Feeling the strain of lower back pain? Try some of these easy exercises to help banish this soreness for good.
Knowing which exercises will help alleviate lower back pain involves understanding which muscles connect to and support the lower back. It also involves reducing actions that can inflame it.
The main culprit of lower back pain is weakness or injury in the abdominals and the obliques, which help to support the weight of your upper body. Also, if you have tightness in the glute muscles or your hamstrings, this can cause these muscles to pull on your lower back and have it feeling tense and sore.
Give some of these exercises a try to strength your core, lengthen your hamstrings and glutes and get rid of the root cause of back pain.
Strengthening the abdominal muscles is well-known to lead to lower incidence of back pain. Some recommend crunches or sit-ups to build strength in your core, but these exercises can actually irritate your back and can damage the lower spine.
Fortunately, we can use core-stability exercises which strengthen your core while not damaging your lower spine. Planks are a great static exercise that develop great strength in not only the core, but also the shoulders, arms and glutes.
- Place the forearms on the ground, with your elbows aligned below your shoulders. Arms should be parallel to the body, at about a shoulder-width distance.
- Hold this position for 20 seconds to start. As you get more comfortable, you can hold this position for as long as you can, without compromising form.
There are many variations to the plank, including the side plank, medicine ball plank, and knee plank. Other good core stability exercises are mountain climbers and stability ball jackknives.
Remember to keep your abs braced in all of these exercises (and most exercises you do), which will work your abs through each movement.
Single Leg Raises
Try this simple exercise to build powerful ab muscles.
Lie on your back with one leg stretched out straight in front of you and the other leg bent at the knee. Tighten your abs to engage your core, and slowly lift the extended leg in the air 6 to 12 inches.
Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds, then slowly drop the leg back to the floor. Repeat 10 times, then switch legs and repeat the process.
If this is too easy, try straightening out both legs and lifting both legs in the air at the same time. I like to place my hands together, than place them just above my buttocks, and below the lower spine. This helps to take some pressure off your lower back when you are performing this movement.
Wall squats are awesome – they burn like nobodies business and will build powerful muscle fast.
- Stand up straight against a wall, with your feet placed about 2 feet away from the baseboard. If you have knee pain or injury, you can try adjusting your feet out to the side. This will put more of the strain in your thigh muscles, your knees should feel no pain during this exercise.
- Keep your gaze straight ahead of you, and try to keep the back of your head touching the wall. Don’t strain yourself to do this though.
- Inhale, then as you exhale, bend your knees and slide your back part way down the wall. Try to come to a level that is almost as low as sitting, but don’t put yourself in any pain trying to do that. You can work your way up to that level.
- Hold this position for 5 – 10 seconds, or as long as feels comfortable. As you get stronger, you can progress to 1 – 2 minutes or even longer!
- Move slowly back to start position.
- Repeat 5 to 10 more times. Are you feeling the burn yet?
Lengthen Your Hamstrings
Hamstrings are often overworked and under-stretched, which can lead to these large muscles cramping. Extended periods of sitting can cause these muscles to cramp up and cause lower back pain.
Stretching your hamstrings on a regular basis can help lengthen and relax these big muscles, alleviating much of the tension they may be putting on your lower back.
Stretch Your Glutes
Tight glutes can often cause pain in the knee, hip or back by subtlety altering the position of the leg, which causes an uneven distribution of forces through the knee.
Try these glute stretches to help lengthen and strengthen this large and important muscle.
These awesome exercises stretches and mobilizes the spine.
1. Start on your back, and place a pillow or cushion underneath your head. Keep your knees bent and together, and keep your upper body relaxed and your chin gently tucked in.
2. Roll your knees to one side, followed by your pelvis, while keeping both shoulders on the floor. Hold this stretch for one deep breath, and return to the starting position.
Repeat 8 to 10 times, alternating sides.
Butterfly Sitting Pose
Similar to the glutes, the muscles in your thighs can cause lower back pain if they become tight or cramped.
Try the classic butterfly pose to help relieve this tension and help your thighs and glutes to relax when not in use. This will help to take tension off your lower back.
Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and your arms at your sides. Press the base of the spine into the floor for a few seconds, while tilting your hips upwards, then relax. Repeat 5 – 10 times.
Try this intermediate level body weight floor exercise to strengthen muscles in your abdominals, lower back, butt and thighs.
After a few tries, you will master this exercise and get the balance right. It’s easy to do anywhere and requires no equipment.
Cat and Camel
This gentle exercise is great for stretching and strengthening the muscles that stabilize the spine, including the back extensors and abdominals.
This exercise is best if performed daily, and can help to increase flexibility in your trunk without irritating your neck.
Stretch Hip Flexors
Your hip flexors are large muscles that attach your thigh bone to your lower back. These powerful muscles allow you to flex your hips (hence the name!) and are activated anytime you lift your foot of the ground. Additionally, they are used when your feet are planted and you perform an activity like squatting or bending over, many traditional abdominal exercises, and even when you are sitting down or driving!
So it’s fair to say, they see a lot of use.
When your muscles get overused, they start to shorten and lose their ability to fully lengthen and contract. This will eventually lead to a state where it is chronically shortened, causing a lot of pain.
Restoring hip flexors to their ideal state can be complex, but the best starting point in all cases is to eliminate the triggers points in the muscle and stop the microspasms in the muscle, relaxing the muscle.
It’s easiest to understand how to do this in a video, so here you go!
If this exercise worked for you and you are interested in learning more about how to unlock your hip flexors, check out this link to a comprehensive hip flexor program.
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Hey! My name is Stephen and I’m the owner of Ultimate Core Health. Since we started, we’ve grown into a trusted resource for unbiased, science-based articles and reviews on fitness, nutrition and supplements. Check me out on social media, feel free to add me if you want to talk health!