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The 10 Best Lower Back Exercises for Stability and Strength

The lower back is the weakest link in our body if you really think about it. The old saying ‘you're only strong as your weakest link' is true especially if you are training for strength and hypertrophy, here are the 10 best lower back exercises for stability and strength. 

A strong spine starts at the bottom.

The spine is the foundation of our body, every movement and rest position is heavily dependent on how strong and flexible our spine is. The most vulnerable portion of our spine is in the lower back region specially L1 to L5 vertebrae. Let's look at 10 best exercises which will help us strengthen this region. 

10 Best Lower Back Exercises

1. Rack Pull

The smaller version of Deadlift also called a mini deadlift, the Rack Pull is an excellent exercise for you to develop your lower back strength if you are a beginner or you are recovering from an injury. This will develop functional stability in your lower back

How to Do It

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Rack Pull
  • First place the barbell on a low rack position and add plates to the bar for you to do the exercise with a good form. 
  • Stand in front of the bar, bend your knees and grab the bar with a pronated grip. 
  • This is your starting position. 
  • Now pull the bar up as if you're doing a deadlift. 
  • Once reached the peak, then slowly keep down the bar at the starting position. 
  • Repeat for reps

2. Glute Bridge

The glute bridge is a stable recovery exercise for your posterior chain. Most beginners should start their lower back exercise with this movement. 

How to Do it

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Glute Bridge
  • Place a mat on the floor for comfort. 
  • Lie down on the mat on your back. 
  • Bring your heel closer to your buttocks. 
  • Place your hands on the mat and lift your hips to the sky. 
  • Only your foot, upper back, head and arms are supposed to be in contact with the floor. 
  • Lower down and raise them again while maintaining a rhythmic breathing. 
  • Repeat for reps. 

3. Barbell Good Morning

The barbell good morning exercise is performed by an inefficient squatter. This improper lifting technique for a squat could be beneficial if you tweak it a little bit and adjust the range of motion. With right movement this exercise could give you a bulletproof lower back. 

How to Do It

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Barbell Good Morning
  • First rack a barbell with light weight and stand in front of it. 
  • Now unrack the bar just as you would unrack it for squats. 
  • Secure the barbell properly and take a slightly wider foot stance. 
  • This is your starting position. 
  • Now bend down while maintaining the arch in your back and keep your legs straight. You should feel a deep stretch in your lower back and hamstring. 
  • Once you reach 90° bend go back to your starting position. 
  • Repeat for reps. 
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4. Back Extension

Back extension can be performed in a regular manner, but the best stretch can be obtained in a hypertension machine. For a progressive overload you can do them while holding a plate. 

How to Do It

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Back Hypertension
  • Stand in the hypertension machine with your legs placed in the leverage. 
  • Erect your entire posture taking a slant angle over the machine. 
  • Grab a plate and hold it tight to your upper chest. 
  • This is your starting position. 
  • Now slowly bend down to make an upside down v shape. 
  • Once you've reached maximum stretch go back to the starting position. 
  • Repeat for reps. 

5. Bird Dog

Bird Dog is an excellent exercise to recover from a lower back injury but this exercise also helps in strengthening the lower back. This exercise can be overloaded using a resistance band. 

How to Do It

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Bord Dog pose
  • Place a mat on the floor for comfort. 
  • Get down on all fours. 
  • Keep your head and back parallel to the floor. 
  • This is your starting position. 
  • Now lift your left leg and right arm at the same time to leave you balancing on your right leg and left arm. 
  • Now go back to the starting position and repeat on the opposite arm and leg. 
  • Repeat for reps. 

6. Superman

The superman is a staple exercise for calisthenics and gymnastics athletes, this exercise develops a strong foundation for performing various gymnastic poses. The extreme level of this exercise is done on ring bars. 

How to Do It

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Superman Pose
  • Place a mat on the floor for comfort. 
  • Lie down on the mat on your belly. 
  • Now bring your arms up above your head. 
  • This is your starting position. 
  • Now lift your legs and arms up and assume the superman pose and try to stretch as much as you can. 
  • Hold for a few seconds, if possible try holding this pose for a minute. 
  • Now slowly go back to the starting position. 
  • Repeat for reps. 

