What are the best lower back exercises?
With back pain a common issue for many people, the best lower back exercises are an essential tool for alleviating pain.
Including lower back exercises as part of your weekly training routines also helps to strengthen your core and improve posture.
We’ve narrowed down a range of workouts to compile the best lower back exercises you can try for yourself.
Many of these exercises will also help with muscle growth and strength across a range of other muscle groups, making them excellent for full-body sessions.
The Best Lower Back Exercises
Our exercise lists are created by determining the best exercises for muscle growth, core strength, and overall health and well-being.
Here’s our list of the 10 best lower back exercises:
This simple to learn yet highly effective exercise requires no equipment and will strengthen your lower back over time.
It also activates your glutes and hamstrings, benefiting muscles throughout the posterior chain.
How to do it:
To perform the bridge exercise, grab an exercise mat, then:
- Lie on your back with your hands down to your sides and your knees raised
- Raise your hips off the ground, creating a straight line from your hips to your shoulders
- Hold this position for up to 30 seconds
- Lower your hips back down to the ground
As well as aiding lower back strength and reducing the risk of injury, bridges can help build strength in your knees and improve flexibility.
They also work your core thoroughly, improving posture and working on your abs and obliques.
You can perform the bridge exercise regularly, including it as part of your warm-up routines or to warm down after a session in the gym.
A good standard to aim for is 2-3 times per week, either as part of a broader full-body regime or warming up and down, particularly after back workouts.
Hyperextensions get your body to pivot up and down using your lower back as the pivoting point and driving the workout to this region.
Muscles in the butt, hips, and shoulders are also engaged with this exercise for additional muscle growth.
How to do it:
To perform hyperextensions:
- Lie face down on the hyperextension bench
- Lock your feet into the foot brace
- Either cross your arms over your chest or hold them to the side of your head with your elbows pointing outwards
- Lower your body until it is parallel to the ground, then raise back up to the starting position
Back extensions are perfect for people who struggle with lower back pain since the muscles here are directly strengthened when performing this exercise.
It’s also great for improving your technique with other exercises such as deadlifts since it strengthens the posterior chain.
Include hyperextensions as part of your core or back workout sessions 2-3 times per week to develop your lower back.
You can gain additional strength by performing weighted hyperextensions, but make sure you’ve perfected your form before moving on to these exercises.
8. Kettlebell Swings
The kettlebell swings are simple to learn and master, yet their benefits extend across a broad selection of muscle groups.
In addition to strengthening the lower back muscles, glutes, abs, pecs, and quads are all involved, making it a great all-round erector spinae workout.
How to do it:
To perform kettlebell swings, choose the weighted kettlebell of your choice, then:
- Take the kettlebell in both hands, holding it on the floor slightly in front of you and between your feet. Place your feet at shoulder-width apart
- With knees, slightly bent, swing the bell back between your legs a little way to build momentum, then swing it forwards and up to shoulder height
- Make sure you keep a slight bend in your legs as the bell comes up while driving your hips forwards
- Let the kettlebell return back down to the starting position
Kettlebell swings involve a simple motion that benefits multiple muscle groups with minimal risk of injury, making them perfect for beginners and experienced trainers alike.
With so many body parts engaged, this is an essential workout for people looking to improve their overall athleticism.
You can perform kettlebell swings multiple times per week without fear of overtraining, and they also make a great addition to a warm-up.
As with the bridges exercise, supermans are nice and simple lower back workouts that will help to build strength in your lower back muscles.
Glutes, hamstrings, and abs are also worked out, making this an effective overall core exercise.
How to do it:
To perform the supermans’ workout:
- Lie on the floor on your front, extending your hands in front of your head
- Lift your arms and legs from the floor towards the ceiling
- Hold this position for a few seconds, then return your arms and legs to the ground before repeating
A risk-free lower back exercise that doesn’t require any equipment, supermans should be featured in your regular workouts, especially if you have issues with back pain.
They compliment other bodyweight workouts such as situps and leg raises, which focus more on the abs.
This simple exercise, when performed correctly, can greatly benefit your lower back muscles and can be performed 3-5 times per week.
Including it as part of a core exercise session will help you perform other back-related exercises even better.
6. Bird Dogs
A simple, equipment-free exercise, bird dogs build muscles in your lower back and help keep your spine aligned.
Hips and core also engage with bird dogs, leading to overall improvements in core strength and stability.
How to do it:
Perform bird dogs by:
- Get down on a mat on all fours with enough space to extend your hands and legs
- Brace your core, then extend one arm out in front of you and the opposite leg directly out behind you
- Hold this position for a few seconds, keeping your abs engaged
- Return your hands and feet to the floor, then repeat the exercise using the other arm and leg
You can perform the bird dog exercise anywhere you like, making it a versatile lower back workout that helps increase range of motion.
Hamstrings, obliques, and pelvis muscles all get involved in this workout, too, so you get plenty of bang for your buck.
Include these as part of a core warm-up or workout, and since they put little strain on your body, you can include these several times a week.
5. Good Mornings
This exercise resembles a bow, and as such, involves a range of muscles along your posterior chain to help strengthen your lower back.
They also engage glutes, calves, and other muscles and can prevent serious injuries.
How to do it:
Place the desired weights on a barbell, then rest it on the back of your shoulders:
- Brace your abs and upper back, hinging at the hips so as you come down; your upper body moves out
- Come to a stop once your upper body is parallel with the ground
- As your upper body comes down, your hips and bum should push out behind you
- Raise back up to the starting position using your hip hinges to come back upright
Lower back muscles, glutes, and hamstrings are all engaged with the good morning exercise workout, making them essential if your back has a tendency to be put out.
