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The Best At-Home Exercises for Lower Back Pain

Published May 27, 2019
KC Clements

Written By: KC Clements, MS

KC holds a Master of Arts in Gender Politics from New York University

best-at-home-exercises-for-lower-back-pain
<script type="application/ld+json"> { "@type":"BlogPosting", "headline":"The Best At-Home Exercises for Lower Back Pain", "datePublished":"May 27, 2019", "description":"Struggling with lower back pain? Learn what causes back pain and exercises you can do to prevent and alleviate lower back pain.", "image": "https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/2019/05/best-at-home-exercises-for-lower-back-0178.jpg" }, } ] } </script> <article> <div> <ul> <li><a href="#section1">What Causes Lower Back Pain?</a></li> <li><a href="#section2">Troubleshooting Lower Back Pain</a></li> <li><a href="#section3">How Do You Strengthen Your Back and Core?</a></li> <li><a href="#section4">Putting It All Together</a></li> </ul> </div> <section> <p align="justify">Most of us have felt it—that little nagging pain at the base of the spine telling us that something is off with our lower back. In fact, experts estimate that 80 percent of us will experience back pain at some point in our lifetimes <sup>1</sup>. It’s a leading cause of disability worldwide and one of the most common reasons for missed work days<sup>1</sup>.</p> <p align="justify">But as we’ll show you here, the right exercises and <a href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/stretching-when-is-the-best-time" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">stretches</a> can go a long way in preventing, reducing, and even alleviating lower back pain. Later on, we’ll show you four of our favorite exercises that you can do from the comfort of your own home—no equipment required! <p align="justify">First...</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section1"> <script type="application/ld+json">{"@context":"https://schema.org","@type":"FAQPage","mainEntity":[{"@type":"Question","name":"What Causes Lower Back Pain?","acceptedAnswer":{"@type":"Answer","text":"What’s causing so many of us to experience lower back pain in the first place? For starters, it’s work! A full 86 percent of Americans have jobs that require them to sit all day. Sitting—or more often, slouching—at a desk all day puts the spine out of alignment. It weakens the core muscles and tightens the hip flexors, both of which are crucial for maintaining a strong back. In that seated position, the lower back muscles have to overcompensate, which can cause and aggravate lower back pain. Our posture suffers as well.\n\nAs we age, the disks in the spine begin to degenerate, making us even more susceptible to lower back pain. This process can make existing injuries worse and cause new ones to pop up. The more we age, the more we tend to reduce our activity levels as well. While exercise might seem like the last thing you want to do with lower back pain, staying mobile and active is crucial for maintaining a happy, healthy back.\n\nLet’s get a little more specific and learn some of the main signs and causes of lower back pain."}}]}</script> <h2>What Causes Lower Back Pain?</h2> <p align="justify">What’s causing so many of us to experience lower back pain in the first place? For starters, it’s work! A full 86 percent of Americans have jobs that require them to sit all day. Sitting—or more often, slouching—at a desk all day puts the spine out of alignment. It weakens the core muscles and tightens the hip flexors, both of which are crucial for maintaining a strong back. In that seated position, the lower back muscles have to overcompensate, which can cause and aggravate lower back pain. Our <a href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/posture-4-moves-to-get-you-back-in-line" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">posture</a> suffers as well.</p> <p align="justify">As we <a href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/the-best-low-impact-exercises-for-seniors/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">age</a>, the disks in the spine begin to degenerate, making us even more susceptible to lower back pain. This process can make existing injuries worse and cause new ones to pop up. The more we age, the more we tend to reduce our activity levels as well. While exercise might seem like the last thing you want to do with lower back pain, staying mobile and active is crucial for maintaining a happy, healthy back.</p> <p align="justify">Let’s get a little more specific and learn some of the main signs and causes of lower back pain.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section2"> <h2>Troubleshooting Lower Back Pain</h2> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/check-up-doctors-analyzing-0178.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/check-up-doctors-analyzing-0178.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/check-up-doctors-analyzing-0178.