7. Kettlebell Swing

Kettlebell exercises are gaining traction in today's workout culture. One such kettlebell exercise called kettlebell swings is giving many people results. The importance of core strength and its development is changed drastically by kettlebell swings. 

How to Do It

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Kettlebell Swing
  • Grab a kettlebell with adequate weight for you to perform the exercise without breaking form. 
  • Now hold the kettlebell with both of your hands and stand with a wide feet stance. 
  • This is your starting position. 
  • Now take a deep breath and squat down
  • Now get up as you swing the kettlebell upwards to make your arms parallel to the floor. 
  • From here go back to the starting position. 
  • Try to maintain an arched back throughout the motion. 
  • Repeat for reps

8. Glute-Hamstring Raise

The glute hamstring is a typical exercise that always requires a spotter. Today we can easily do Glute Hamstring raises on a machine without bruising our knees and get a good stretch on our lower back as well. This exercise teaches our lower back muscles how to work with the rest of our posterior muscle chain. 

How to Do It

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Glute Hamstring raise
  • First get up on the Hamstring raise machine and sit on it with your knees and legs on a pad. 
  • Place your hands on your shoulder. 
  • This is your starting position. 
  • Now slowly lower yourself down to assume a lying position. 
  • Once reached maximum stretch you lift yourself up to your starting position. 
  • Try to keep you back stiff and arched throughout the motion. 
  • Repeat for reps. 
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9. Stability Ball Reverse Hyperextension

In the search for the most optimal exercise for hamstring workout the Reverse Hyperextension came out on top beating out hamstring curls and Romanian deadlift. This exercise becomes even better when trained for instability with a stability ball or bosu ball. Using a stability ball creates a perfect tension for the lower back. 

How to Do It

Stability ball Reverse Hypertension
Stability ball Reverse Hypertension
  • Take a properly inflated stability ball. 
  • Lie down on the floor and place one foot on the stability ball and the other foot on the floor. 
  • Place your hands on the floor for stability and leverage. 
  • This is your starting position. 
  • Now lift the lower body using the foot placed on the stability ball. 
  • Once at the maximum contraction, lower down the body slowly to starting position. 
  • Try to keep your entire lower body stiff. Only one leg is supposed to move. 
  • Do this again with the other leg and repeat for reps. 

10. Side Plank

The side plank is done to hit your obliques specifically but remember this is a compound movement and it also engages your lower back along with your core. 

How to Do It

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Side Plank
  • Place a mat on the floor for comfort. 
  • Lie down on the mat on one side(let's start with the right one) . 
  • Now place your right arm underneath in a manner that your elbow to the palm of your hands are touching the floor. 
  • Bring your legs closer to your hips and lift up your entire body just balancing on the right arm and right leg maintaining a straight posture. 
  • Hold this position for as long as you can (try to aim for a minute at least). 
  • Once you've held it for long enough, repeat the movement on the left side. 

Lower Back Warm-Up

Workouts are as good as the Warm-Up performed before starting the workout. A good warm up for your lower back could give you a great workout routine and prevent a nasty injury as well. You can do the following Warm-Up routine to properly engage your lower back. 

  • 90°- 90° leg stretch. 
  • Squat hold. 
  • Cobra stretch. 
  • Resistance band face pull. 
  • Single leg kettlebell deadlift. 

How To Protect Your Lower Back When Lifting Weights

In the fitness industry there is a saying that ‘every exercise is lower back exercise if you do it wrong enough'. Don't let your workouts affect your lower back, here's what you can do to avoid it. 

Use Picture-Perfect Form

Form is everything, even before you consider increasing the load on your muscles you must perfect the form to correctly activate your muscles. It doesn't matter how many plates you put on if your form is constantly breaking. 

