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the four best exercises for lower back pain

Posted by in Lower Back pain and your core |

The four best exercises for lower back pain


I have written at great length about lower back posture and its damaging effects on the back. I have also written on exercises that reduce symptoms of sciatica and why this works. However, today I want to focus on the four best exercises for your lower back and why they are considered the best. These exercises are to be done each and every day. They are quick and easy to do.

Firstly, let’s have a look at one of the biggest myths in back care today and why it doesn’t work. I am sure you have all heard about stretching and strengthening for your lower back to cure your lower back pain. There is only one problem with this theory-it doesn’t! The major drawback is that a strong and flexible back is not a better back. That is to say, just because you can get on a back machine at the gym and extend with 200lbs of weight you are not helping your back. In fact, the machine where you sit and bend forwards and backwards to strengthen your back muscles is one of the worst machines you can do for your back! The research done by the foremost expert in lower backs, Dr. Stuart McGill actually used this same action to make discs rupture! Dr. McGill has written over 200 research papers on lower back health and is one of, if not the most recognised researchers in Lower back health. When it comes to this machine he will tell you that it’s a sure fire way to herniate a disc. The constant bending forwards with weight added to it is extremely harmful.

So having a super strong back does not mean that you have a back that will be pain free.

When it comes to having a flexible back the results are the same. Many backs that are too flexible have more problems than backs that have a certain amount of stiffness. A flexible back can be an unstable back.

What you do want is a back that has good stamina. What this means is that your back is able to remain stable during your daily activities without breaking down. This is the great secret to back health!

A study in Finland showed that people who lacked back endurance (or stamina) were 3-4 times more likely to have back pain than those who had good or even fair back endurance. You need to be able to maintain good posture  both when you are sitting and standing otherwise you will lose your stability and protection, your back will become unstable and your back will ‘go out on you’ or to put it more correctly, be injured!.

Therefore it’s imperative to do these exercises every day to build up your stamina. The studies have shown by doing them every day your back will be better than if you were to do them only two to three times a week. Remember, you are trying to build up your endurance levels.

So before we start, if you haven’t already read my other posts on why you shouldn’t do sit-ups, trying to touch your toes, forward bends etc I suggest you do so that you can remove a vital component which is damaging your back. Also, if you are doing any type of forwards bending like getting out of bed in the morning and start touching your toes, bringing your knees to your chest you most definitely need to read my other posts on back pain because you are now putting your discs at a 300% greater risk of damage.

One final thing, please please please don’t slouch or lift things with a rounded back or work bent over forwards with your lower back bent-keep your lower back straight maintaining its inward arch and bend at the hips. By doing this you have just protected your back ligaments and discs from damage!

And one last final thing, you already know that you should not bend forwards with a rounded lower back because it is damaging to your back. Then what do you think you are doing when you lay on your back and do sit-ups? You are curling your lower back over and over again which is harmful to your lower back! The only difference between doing sit-ups and bending with a rounded back to pick something up is that you are lying on the ground when you do a sit-up. Every single sit up you do is damaging your back!

Ok, so here are the four best exercises to manage your back pain and protect you from having back pain in the future.



The cat-camel is a warm up exercises to get your back mobile.

Get down on your hands and knees and place them about shoulder width apart. Now let your head bend forward you also arch your back upwards as high as you can go comfortably. This should give you a rounded spine. Then when you have done this you arch your back the other way as if you are trying to touch your belly button to the ground and also extend your neck so that you are now looking forwards. It is a gentle rhythmical sequence that should not cause you pain. It is to loosen up the spine… Remember not to cause any pain, if something is painful please stop short of the painful range. Do this eight times

Curl up


This is to work your abdominals region and is the most effective exercise of its type. This will work your abs whilst putting the least amount of stress on your lower back and discs. You will notice with this exercise the hands are placed in the arch of your lower back so that you retain the arch during the curl up instead of allowing the back to flatten. This also protects your lower back from harm.

Lie face up on the floor with one leg straight and the other leg bent so that the foot is placed on the floor. Place your hands under your lower back with your palms facing down. Place your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Slowly raise your head and shoulders of the ground making sure that you are not allowing your head to push forwards of your shoulders. You should feel that you have a steel rod in your spine going from your head to your shoulders and you lift your head and shoulders from the floor as one unit. Hold for 8 seconds and repeat 4 times. Once you have done this, change legs over and do another 4 sets. If you are unable to do this many, do as many as you can up to the point of fatigue. Remember that we are aiming at endurance levels so by doing this each day you will slowly build up so that you can do more and more. You want to be doing more sets of 8 seconds as opposed to trying to increase the amount of seconds you hold the curl up. Breathe deeply as you contract your abdominals.

A more advanced version of this is that when you do your curl up also lift your elbows off the ground.

Side Bridge


This exercise will work your lateral stabilizers which are crucial in giving you support for your spine.

There are two ways to do this. The first is an easier version which I suggest you start with until your muscles are better conditioned.

Lie on your left side with your knees and your upper body propped up on your left elbow and forearm. Place your right hand on your left shoulder and slowly raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Hold this position for 8 seconds, breathing deeply the entire time. Do four reps, and then change over to your right side.

The more advanced version you straighten you legs. You have your legs straight and split apart with the top leg in front and the bottom leg behind. They should be about half a meter apart. I am not sure whether this is clear in my explanation so please just Google ‘side bridge’ and see an image if you are confused.

Bird Dog


This exercise works your lower- and middle-back extensors-the muscles that help you bend backward. The final part of your core muscles that need to be worked.
Once again you need to get down on your hands and knees with them about shoulder-width apart. Slowly raise and straighten your right leg and left arm at the same time. Hold for 8 seconds, breathing deeply throughout the exercise. Lower your arm and leg straight down, and then sweep them along the floor back into the starting position. That’s one repetition. Perform four repetitions, and then change sides. The important things to look out for here is that you are not overly arching your back when you do this. You need to keep that back in a neutral position engaging your stomach muscles as you do this. You should feel your stomach muscle contracting as you do this exercise. The other important factor is to make sure that you are not hitching your buttock up. In short, if you were to place a bar across your buttocks from one side to the other, when you lift your leg the bar should remain horizontal rather than being tipped up at an angle. You may need someone to check that you are doing it right.

And there you have it!

Do these simple exercise every day to protect your back, strengthen your core muscles-all of your core muscles, lift properly, sit and stand tall and say goodbye to your back pain.