More often than not, strength training is talked about as a way to sculpt away the fluffy spots and add more muscle to make fat burning more efficient. But not so with exercises to strengthen your lower back. Sure, your body aesthetic will benefit from a tighter lower back. However, the real goal is to keep you free of pain and injury.
Why Focus on the Lower Back?
If you’ve ever thrown out your lower back, you know the discomfort and inconvenience it can cause. Even though your lower back is a central part of your core, too often the abs get all the exercise attention, creating an imbalance that leaves you wrecked and out of whack. Without a strong core–front, back, and sides–your posture may suffer, leaving you sore without ever working out. When you do exercise, a weak lower back can cause poor form, forcing you to use other muscles to compensate for the work that your core should be handling.
By focusing on tightening up your lower back now, you could save yourself a lifetime of lower back pain, as well as prevent a serious injury that could sideline you from the fitness–or even everyday activities–you love to do.
5 Exercises to Strengthen Your Lower Back
Be it on back day, ab day, or just part of your dynamic warm-up routine, work in the easy exercise to build a better lower back.
- Bird Dogs: Start on all fours, with your hands planted beneath your shoulders and your knees below your hips.
Keep your back straight, with your stomach tucked in–not letting your abs sink toward the floors. Finding balance, raise your right arm forward with your bicep by your ear while also raising your left leg straight back. Hold the position for a count of three before lowering back down. Repeat on the other side, alternating sides as you complete three set of 20 reps total.
- Supermans: Lie face down on the ground with your arms extended forward and your feet about hip-width apart. Contract the muscles in your lower back as your lift your head, arms, and feet off the floor. Hold the position for a count of three before lowering back down. Perform three sets of 15 reps.
- Bridges: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Bring your heels toward your butt, so that they are close enough to for your fingers to touch them. Lift your toes off the ground, and drive your heels into the ground as you squeeze your glutes and raise your hips toward the ceiling. Aim for a straight front body, with your hips at full extension. Hold this position for a count of 5, doing two sets of 15 reps.
- Planks: While many think of planks as ab work, all angles of the core benefit. Begin at the top of a push-up position, with arms extended below shoulder and weight on toes and feet about hip-width distance apart. Like the Bird Dog exercise, you want your body in a straight line, with not sinking of the stomach toward the floor or with your butt up in the air. Your goal is to perform three sets holding your plank as long as you can. If your body starts to shimmy and shake, don’t worry about it–it means your muscles are working. Keep good form throughout, and strive to beat your times with each round of reps that you do. If the position is too intense on your wrists, drop down to your forearms instead.
- Hyperextensions: For this exercise, you’ll need a piece of equipment called a roman chair or a large exercise ball. Position your upper pelvis on the top of the apparatus, allowing your upper body to move freely from the hips. Bending from the hip with your arms crossed in front of your chest, slowly lower your upper body toward the floor. Contract the muscles in your lower back to lift your upper body to the starting position. If you are using an exercise ball, you may need to rest your hands on the ball or on the floor for stability. If doing so, be sure not to use the strength of your arms to lift your upper body, which reduces the strength-training abilities of your lower back. If this exercise is too easy, try holding a weight–a plate or dumbbell–against your chest. In slow, controlled rep, complete three sets of 12 reps.
In addition to exercises, you’ll do your back a world of good if you stay aware of your posture and how you use your body throughout the day. For example, if you sit at a desk for long periods during the day, make sure your workstation is properly set up so that you aren’t slouching or positioning your legs in odd angles. When taking the stairs, think about keeping your hips level as you lift your foot onto each step instead of letting your hips hike up on the side you’re stepping with. And while standing, be mindful of keeping your butt and pelvis tucked under you instead of tipping your hips forward, which can cause a muscle-shortening arch in your lower back.
How do you keep your lower back strong? Share with other in the comments!