9 Great Lower Back Exercises

The lower back is the foundation of a strong, fit body. Lower back muscles are also some of the most important muscles of your core. Keeping them strong helps reduce your risk of lower back pain. It also underscores the importance of doing a lower back workout.

Ideally, lower back exercises should target all of the lower back muscles on both sides of the spine. This includes the erector spinae and glutes (butt). It's also important to work the rest of your back, including the lats and the upper back

Safety and Precautions

It is always recommended that you consult with your doctor before beginning a lower back workout. This ensures that it is safe for you to do. It is even more important if you have lower back pain as some exercises may make the pain worse depending on your condition and its severity.

That said, research shows that strengthening your lumbar spine is generally considered a safe (and successful) exercise when low back pain exists. And it appears to help whether the pain is acute (short-term) or chronic (long-lasting).

Begin each lower back workout with a warmup. This helps prepare your muscles, and the rest of your body, for the exercises ahead. Warming up also increases your range of motion, enabling you to do each exercise fully and without limitations.

Overview

If you are new to exercise, begin by doing only one or two of the exercises below, performing one or two sets of 12 to 16 repetitions for each exercise chosen. This enables you to build your lower back strength slowly and safely.

Intermediate or advanced exercises can choose two to four exercises, aiming to complete two to three sets and eight to 12 reps for each. Try a variety of moves to keep things interesting, but remember to rest between sets.

Some of these lower back exercises don't use any equipment at all. Others require the use of weights, balls, or other devices. For the ones that use weights, the goal is to be able to only complete the reps required. If you can do more, increase the weight.

Aim to do this lower back workout twice a week. This gives your back muscles time to fully recover between training sessions. Do cardio and flexibility exercises on the other days as these have been proven to help with lower back pain too.

1

Back Extensions

Back extension annotated

 Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Back extensions are probably one of the most classic lower back exercises. They are good for working the muscle that runs up and down your spine (the erector spinae). This muscle assists with straightening and rotating your back.

  • Also known as: Prone spinal extension
  • Equipment needed: None
  • How to do it right: To do back extensions, lie face down. Keep your legs on the floor while lifting your chest. Your hands can be kept on the floor for support, out in front of you, or behind your head. You can also lift both the upper and lower body at the same time for a more intense exercise (also known as the Superman).

The real key with back extensions is to engage the abs before you lift the chest off the floor. It will allow you to focus on the lower back muscles. 

2

Back Extensions on a Ball

Personal trainer guiding woman doing back extensions on fitness ball

Caiaimage / Robert Daly / Getty Images

When you do back extensions on an exercise ball, you get a greater range of motion. Using a ball also strengthens your core muscles by trying to stay upright. A stronger core reinforces back strength, assisting with balance and stabilization.

  • Also known as: Swiss ball back extensions
  • Equipment needed: Exercise ball
  • How to do it right: You can keep your hands under your chin or place them on either side of the head. Round all the way over the ball and then engage your abs, lifting your upper body until your entire body is in a straight line. You can also do this move on your knees as a modification.
3

Back Extensions on the BOSU

BOSU ball back extension

OSTILL / Getty Images

If you have access to a BOSU balance trainer, this is another great tool for strengthening the entire core, especially the lower back. Like with an exercise ball, the BOSU builds strength as you work to keep your body stable during the movement.

  • Also known as: BOSU prone spinal extension
  • Equipment needed: BOSU balance trainer
  • How to do it right: Lie face down and place the BOSU under your hips. Next, perform this lower back exercise the same as you would on the exercise ball, lifting your upper body off the trainer. You'll have a little less range of motion, but balancing on the unstable dome will challenge your core and stability in a whole different way.
4

Reverse Hyperextension on the Ball

Reverse hip extension on exercise ball

Carol Schiff / Getty Images

This exercise is a unique way to work the lower back. Instead of using your back muscles to lift your upper body, you use them to lift your lower body. In addition to working your back, this move helps strengthen your glutes and hamstrings.

  • Also known as: Stability ball reverse hyperextension, Swiss ball reverse hyper
  • Equipment needed: Exercise ball
  • How to do it right: For the reverse hyperextension, lie face down with the ball under your chest. Roll forward on the ball until its under your hips. Keeping your legs straight, lift them toward the ceiling until your body is in a straight line. You can make this move more difficult by rolling forward further, so that you are resting on your forearms.
5

Good Mornings

barbell good morning

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

 

Good mornings are a gentle way of working the back, particularly if you're not using a rod or any weight. In addition to strengthening your lower back, this exercise also builds your hamstrings, glutes, and core.

  • Also known as: Barbell good mornings
  • Equipment needed (optional): Barbell, broomstick, or some other long rod
  • How to do it right: When doing good mornings, it's important to brace your abs. This helps protect your lower back. Tip forward from the hips, keeping your back flat and knees slightly bent, until your torso is parallel to the floor. Then return to a standing position.

If you don't use a barbell or rod, you can have your arms out to the sides, out forward, or behind your head. This is a great way to master form until you've built some back strength.

6

Hip Hinge

Hip hinge

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The hinge is a good prelude to the more challenging deadlift exercise. It relies on you keeping your back straight while bending forward at the hips. This reinforces the muscles that support healthy, neutral spine alignment.

  • Also known as: Half forward bend
  • Equipment needed: Long rod, such as a PVC pipe or wooden stick
  • How to do it right: Use a broomstick or some other straight stick to do the hip hinge, holding it vertically behind your back, with one hand behind your head and the other at your lower back. The stick should be in contact with your head, between the shoulder blades, and your tailbone. Hinge forward while keeping the stick in contact with all three of these points the entire time.
7

Deadlifts

deadlift
Tone It Up

Deadlifts are an excellent exercise for the lower back, as well as the glutes, legs, and core. Together, these muscles help support healthy posture. Even though it looks easy, the deadlift can be hard to master.

  • Also known as: Conventional deadlifts
  • Equipment needed: Set of dumbbells or a barbell, with or without weights
  • How to do it right: The key with a deadlift is to keep your back flat and shoulders back. Lean forward at the hips with your knees slightly bent. Keeping the weight or bar really close to your legs, move to a standing the position. Bend forward again, lowering the weight back to the floor.
8

Bird Dog

bird dog pose

Ben Goldstein

The bird dog is a great exercise for overall core stability in addition to strengthening the lower back. Like back extensions, this move targets the erector spinae muscle. Since it requires no equipment, you can do it anywhere.

  • Also known as: Quadruped
  • Equipment needed: None
  • How to do it right: The idea with the bird dog is, from a kneeling position, you lift the opposite arm and leg at the same time, until your entire body is in a straight line. Then you lower both and do the same movement on the other side.

Keep your abdominal muscles engaged when doing the entire bird dog exercise, and do your best to keep your hips from moving when you shift from one side to the next.

9

Bridge

Bridge exercise

Ben Goldstein

The bridge is another gentle, simple exercise that is perfect for strengthening the lower back. It's also good for the glutes and hamstrings, building core stabilization even more.

  • Also known as: Hip raises, glute bridge
  • Equipment needed: None
  • How to do it right: When doing a bridge, you want your feet under your knees. Push your hips up until your body is in a straight line from the neck to the knees. You can lower back down and repeat this movement for a solid lower back workout or hold the position for 30 or more seconds to strengthen the muscles that way.
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