5 Great Core Strengthening Exercises For Lower Back Pain

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Studies suggest that up to 84% of adults suffer from low back pain at some point, and treatment often involves a multidisciplinary approach.

But, is it helpful to do core exercises for back pain? What are the best core strengthening exercises for lower back pain?

In this article, we will discuss the importance of doing core strengthening exercises for lower back pain and provide step-by-step instructions for the following best exercises to strengthen lower back and core muscles to help prevent lower back pain:

A forearm plank.

The Best Core Strengthening Exercises For Lower Back Pain

A large review of 49 studies investigating the effectiveness of core stability exercises for reducing pain and improving disability in non-specific chronic low back pain.

Results found that core stability exercises are effective at reducing back pain and functional disability in those with chronic low back pain if it is nonspecific in nature. 

Additionally, in the study, core stability exercises improved quality of life, neuromuscular control, core muscle activation, and increased muscle mass.

Here are some of the best core exercises to help prevent lower back pain:

#1: Forearm Plank 

Forearm plank.

A regular forearm plank is one of the best core strengthening exercises for lower back pain as long as you use proper form.

This exercise helps build 360° core stability, training all of your abdominal muscles, pelvic floor muscles, and lower back muscles to properly brace the core to support the spine’s proper alignment.

Unfortunately, though this is a great core strengthening exercise for lower back pain, a plank can also exacerbate lower back pain if you do not use the correct technique. 

It is imperative that you maintain a neutral spine and keep your hips in line with the rest of your body rather than allow your hips to drop down like a sway-back position or be hiked up into the air by rounding your back.

The other key plank technique tip is to squeeze your glutes as hard as possible while you hold the plank. 

This will help build isometric glutes strength and endurance and take the pressure off the smaller low back muscles.

Forearm plank.

This is exactly what you want to do in everyday life activities as well as exercise; we often overuse the lower back for lifting, running, and even walking when most of your power and pelvic stability should be coming from the glutes.

Here are the steps to perform a forearm plank in your core workouts for lower back strength:

  1. Support your body down on the floor with your elbows stacked under your shoulders and your forearms pointing forward on the floor with your toes supporting your body behind you, making sure to maintain a straight line from your head to your heels. 
  2. Remember to squeeze your glutes as hard as possible and keep your hips aligned with your body. 
  3. Keep your gaze down so that you maintain a neutral spine.
  4. Build up from 30 to 60 seconds.

#2: Bird Dog

Bird dog is one of the best core strengthening exercises for lower back pain because it helps simultaneously work on developing core strength for stability and core strength for mobility.

In this way, this core exercise for lower back pain can be thought of as a functional core exercise for strengthening the low back and core as a whole.

  1. To perform this low back exercise, get on your hands and knees in a tabletop position with a flat back, tight abs, and glutes squeezed.
  2. Simultaneously extend your opposite arm and leg straight in front and behind you, respectively.
  3. Move slowly and ensure your hips and shoulders stay squared to your mat.
  4. Pause for 2 to 3 seconds, and then bring them all the way back in and under your tabletop trunk so that your elbow and knee on that opposite arm and leg touch in the middle under your body.
  5. Then, extend them all the way back out again.
  6. Perform 15 reps with the right arm and left leg, then switch sides.

#3: Glute Bridge

The glute bridge is one of the best exercises for low back pain to include in your core workout routine. 

Although the glute muscles are often neglected from core workouts, the glutes form the base of the core and are crucial muscles for reducing the workload on the smaller low back extensors. 

This exercise helps build neuromuscular control of the glutes, which can help you activate your glute muscles in everyday life, reducing your reliance on your low back.

You can progress this exercise to a single-leg bridge once you get stronger.

Glute bridge.

Here are the steps:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor as if you are going to do an abdominal crunch. 
  2. Cross your arms over your chest if you have good core strength, or place your arms down at your sides on the floor next to your body if you are a beginner.
  3. Squeeze your butt muscles to lift your hips all the way up off of the floor so that they are in line with your body from your knees down to your shoulder blades.
  4. Pause in this top position, squeezing your glutes as hard as you can for 2 to 3 seconds.
  5. Slowly lower your butt almost all the way back down until you are hovering just above the mat before pressing back up into the bridge position for the next rep.
  6. Perform 15 controlled reps.

#4: Side Plank

Side plank.

Like the forearm plank, the side plank is one of the best core exercises for low back pain because it helps strengthen your deep core muscles as well as the obliques, abs, pelvic floor muscles, and lower back muscles in a different plane.

Core workouts for low back pain need to address the core muscles in a 360-degree fashion because the core is truly a full wraparound, continuous, synergistic group of muscles that encircle the trunk.

Many ab exercises for low back pain focus on the abs in the front of the torso—the rectus abdominis—and train spine flexion (think crunches and sit-ups).

However, to support the lower back effectively, you have to strengthen your core muscles from different angles to target different abdominal and core muscle groups and different muscle fibers within these groups. 

Moreover, while dynamic core exercises like crunches have their place in a core strengthening workout for lower back pain, particularly if you already have low back pain, working on improving core stability is even more important.

Side plank.

This is due to the fact that the root of the low back pain is often due to poor stability and poor muscular endurance in providing stability for your spine. 

This can cause problems with static and dynamic posture when sitting, walking, running, squatting, exercising in the gym, or performing functional activities of daily living.

When performing this core exercise for low back pain, just as with the forearm plank, really think about squeezing your glutes and keeping your hips in line with your body at all times to prevent low back pain and maximize the benefits of this core exercise for lower back pain.

Use the same position as the forearm plank for your body except that you are propped up on your side with your elbow stacked under your shoulder and your feet stacked on top of one another.

#5: Dead Bug

The dead bug is one of the best lower back pain exercises because your back is supported on the floor, which can reduce stress on the low back.

This is helpful, particularly if you are a beginner lacking core strength and kinesthetic awareness of how to maintain a neutral spine during exercise properly.

The one key tip for performing this core exercise for low back pain is to make sure that your low back stays pressed into the mat. 

Do not allow your low back to arch up off of the mat. If you find that this is happening, think about tilting your pelvis from your butt upward so that you sink your lower back into the mat.

If your low back is still popping up off of the mat, only move your arms and legs partway down toward the floor with each rep rather than hovering just above it all the way down.

  1. This exercise is essentially the reverse of the bird dog in that you are lying on your back instead of in a tabletop position.
  2. Extend the opposite arm and leg straight out in front and behind you, respectively.
  3. Move as slowly as you can and perform 15 reps per side.

Build up to doing 2 to 3 sets of these core exercises 3 to 4 times per week to help prevent and reduce low back pain.

For more core exercises, check out our guide here.

Bird dog.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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