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/check-up-doctors-analyzing-LR-0178.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="check-up-doctors"> </picture> <p align="justify">Lower back pain has a few main causes. Here we’ll look at the main muscle groups that can have an impact on your lower back.</p> <h3>Abdominals</h3> <p align="justify">The abs are flexor muscles that let us bend forward and lift and arch the back. As a part of the core, they work in tandem with the back to help us perform everyday functions. Unfortunately, many of us have weak ab muscles and because of this, we overcompensate by letting the back do most of the work. This puts strain on the back, making us more susceptible to pain and injury. If you’re struggling to lift or arch your back or bend forward, it may just be weak abs.</p> <h3>Obliques</h3> <p align="justify">On the side of either of your ab muscles are the obliques. These muscles are responsible for rotating the spine and helping to maintain good posture. Strong obliques keep you stable, but weak ones can make rotation and lateral movement hard. Make sure that your ab routine doesn’t skip over the obliques!</p> <h3>Glutes</h3> <p align="justify">The glutes are one of two muscle groups that make up the extensors, the muscles that allow us to stand and lift objects <sup>2</sup>. The glutes are also crucial to posture. Weak glutes can make us slouch which throws off the spine and causes the back muscles to extend and overcompensate <sup>3</sup>. That leads to—you guessed it—lower back pain. If you’re struggling to stand with good posture or lift things, your glutes might need some attention.</p> <h3>Erector spinae and back</h3> <p align="justify">Erector spinae is a fancy way of describing the muscles that connect the lower and upper back. They are the second group of extensor muscles, responsible for standing and lifting. These muscles are often overworked and hyperextended due to a <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/3-core-exercises-for-seniors-to-improve-stability" rel="noreferrer" title="weak core">weak core</a>, so if you find that’s the case, focus on doing abdominal work and do stretches that help your back.</p> <h3>Hips</h3> <p align="justify">If you’re one of those 86 percent of folks who sit at a desk all day, your hips spend a lot of time bent. This causes the hip flexors to become tight and inflexible. That can throw your pelvis out of alignment while sitting places undue pressure on your lower back <sup>4</sup>. Try standing more often and do hip stretches and exercises like the ones we’ll teach here.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section3"> <script type="application/ld+json">{"@context":"https://schema.org","@type":"FAQPage","mainEntity":[{"@type":"Question","name":"How Do You Strengthen Your Back and Core?","acceptedAnswer":{"@type":"Answer","text":"To strengthen your back and core and alleviate lower back pain, you’ll need a two-part approach. First, you need to make sure to stretch out your back and all of the adjacent muscles. The hamstrings are especially important. Try lying on the floor and hugging your knees to your chest. This stretches out the hamstring and makes your lower back feel great.\n\nThe other piece of the puzzle is exercise. The best thing you can do for your back is to get up and get moving! We want you to focus on staying active just a few minutes each day. One of the healthiest, easiest activities you can do is just go for a ten to twenty minute walk. Walking works out stiffness in the joints, burns fat, and can even boost your mood."}}]}</script> <h2>How Do You Strengthen Your Back and Core?</h2> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/hurt-back-man-on-bed-0178.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/hurt-back-man-on-bed-0178.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/hurt-back-man-on-bed-0178.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/hurt-back-man-on-bed-LR-0178.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="hurt-back-man"> </picture> <p align="justify">To strengthen your back and core and alleviate lower back pain, you’ll need a two-part approach. First, you need to make sure to stretch out your back and all of the adjacent muscles. The hamstrings are especially important. Try lying on the floor and hugging your knees to your chest. This stretches out the hamstring and makes your lower back feel great.</p> <p align="justify">The other piece of the puzzle is exercise. The best thing you can do for your back is to get up and get moving! We want you to focus on staying active just a few minutes each day. One of the healthiest, easiest activities you can do is just go for a ten to twenty minute walk. <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/10-reasons-why-walking-is-the-best-exercise/" rel="noreferrer" title="Walking ">Walking</a> works out stiffness in the joints, burns fat, and can even boost your mood.