Fantastic do-anywhere exercises that will get rid of lower back pain
Niggling back pain? There's plenty you can do to strengthen, loosen and ease it off. Here are 6 fantastic exercises for lower back pain.
Lots of things can bring about low back pain, from too much sitting (at desks, in cars), to poor technique in the gym, to doing the most common every day chores. Do you carry your handbag on the same shoulder? Bend over to pick up groceries without a thought? Sit on the same position on the sofa every evening? Then low back pain may be in your future.
Don't panic! There are a few great exercises you can do to stave off back pain by keeping your spine, back muscles and core strong, flexible and healthy. Combine these with regular activity, less sitting (more standing), plenty of walking, and a good healthy diet and your back health should receive a boost.
Target these muscles during your back-strengthening routine
- Erector spinae (back extensor muscles)
- Transverse abdominis (deep core muscles)
- Gluteal muscles (bottom!)
How often should you do these exercises?
If you are looking to keep back pain at bay, or if you've experienced low back pain in the past and are keen to avoid it, do these for 20-30 minutes, twice or three times per week. If you currently have back pain, seek the advice of your medical professional, GP or physiotherapist for bespoke guidance.
Deep "belly" breathing
Believe it or not, learning to breathe properly - as our bodies want us to - is one of the best and most basic things we can do to promote back health.
- Stand up with your toes touching and your heels a couple of inches apart
- Maintain a neutral spine (your natural curve)
- Put your weight gently back into your heels and think about pulling your heels together
- Reach both arms overhead with your fingertips touching
- As you breathe in, think about lifting your ribcage up from the sternum, increasing the space between your pelvis and bottom ribs
- As you breathe out, think about tightening your core from the inside, supporting your long spine
- Repeat this in/out breath gently, slowly and rhythmically to support your spine using your body's natural corset - the core
The simple forward bend is one of the most enjoyable stretches you can do for a tight lower back. Start with that Founder position to keep it all under control.
- Adopt the Founder position as above
- Gently let both hands drop down to the ground as you think about tipping your bottom up and your hips back
- Don't lock your knees - let them bend slightly to take the pressure off your hamstrings
- Keep the weight back in your heels
- If you can't touch the ground, place your palms on your shins
- Let your head hang down naturally, allowing the weight of the skull to extend the stretch in the spin
- When you are at the lowest position, pull your hips back and up
- Hold for 20-30 seconds
- Come back up to standing very slowly, thinking about stacking each vertebrae of your spine like a string of beads
Spine-strengthening plank hold
Most people don't perform the plank properly. Make sure you're not one of them by following this top technique for a strong, healthy back and awesome abs.
- Lie on the floor, face down
- Flex your feet and keep your legs together from thighs to knees to ankles
- Place your elbows slightly in front of your shoulders
- Think about pulling your shoulders down and back, away from your ears, and squeezing the knees and elbows inwards
- Lift up, pressing into your knees, toes, elbows and forearms
- Your body and spine should now be in a straight line, with hips raised, but neither sagging down nor lifting up higher than your spine
- The spine - from neck to hips - is straight
- Keep your core and back tight and breathe naturally as you hold the plank
- Hold for 20-30 seconds
This move is taken from Foundation Training, a form of back-health exercising which aims to strengthen the spine through functional movements. Learn proper technique and you can apply the Founder to lots of every day movements, as well as your workouts in the gym or on the yoga mat.
- Stand with your legs and feet about 3 feet apart, feet facing straight forward, legs about 3 feet apart
- Keep your chest high and chin pulled back, tucked in towards your neck. Maintain this throughout the move.
- Press your body weight into your heels and pull your hips back behind you with knees slightly bent
- As you pull your hips pull back and your bottom goes out behind you, bring both arms up straight in front of you with palms upwards
- Lift your arms as high as you can but keep your eyes on the horizon
- Hold for 20 seconds and build up to 40 seconds
Taking it further:
- After 20/40 seconds, stretch down to the ground, keeping your weight in your heels, your knees slightly bent and your hips as far back as you can
- Feel the gentle stretch in your hamstrings, calves, glutes, and low back
- Slowly return to the Founder position above by pressing your hands into your shins and lifting your chest
- As you come back up, keep a tight, strong low back and core
- When your chest is high enough that your eyes are looking forward and your weight is pressed firmly into the heels again, bring both arms behind you to make your chest open and wide
- Finally, bring both arms forwards and up as high as possible while keeping the hips back, your weight in the heels and your chest high
Once you've mastered the Founder position, try this modified version to add another dimension to your low back mobilisation and flexibility routine.
- Adopt the Founder position
- Breathe in and reach both arms out in front of your chest with your fingertips pressed firmly together together
- Slowly lift your arms up as high as you can, keeping the back strong and the core braced
- Hold for 20 seconds
Back extension with adductors
This is a strong exercise which isolates the deep muscles of the core and low back whilst working the adductors (inner thighs) and hamstrings, both of which are attached to and support the low back.
- Lie on the floor on your stomach
- Flex your feet at the ankles and press your legs together, keeping a slight bend in the knees
- Press your pelvis, hips and knees into the ground
- Lift your elbows off the floor so your forearms and hands are raised a few inches
- Think about pulling your shoulders back and down, imagining that you are tucking your shoulder blades into your back pockets
- Lift your chest and keep your neck straight, looking straight ahead
- Hold for 20-30 seconds before lowering back down slowly and gently
Exercises to avoid for low back pain
If you're susceptible to lower back pain, have suffered a back injury in the past, or are building up your spinal strength, avoid these exercises:
- heavy deadlifts
- standing overhead presses
- plyometric moves such as jump lunges, box jumps or jump squats