“Cheat” Selectively

You can however cheat in your heavy compound back exercise to relieve the load from your lower back. You might experience that your set is not going all the way to failure because of your lower back limitations. If you wish to avoid injuring your back while chasing failure, you're better off cheating. 

Don’t Just Lift Weights

The major consent in the industry is changing rapidly, now many lifters believe that not lifting, but the lowering of the weight is what induces muscle hypertrophy. It is easily proven that if you can lift a certain weight you can easily hold a lot more than that and you can even slowly lower down evenore weight than what you can hold. So training in a negative range of motion is actually beneficial for you and getting better in lowering the weights safely will help you get a stronger lower back. 

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Incorporate Core Work

Your lower back is only safe if your core is strong enough to support it. Your core is the direct contact to your lower back if for some reason your core gives out the pressure on the lower back increases ten times. So incorporate some core workout not just for the abs but for the overall stability while lifting. 

How To Train Your Lower Back

The most underrated topic in the fitness community is the lower back training. If you ask even a beginner they might have a better idea of how to do chest and biceps exercises but people rarely discuss how to train the lower back. Let's see how you can go about training your lower back. 

Lower Back Exercise Selection

Lower back is trained heavily in different compound movements like deadlifts, squats and shoulder presses. So if you already have too many heavy compound movements in your routine you can do one or two exercises for two sets. But if you are already using machines for your heavy compounds like seated shoulder press or hack squats you can easily add more work for your lower back workout with three to four exercises for three sets. 

Lower Back Exercise Order

The order in which you go about training your lower back is simple. You warm up first followed by training your heavy compounds and slowly working your way to isolation and at the end you should do your lower back workout. 

Lower Back Sets and Reps

Your sets and reps will be dominated by how much you lift in heavy compounds. If your heavy compounds are recurring more frequently like in a full body workout or push-pull-legs routine then your lower back workout will naturally go low in sets and reps. You can increase the lower back workout in a bro split or four day a week workout plan. 

Benefits of Training Your Lower Back

The benefits of training your lower back goes way beyond being able to sit or stand for hours at a time. Lower back strength will help you get more out of life. 

Improved Posture

Lower back muscles are responsible for your upright posture. If not for your lower back, a lot of us would look like the hunchback of Notre Dame. 

Increased Strength

A strong lower back will also provide a good foundation for heavy lifts. Most of the power generation in heavy compounds comes from a strong midsection and a strong lower back will increase that strength to the next level. 

Injury Prevention

A strong lower back is a guarantee for lifting for a longer time. Any experienced lifter will always advise you to stay away from injuries, injuries will not only create an imbalance in strength but also demotivate you from working out. A stronger lower back will help you keep lifting for a longer period of time

What Muscles Make Up the Lower Back

To understand better how to workout the lower back we just understand its anatomy first. Let's see what muscles do contribute in lower back strength

Vertebrae

The spinal cord is well protected under the vertebrae. This snake-like structure moving down our backs is what contributes to lower back strength. The vertebrae L1-L5 are the biggest and most unprotected vertebrae since they don't have any other skeletal support to them. These lower level vertebrae are what helps you lift without any issue. 

Erector Spinae

Not known by the general population but the erector Spinae is what holds our vertebrae in place. From the tailbone to the nape of our necks the erector spinae is a intertwined muscle which supports our smaller movements like bending over and stretching. 

More Training Content

Your lower back needs more than just training and proper form, it needs proper gym etiquette. Re-racking the weight is also a good workout for the lower back. A good habit of how to move weight is also developed while racking and re-racking the weights. When someone says you should lift your dumbbells and plates with your back arched. Lift like you're always deadlifting, even if it's the smallest dumbbell. A healthy back will come from good habits, not just a stronger workout. 

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sandesh Khade
sandesh Khade

Hi I'm Sandesh khade and I am an electronics and telecommunications engineer, I have taught math to engineering, diploma and 10+2 students. I am also an avid fitness enthusiast and workout regularly. I love to analyze and write. I try to write about almost any event or make one up just for the sake of practicing writing.