It’s also an accessory exercise, meaning it will aid better form and performance for exercises such as squats and deadlifts.
You can perform good mornings quite often, and they’re great to include as a warm-up before performing heavier back-focused lifts such as deadlifts.
Aim to 10-15 reps using a low weight – you don’t need to pile on lots of weight to get the most out of this workout.
Along with the squat and bench press, deadlifts are one of the three main powerlifting exercises.
As such, they work on strengthening a wide range of muscles, and when performed correctly, will develop muscles in the lower back.
How to do it:
Place the desired weights on a barbell, then:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and clasp the barbell with an overhand grip at the same width
- With your knees bent, engage your core, then lift the bar up, driving your hips forwards as you rise up
- Stop when you are fully upright with the bar held around your groin and arms straight, keeping your core and back engaged
- Lower back down to the starting position (dropping it on your final rep if you’re using heavy weights)
As well as reducing lower back pain, deadlifts will strengthen muscles throughout your legs while training your hip extensors.
Core activation, improved metabolism, and improved jumping are additional benefits you’ll experience from correctly performed deadlifts.
Deadlifts are big compound moves, and as such, should only be performed with plenty of rest and recovery time between sessions.
Aim for 2-3 times per week for this exercise, making sure to increase weights only when you’re happy with your form.
3. Rack Pulls
A full-body exercise, rack pulls engage muscles including the glutes, hamstrings, traps, lats, and quadriceps.
They also give your arms a workout as well, particularly muscles in the forearms and hands.
How to do it:
Load up a barbell with the desired weights and place it on a low rack just below the knees in the squat rack, then:
- Grasp the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart and palms pointing towards your body
- Push your hips back and engage your hamstrings
- Looking forward with your back straight, lift the weight driving through your hips, keeping your back straight as you come up
- At the top of the movement, pull your shoulders back, then return to the starting position
Rack pulls take a little time to get right but engaging such a wide range of muscles also helps to build muscle mass throughout the body.
It’s a great full-body workout that ideally suits people who want to include lower back muscles in their full-body gym sessions.
Try including this exercise 2-3 times per week as part of your full-body workout sessions.
2. Back Extensions
Note: The illustration above shows the more advanced variant of this exercise (the Superman). For basic back extensions, you can keep your arms by your sides.
If you’re working on heavy lifts such as squats and deadlifts, you should include back extensions as part of a program of spinal erector exercises to strengthen related muscles.
This exercise strengthens the erector spinae, making heavier lifting easier to accomplish with less risk of injury.
How to do it:
To perform back extensions:
- Grab a mat and lie on your front
- Put your elbows on the ground, sliding your shoulders downwards
- Press your hips into the mat as you lift up your upper back
- Hold for 20-30 seconds, keeping your head and neck in a neutral position
Core stability, strength, and posture can all benefit from regular back extensions, acting as an inverted version of the sit up.
If you don’t want to stress your lower back, back extensions allow you to work these muscle groups and build them up over time.
Back extensions can be performed every day to build up core strength and stability or include them before moving onto heavier weights used in deadlifts and squats.
1. Barbell Bent-Over Rows
If you want to improve your strength while developing various muscles throughout the body, you’ll be hard pushed to find a better exercise than the barbell bent-over row.
Barbell bent-over rows target most muscles in the back, aiding with core development and reducing the risk of lower back injury.
How to do it:
Load up a barbell with the plates of your choosing, then:
- Standing with feet shoulder-width apart, grasp the barbell in an overhand grip at the same width
- Bent your knees and bring your back over the bar, keeping it straight with your neck
- Bracing your shoulders and squeezing your core, lift the barbell up towards your sternum
- Lower the weights back down to the starting position
Barbell bent-over rows are multi-jointed exercises and will help you grow muscles from the legs up to the back and shoulders.
The main muscle impacted with this exercise is the latissimus dorsi, which means your core and spine will be better protected and strengthened.
Include barbell bent-over rows 2-3 times per week as part of your back day sessions or full-body workouts.
FAQs About Lower Back Exercises
If you still have questions about the best lower back exercises, check out this handy FAQ section we’ve put together for you.
Q: Why is it important to exercise your lower back?
The lower back is one of the prime candidates for workout injuries, so making sure you develop strength here is essential.
Lower back exercises also help keep your back healthy by allowing discs to exchange fluid and receive nutrition.
Q: What are lower back exercises good for?
Exercises that strengthen your lower back alleviate pain in this region by developing stronger core muscles.
This can help with a range of other activities, from performing deadlifts and squats to everyday activities such as moving objects around the home.
Q: How do you know if your lower back is weak?
Poor posture, ineffective balance, and aches and pains from standing for long periods are all good indicators your back would benefit from more exercise.
Strengthening your core through a range of exercises will help to strengthen your lower back and avoid unnecessary injuries.
Q: How often should I do lower back exercises?
This depends on the exercise you’re thinking of performing since some can be performed daily while others require rest days between workouts.
Check this guide for the best lower back exercises you can include in your regular gym sessions.
Q: How can I make my lower back stronger?
There are plenty of great exercises which will help develop lower back strength while also improving core stability and working other muscles.
You can even adopt psychology to work on your back and core, so make sure you try out a variety of options to find the methods which work best for you.
Lower back pain is incredibly common, especially for people at the taller end of the spectrum.
This guide to the best lower back exercises should help you narrow down which exercises will work best for you as part of a well-rounded training regime.
Here’s a quick recap of the 10 best lower back exercises:
- Barbell Bent-Over Rows
- Back Extensions
- Rack Pulls
- Good Mornings
- Bird Dogs
- Kettlebell Swings