercises, and these are just three of my favorites. It has been a long journey for me, so I am hoping to share some of the exercises for improving core strength that really helped me out.

Please let me know what you think and if you have any comments or questions.  If any of the exercises give you pain, stop.  You will always want to consult a doctor or healthcare provider before you begin any exercise program.  These are core exercises that have helped me, hopefully, you will benefit as well.


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10 thoughts on “With These Simple Core Exercises Back Pain Can Be Managed”

  1. Hey Steve,

    Great article, thank you!

    As a former swimmer I know the importance of core, however have neglected this area of my body as I’ve gotten older. I jusr tried the swimming on the floor exercise and love it – I’ve never seen this before but will build it in to my routine. One question, for exercises like leg curls, do you have something you can replace this with without equipment?



    • Hi Mike, thanks for your comment.  You can do leg curls at home with ankles weights or resistance bands.  You can even do them laying on your stomach, with a dumbbell between your feet, raising and lowering the dumbbell.  If you have access to a gym, the machine is the best way, but if you absolutely have to do them at home, I would suggest using a resistance band.  Tie the band around something sturdy, like a post and then you can sit in a chair and put your feet through the band.  Then you would extend and contract your legs.  You can adjust the resistance by moving the chair closer or further away from the anchor point.  This would simulate the seated leg curl machine at the gym.  This is also good for your core, moving your legs back and forth maintaining balance on the chair.  I hope this helps!

  2. Core muscles – from your armpits to your hamstrings – great way of defining them. The core strengthening exercise published in this article are so useful. Who would have thought of swimming on land ?!
    Need to be careful with any exercise we choose to perform.
    Thank you for an enlightening article. I enjoyed reading it very much.

    • Thank you very much for your comment.  I love the “swimmer” exercise and it’s really challenging to hold it for a long time.  

  3. I’ve been exercising basically my whole life but I haven’t focused on my core too much. I do have lower back pains when I try to meditate. I simply start to shiver, because my lower back can’t hold my body weight while I’m sitting in a Lotus position. I think I have to focus on it and look at it a bit more serious, because It’s a really important part of my body!

    • Yes, core strength is very important to everyday life. I certainly have a better understanding of why a solid core is necessary.  Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment, I appreciate it.

  4. Hi Steve,
    Great article! Lunges are a favorite of mine and a common part of my leg days since I work out at home mostly. I never thought about them being good for my core (and thus for my back as well). To mix things up I also incorporate side lunges, reverse lunges, and plyo lunges. Are these good for core as well?

    • Thanks for stopping by.  Yes, you are correct, you can hit your core with various types of lunges.  I love lunges, they are such a great leg workout.  Thanks for your comment, I appreciate it.

  5. Back pain is one thing that so many people are facing around the world and whereas the reason as to why they get the back pain may be different it is all the same and that is back pain.
    I know all too well about back pains myself. But what is so good is that these exercise methods seems to be so helpful and can really help to cure back pains.

    • Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.  I would not say these exercises will cure back pain, but more, you can get some relief and manage back pain.  A good core routine will help to strengthen the muscles that stabilize.  Thanks again, I appreciate it.

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