Relieve Lower Back Pain

When people think of core muscles, they often think of six-pack abs; however, our core includes much more than abdominal muscles. Our hips, glutes, hip flexors, and lower back are all connected and work to stabilize our core and maintain correct posture.

Unfortunately, many Americans neglect strengthening these muscles and often develop deficiencies or imbalances that cause weakness and pain, particularly in the lower back. According to the CDC, nearly thirty-nine percent of the U.S. adult population suffers from some form of chronic lower back pain. Although a wide array of issues can cause lower back pain, including pinched nerves and spinal stenosis, a proper exercise routine that targets the muscles around the trunk can help many people experience relief from their symptoms.

As someone who often experiences lower back pain to the point where my daily activities can be limited, I often feel significant relief from my symptoms when I can dedicate a portion of my exercise time to strengthening and stretching the muscles around my hips, lower back, legs, and glutes.

Our lower back engages constantly and is used for everything from picking up kids or pets, walking and jogging, and even sitting upright. It’s crucial that we protect our lower back and work to keep our entire trunk strong to help prevent injuries.

Here are a few simple exercises to target the trunk area that you can do at the gym or at home with little to no extra equipment.

Bird Dog

  • Start on your hands and knees with your head in a neutral position, looking down. Place your hands directly below your shoulders.
  • Extend your left arm and your right leg forming a straight line with your torso. While extending, squeeze your glutes and engage your core. Avoid rocking from side to side.
  • Slowly lower back to a neutral position
  • Repeat for 8 to 10 repetitions on each side.

Sumo Squat

  • Stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart and toes slightly turned out.
  • Keep your trunk engaged as you bend your knees and sink until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Make sure to keep your back straight and push your body weight onto your heels.
  • Be sure to inhale as you lower your body and exhale as you push your feet into the floor to raise back up.
  • Repeat for 8 to 10 repetitions.
  • To increase difficulty, use both hands to hold a light weight close to your body in front of your chest. For even more difficulty, hold the weight extended from your body with your arms straight.

Glute Bridge

  • Lie on the floor on your back with your feet flat, about shoulder-width apart, and knees bent. Place your arms at your side.
  • Lift your hips and raise your pelvis towards the ceiling.
  • At the top of the motion, squeeze your glutes. Be careful not to overarch your back. Slowly lower back down to the floor.
  • Repeat for 8 to 10 repetitions.
  • To increase difficulty, hold for 2-3 seconds at the top of your hip extension or add a light medicine ball on top of your hips for extra weight.

Romanian Dead Lift

  • Stand tall while holding light dumbbells on your thighs or a kettlebell between your legs.
  • Keeping a straight spine and legs straight, slowly hinge at your hips while lowering the weight until you feel a light pull in your hamstrings.
  • Hold your legs straight while performing this exercise, but do not lock your knees.
  • Stand back up while keeping a neutral spine.
  • Keep your back straight the entire time. Avoid arching your back at the bottom of the exercise.
  • Repeat for 8 to 10 repetitions.

Front Plank

  • Place your hands (or elbows) on the floor directly under your shoulders.
  • Step your feet back to bring your body in a straight line. For more stability, place your feet wider; for a challenge, bring your feet closer together.
  • Pull your belly button in towards your spine and engage your abs, quads, and glutes.
  • Hold the exercise for 10-15 seconds, then drop your knees to the floor and rest. When ready, raise your knees and repeat 3 to 4 times. For a challenge, perform 2-3 repetitions of 20-30 seconds each until you can hold for up to 1 minute.

By Hayden Legg, ACSM-CEP