If you’ve ever bent down to pick something up and felt a sharp pain in your lower back, don’t worry – you’re not a grandpa yet, and you certainly aren’t alone. Millions of adults suffer from chronic low back pain, and while some injuries are more serious than others (more on the incredibly complex structure of the back later), back pain is never fun to deal with as it can inhibit even the simplest of daily life tasks. After all, your lower back helps stabilize and rotate your entire body, so taking good care of it is important and tragic when it is not working properly.
One of the best ways to prevent lower back pain is through exercise, stretching, and weight training. You’re already working your lower back with a number of gym exercises, particularly those working your legs or building your six pack abs. But when was the last time you focused on your lower back?
Even if your lower back plays a role in pretty much every moment, it deserves that individual attention. There are a handful of lower back exercises that you can do at the gym or at home. We’ve listed our five favorites, along with five products to help you turn them off.
Lower back anatomy
Because of its proximity to the spine, the lower back is made up of a multitude of different complicated, delicate, and interconnected muscles, ligaments, vertebrae, nerves, intervertebral discs, and tissues. Take all of that and combine it with the fact that your lower back supports your entire core and is used for most daily activities, and it’s easy to see why lower back pain is so common. And while there are two main groups (the transversospinalis and erector spinae muscles) to consider for weight training, they are a bit difficult to achieve given their size and proximity to other large muscle groups (like the buttocks and hips) .
We won’t go into the scientific details here, but what you need to know is: proceed with caution. The lower back is incredibly prone to injury. You are already ahead of the game by working hard to get your back back, but make sure that you do this carefully and deliberately. We strongly recommend that you stretch, warm up, and use proper form when tackling lower back exercises.
The story goes on
1. Back extension
There is a short list of exercises that target the lower back directly, and this is probably the most effective. The back extensors require special equipment that most gyms offer, either as a standalone machine or as a weighted machine. We prefer the former as it allows you to use the correct shape and grab barbell plates to adjust the weight as needed.
Instructions: Adjust the back extension machine so that your hips rest comfortably on the padding and allow your torso enough freedom of movement to extend over the top. Your feet should be flat on the vertical platform behind you, with your body relatively parallel to the floor. Break at the hips, let your torso and head move toward the floor, then slowly return to the starting position. You don’t want to overstretch your body here, so make sure your main position is in a straight line from your head to your toes.
Multifunctional weight bench in a fine form
In our roundup of the best workout benches, we loved the versatility of this option from Finer Form, especially because its construction allows you to do back extensions. This isn’t quite as effective as the gym-grade options from a company like Rogue Fitness, but it will absolutely do the job in your home gym.
FinerForm adjustable training bench
Buy: Finer Form multifunction weight bench $ 159.99
2. Deadlift with the barbell
The deadlift is one of the most popular compound powerlifting exercises out there. People assume it’s just another barbell lift that needs to be incorporated on leg day, but deadlifts really work your entire body, especially your rear chain, which includes all of the muscles on the back of your body. This is another exercise where shape is paramount. The lift depends on your lower back to maintain a neutral spine and stabilize your core. We strongly recommend nailing the technique to a lighter weight before getting the most out of it like an Olympic champion.
Instructions: Since shape is so important here, check out the video below for a great visual demonstration of what not to do when deadlifting. In general, though, you should keep your spine straight, raise the bar vertically, and avoid overstretching it when you reach the top of the movement. Straight, steady lines and movements are the keys to a successful deadlift.
Nike Metcon 7
Traditional athletic shoe wisdom told us that support and cushioning are good things. This may be true for long walks or high-impact movements, but the deadlift is all about stability and proximity to the floor. You want your feet to anchor movement and provide a solid foundation, which is why you will see some gym goers at Converse deadlifting or even barefoot. The Nike Metcon is our favorite weightlifting shoe, and each new iteration seems better than the last. The Metcon 7 has extra foam for comfort and includes a tab to secure your shoelaces so they don’t get in the way during your major lifting operations.
Nike Metcon 7
Buy: Nike Metcon 7 $ 130.00
Supermans are an incredible lower back exercise that only requires your body weight. They’re easy to beat at the gym or at home. All you need is an exercise mat and your body. You can treat this as a normal exercise and do it in sets with a specific number of repetitions. Or you can treat them like a board and hold the pose for 30 seconds to a minute. Either way, you will definitely feel the burning sensation in your lower back and buttocks. This is a great exercise when you’re on the go and don’t have access to your usual lower back exercise equipment.
Instructions: Lie face down on an exercise mat and stretch your arms over your head. Bend your lower back to raise your arms, torso, legs, and feet in the air so only your hips and floor are in contact. Hold for the duration you want and then slowly lower it.
Gaiam Essentials Thick Yoga Mat
A thick exercise mat is not always good. Like a good pair of weightlifting shoes, some exercises require a mat that is closer to the floor and provides stability over cushioning. But for something like superman, where you put a lot of pressure on your hips alone, cushioning is key. This is a great multipurpose mat that comes in a variety of colors and has been positively endorsed by 24,000+ Amazon reviews. What do you dislike?
Gaiam Essentials yoga mat, how to clean a yoga mat
Buy: Gaiam Essentials Thick Yoga Mat $ 30.11
4. Good morning
This is like the upright version of the back extension. Another barbell exercise that targets the lower back is somewhere between a squat and a deadlift. It’s also one of the easiest to screw up and cause a back injury, especially when you’re handling too much weight. Check out the video below for a great tutorial.
Instructions: Place a moderate weight barbell on a squat rack as you normally would. Place it in a low bar position on your upper back and squeeze your rear deltas to create a “shelf” for the bar. Step back from the bar and put your feet shoulder-width apart. Push your hips back, bend your knees and keep your shins straight and lower your torso until it is almost parallel to the floor. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat for several sets of six to 12 reps.
CAP 7-foot Olympic pole
Spy’s own Taylor Galla built her own power rack at the height of the 2020 lockdown. This is a great way to start your home gym. But for a good morning, you absolutely need a good barbell. CAP, one of the largest manufacturers and distributors of fitness equipment, supplies this 44-pound barbell. There are several color options (chrome or black) and choices for your knurling preferences so you can really customize the bar to suit your needs. Grab a set of weighted plates and some collar clips and you’re good to go.
cap olympic bar
Buy: CAP 7-Foot Olympic Bar $ 148.25
5. Glute Bridge exercise ball
While the Glute Bridge doesn’t look rated, it’s actually one of the most effective bodyweight exercises for the buttocks, hips, and lower back. They are traditionally performed flat on the floor, but bringing in an exercise ball makes things a little harder and really forces you to activate that core to keep things stable.
Instructions: Lie on your back with your arms stretched out to your sides and your palms facing the floor. Place your heels on an exercise ball so your legs form a 90-degree angle. Push your hips up and flex your glutes and lower back until your torso is parallel to your thighs. Hold for a second, then return to the starting position.
Trideer Extra Thick Exercise Ball
This is Amazon’s best-selling exercise ball and comes in five sizes and six different colors. It is made of PVC material to prevent it from slipping and should serve you well as an exercise ball or even as an original desk chair for the day. It even includes a pump so you can always keep your desired inflation level.
Trideer exercise ball
Buy: Trideer Extra Thick Exercise Ball $ 24.99
Do you love what you see? follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and be the first to find out about new product launches, the latest trends and don’t miss any offers that you won’t find anywhere else.
More from SPY
The best of Spy