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Strong lower back muscles are absolutely necessary to protect your spine from injuries.
With a well-developed lower back, your spinal column has the support needed to keep it strong and flexible.
Unfortunately, as a lot of chiropractors and doctors will tell you, exercises that strengthen your lower back are also most likely to cause lower back injuries.
Why is that?
Simple: loading too much weight onto your lower back can increase your risk of injury, as can moving incorrectly.
And, no surprise, a lot of people new to training their lower back muscles just don’t have the experience to safely train.
That’s why it’s critical that you prioritize the exercises that safely strengthen your lower back without risking injury.
Steer clear of exercises like Deadlifts and Supermans, and instead try the exercises we’ve listed below—all of which are safe and effective at strengthening your lower back.
6 Safest Exercises for Your Lower Back Muscles
Plank – Plank is an exercise that chiefly targets your abs, but your lower back also has to engage in order to maintain the static position. That static hold isn’t just great for strengthening your muscles; it’s also very safe. Your spine is more prone to injury every time it moves (the joints and muscles have to maintain proper alignment, and one wrong move can lead to injury), but static exercises like Plank can build muscular strength and endurance with no movement required.
Bridge – Bridge is another great static exercise that targets not only your lower back muscles, but also the muscles in your glutes and pelvis that thrust your hips forward. You really only have to move once to get into the Bridge position, then hold the static pose using only the strength of your glutes and lower back—meaning it’s highly safe for those prone to lower back problems. Make sure to squeeze your buttocks and arch your spine as high as possible, as it’s not just a great muscle-building movement, but also a great stretch.
If you want to increase the difficulty, lift one leg high into the air. This will increase activation of your lower back and glutes to take your fitness to the next level once you’ve mastered the basic Bridge.
Hyperextensions – Hyperextensions are done on a specific machine (typically found at the gym) that hold your lower body securely in place, so you only have to raise and lower your upper back. This increases the activation of the lower back muscles. The fact that you can customize the angle of the exercise means you can choose the angle that feels safest for your lower back, and you can go as high or as low as you want.
Hyperextensions work the same muscles as Supermans, but they utilize only the upper body, using the lower body to provide stability. For beginners who are just starting to train their lower back muscles, this is an excellent way to move more safely—thereby reducing your risk of injury.
Bent Over Rows – Bent Over Rows have the potential to be dangerous if you overload the exercise, so make sure to start out with VERY light weights. The goal of this exercise is to strengthen your lower back in the bent-over position, using the lower back muscles to maintain your posture while rowing the weights toward your chest.
It’s definitely not one to do immediately following a flare-up of pain or a serious back injury, but once you’ve restored full mobility in your back, you can incorporate it into your workout routine. Just make sure to focus on the proper posture and spinal alignment, and take it very slow to develop lower back strength.
Kettlebell Swings – Kettlebell Swings are a very dynamic exercise, but they help to work out your entire body, including the muscles that work with and support your lower back. The focus is split between your core and your posterior chain muscles (upper back, posterior deltoids, lower back, glutes, and hamstrings), as well as your legs. By strengthening all these muscles at once, you can “bulletproof” your back very effectively through a complex, multi-joint range of motion.
Kettlebell swings also help to develop explosive power and improve your balance. You’ll find they are among the most effective exercises to include in your arsenal, hands down!
Bird Dog – Bird Dog is an excellent exercise to activate your upper and lower body muscles at the same time in a diagonal pattern that leads to safer twisting and bending motions. It’s also a no-impact exercise that will help to strengthen sore, stiff, and achy lower back muscles. It’s even safe to do shortly following a lower back injury, and it can be excellent rehab or physical therapy to get your back functioning and flexing again.
But What if Your Lower Back Muscles Aren’t the Cause Behind Your Back Pain?
It may surprise you to learn that your lower back muscles may not actually be the reason you’re experiencing back pain.
How is that possible? After all, they’re the muscles that are feeling tired and achy.
Well, let me put it this way: it’s not that your lower back lacks strength, but there might be a dangerous “sleeper syndrome” responsible for the pain.
I found out the hard way when I was nearly paralyzed after years spent on active duty in the Canadian Armed Services Special Forces and as a SWAT operator. All that time and effort I had invested into training my core muscles was nearly undone because of this one nagging, often ignored syndrome.
Find out more about my story—and this potentially dangerous syndrome—in our Back on Track program. You’ll learn how to address the REAL root cause of your lower back pain, and you’ll help your lower back muscles and the rest of your body work in better coordination to improve your spinal health EXPONENTIALLY, I promise!
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