</p> <p align="justify">If you’re looking to try something a little more ambitious, we’ve picked out four exercises that can help you with both of these goals while building strength in the process. </p> <p align="justify">Check these out!</p> <h3>Bird Dog</h3> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/bird-dog-exercise-class-0178.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/bird-dog-exercise-class-0178.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/bird-dog-exercise-class-0178.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/bird-dog-exercise-class-LR-0178.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="bird-dog-exercise"> </picture> <p align="justify">The bird dog is a great exercise for strengthening the core, shoulder, and hip muscles, stretching the lower back, and stabilizing the spine. Here’s how it’s done:</p> <ol> <li>Come onto all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips.</li> <li>Raise your right arm and left leg at the same time. Extend your right arm fully in front of you and your left leg fully behind you.</li> <li>Hold for a second, then return to the starting position.</li> <li>Switch, this time raising your left arm and right leg.</li> <li>Repeat until you’ve finished a set.</li> </ol> <p align="justify">This move is simple, but good form is crucial! Make sure that you don’t arch or sag your back by keeping your core muscles engaged for the whole movement. You should also squeeze your glute when you extend your leg out to activate the muscles across the back. Set a nice, steady rhythm for yourself, breathing out as you lift your arm and leg, and breathing in as you drop back to the starting position.</p> <p align="justify">Next, let’s stretch out those hips with... </p> <h3>Table Tops or Glute Bridges</h3> <div class="row justify-content-center text-center"> <video autoplay loop muted> <source src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/Assets/media/exercises/beginner/TABLETOPS.webm" type="video/webm"> <source src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/Assets/media/exercises/beginner/TABLETOPS.mp4" type="video/mp4"> </video> </div> <p align="justify">The table top is great for those extensor muscles. It offers a nice stretch for all the muscles on the backside of the body, plus it works and strengthens the glutes. Here’s how it’s done:</p> <ol> <li>Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Place your hands on the ground just behind you with fingers pointed away from the body.</li> <li>Dig your heels into the floor, squeeze the glutes, and lift the hips up as high as you can.</li> <li>With a slow, controlled movement, return to the starting position.</li> <li>Repeat until you’ve finished a set.</li> </ol> <p align="justify">That same back stretch that makes this move ideal for some, may actually make it too challenging for those with lower back pain. In that case, we recommend trying out the <i>shoulder bridge hold</i> instead. </p> <ol> <li>Lie down on your back and bend your knees, bringing your heels as close to your butt as possible. Keep your arms on the ground with your palms facing up.</li> <li>Squeeze your glutes and press through your heels to bring your hips upwards towards the ceiling. Lift your chest up as far as possible.</li> <li>You can either hold this position or you can opt to drop back to the starting position and continue to repeat the movement for an allotted number of repetitions.</li> </ol> <div class="row justify-content-center text-center"> <video autoplay loop muted> <source src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/Assets/media/exercises/beginner/SHOULDER-BRIDGE-HOLD.webm" type="video/webm"> <source src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/Assets/media/exercises/beginner/SHOULDER-BRIDGE-HOLD.mp4" type="video/mp4"> </video> </div> <p align="justify">This move places far less weight and pressure on the lower back but still hits the glutes hard. It’s a great choice for people who have a hard time doing squats because of back pain since it works the same muscles with far less strain on the back.</p> <p align="justify">If you can do squats, though, we recommend: the <i>Sumo squat</i>.</p> <h3>Sumo Squats</h3> <div class="row justify-content-center text-center"> <video autoplay loop muted> <source src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/Assets/media/exercises/beginner/SUMO-SQUATS.webm" type="video/webm"> <source src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/Assets/media/exercises/beginner/SUMO-SQUATS.mp4" type="video/mp4"> </video> </div> <p align="justify">Sumo squats are great for opening up the hips and building strength in the glutes and inner thigh muscles. Here’s how to do your best Sumo squat:</p> <ol> <li>Stand with your legs together and your left foot pointed slightly outward.</li> <li>Lift your right leg and rotate it fully at the hip like you’re stepping over something.