9 Great Lower Back Exercises - Work Your Lower Back

Your back muscles are some of the most important muscles of your core, and the lower back is the foundation to any strong, fit body.  Most of us know our lower backs because they hurt all the time from sitting and not always picking things up the right way.

The lower back muscles travel all the up on either side of the spine and, to work them, we usually have to do extension type exercises.  It's important to work your lower back, along with the rest of your back, including the lats and the upper back

Choosing Your Exercises

  • Beginners:  Choose 1-2 exercises and perform 1-2 sets of 12-16 reps
  • Inter/Adv:  Choose 2-4 different exercises - For example, try a back extension followed by a hyperextension or a deadlift to work the back in a completely different way.  Try a variety of moves with different types of equipment to keep things interesting.  Try for 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps, resting between sets
  • Use enough weight or resistance that you can ONLY complete the desired number of reps

1
Back Extensions

Back Extensions
Paige Waehner

Back extensions are probably one of the most classic lower back exercises and they can be done in a variety of ways.

The basic move is to keep your legs on the floor while you lift the chest off the floor, with the hands either on the floor for support, out front or behind the head.

The real key with back extensions is to engage the abs before you lift the chest off the floor.  This will allow you to really focus on the lower back muscles.  You can also lift both upper and lower off the floor at the same time for a more intense exercise.

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2
Back Extensions on the Ball

Ball Back Extension
Paige Waehner

I really love the back extension on the ball because you get a greater range of motion.  You can keep your hands under the chin, as shown, or you can place them on either side of the head.

I like to round all the way over the ball and then engage the abs while lifting the upper body, just until the entire body is in a straight line.  You can also do this move on the knees as a modification.

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3
Back Extensions on the BOSU

BOSU Back Extension
Paige Waehner

If you have access to a BOSU, this is another great tool for strengthening the entire core, especially the lower back.  You'll have a little less range of motion in this move, but balancing on the unstable dome will challenge your core and stability muscles in a whole different way.

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4
Reverse Hyperextension on the Ball

Hyperextensions on the Ball
Paige Waehner

This is one of my favorite, unique ways to work the lower back as well as the glutes and hamstrings.  For this one, you roll forward on the ball until you're on  your forearms. 

Keep the legs straight and lift then straight up, just until your body is in a straight line.  In other words, don't take the legs way past the body, but just to hip level. 

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5
Good Mornings

Good Morning
Paige Waehner

Good mornings are a very gentle way of working the back, particularly if you're not using any weight.

For this move, it's very important to brace your abs, which helps protect your lower back as you strengthen it.  You can have your arms out to the sides, out forward (as shone, which is harder) or behind your head as you tip from the hips, keeping the back flat and knees slightly bent, until your torso is parallel to the floor.

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6
Hip Hinge

Hip Hinge
Hip Hinge. Paige Waehner

I love this move for teaching the more challenging deadlift exercise.  For this one, use a broomstick or some other straight stick and hold it behind your back, one hand behind the head and the other behind the lower back.

The stick should be in contact with your head, between the shoulder blades and your tailbone.  Hinge forward and try to keep the stick in contact with all three points the entire time.

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7
Deadlifts

Deadlifts
Paige Waehner

Deadlifts are one of my all time favorite exercises for the lower back, as well as the glutes and hamstrings.

Deadlifts are actually pretty hard to master, even though they look easy. The key is to, first, keep the back flat and the shoulders back as you tip from the hips, knees slightly bent.  Second, keep the weight really close to your legs, like you're shaving them.  That will allow you to work your lower back without too much strain.

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8
Bird Dog

Superhuman core exercise
Paige Waehner

This is a great exercise for overall core stability as well as strengthening the lower back.  The idea is to lift the opposite arm and leg, just until your entire body is in a straight line, then switch to the other side.  This one looks easier than it is.

9
Bridge

Bridge
Paige Waehner

This is another gentle, simple exercise that is perfect for strengthening the lower back as well as the glutes and the hamstrings.  If you have back problems, I would use this exercise because it's a great way to work on core stabilization.

For this move, you want the feet under the knees and you want to push the hips up until the body is in a straight line.  You can repeat that or you can hold the post for 30 or more seconds.

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