</li> <li>Drop your right foot to the ground until you’re in a wide stance, feet pointed outward.</li> <li>Lower into a half squat. Use your arms to stay balanced.</li> <li>Slide your left leg to meet the right leg and return to standing.</li> <li>Repeat the movement on the opposite side, this time rotating out your left leg.</li> <li>Continue to repeat until you’ve reached the desired number of repetitions.</li> </ol> <p align="justify">It’s important not to push yourself too hard with this move, so only squat down as far as you can comfortably. You should feel a nice stretch through the inner thigh as you gently open the hips. As you squat and as you drag your feet back together, focus on using your glute muscles to power the movement. </p> <h3>Reverse Lunges</h3> <div class="row justify-content-center text-center"> <video autoplay loop muted> <source src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/Assets/media/exercises/beginner/ALTERNATING-REVERSE-LUNGES.webm" type="video/webm"> <source src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/Assets/media/exercises/beginner/ALTERNATING-REVERSE-LUNGES.mp4" type="video/mp4"> </video> </div> <p align="justify">Reverse lunges are an especially good option for people with <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/3-low-impact-exercises-for-bad-knees" rel="noreferrer" title="knee pain">knee pain</a> as they’re much gentler on the knee joints than regular lunges. They’re also a great alternative to boost your glute strength if squats aren’t your thing.</p> <ol> <li>Stand with your feet directly under your hips. Place your hands on your waist.</li> <li>Hinge your hips forward slightly and allow most of your weight to rest on your heels.</li> <li>Shift your weight to your left heel and step backward with your right leg. Begin to drop your right knee down until it almost touches the floor. Your left leg should be bent at close to a 90-degree angle.</li> <li>Squeeze your left glute and press through the heel to raise yourself back up to standing.</li> <li>Now switch, this time stepping back with your left foot. Continue to repeat until you finish a set.</li> </ol> <p align="justify">A great feature of the reverse lunge is that it works both sides of the body separately which promotes symmetrical strength—and remember, many issues are caused by muscle imbalances. Dip your knee to the floor only as far as you can comfortably. Just pay attention to your form and try to go a little further each time.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section4"> <h2>Putting It All Together</h2> <p align="justify">Doing one or more of these moves each day, even for just a few minutes, can help you to heal and prevent lower back pain. Try performing these exercises as a circuit, doing 10 reps of each exercise with a break in between. You can also pick out one or two favorites and commit doing a few sets of them several times each week.</p> <p align="justify">It’s not important that you do these moves quickly, and you definitely don’t want to push yourself so hard that you end up causing an injury. What we want you to remember is that in order to prevent, reduce, or alleviate lower back pain, staying active is key! </p> <p align="justify">Our Warrior Made team has picked out these exercises with simplicity and sustainability in mind. We believe it’s a whole lot easier to start and maintain an exercise routine when you don’t have to worry about having fancy equipment or paying for a gym membership. That’s why any of these moves can be done in your living room, office, or anywhere else you have some space to stretch out.</p> <p align="justify">Try these exercises if you’re struggling with lower back pain. And once you're ready for consistency and accountability in your workout routine, take the next step with weekly <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/introduction/warrior-made-tribe/" rel="noreferrer" title="Warrior Made Tribe">at-home workouts</a> delivered to help you strengthen your back, and body, for good.</p> <h3>Resources</h3> <ol> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.acatoday.org/Patients/Health-Wellness-Information/Back-Pain-Facts-and-Statistics" rel="nofollow noreferrer" title="Back Pain Facts and Statistics">Back Pain Facts and Statistics</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.cedars-sinai.org/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/b/back-muscles.html" rel="nofollow noreferrer" title="Back Muscles">Back Muscles</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.menshealth.com/fitness/a19544187/5-signs-you-have-weak-glutes/" rel="nofollow noreferrer" title="weak glutes">5 Signs That Your Glutes Are Weak as Hell</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.self.com/story/sit-all-day-how-to-undo-tight" rel="nofollow noreferrer" title="Undo Tight Hips">Sit All Day? How To Undo Tight Hips</a></li> </ol> </section> </article>

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