What is lower back pain?

Lower back exercises you can do at home include planks, back extensions, and bridge exercises.
Lower back exercises you can do at home include planks, back extensions, and bridge exercises.

Working from home causes people to move less during the day. As time passes, your back may become crunched up and tense after sitting at your desk, at your kitchen table, or on your couch. Working from home also has made getting out of the house to exercise less convenient. Exercises to strengthen your core and glutes are important in preventing and alleviating lower back pain. They are also some of the easiest exercises to do at home.

Lower back pain is very common in adults due to overuse, muscle strain, or injury. Lower back pain can be treated through physical activity, building up the back and related muscles, icing the back, and using over-the-counter pain relievers. However, for acute pain that inhibits your everyday routines, consult with a physician. Improper treatment of chronic or acute pain could make it worse.

Improving your lower back muscles involves more than just the back muscles. Core muscles like your abdomen and obliques help support your lower back muscles. Lower muscles like your glutes also can contribute to a strong foundation for your back and help get rid of pain.

Lower back exercises to do at home

Exercises that reduce lower back pain are easy to do at home as they aren’t complicated and don’t require special equipment. Like any exercise, start small and slowly increase the intensity. You will get the most benefits if you exercise the muscles connected to your lower back regularly. Exercises to try at home include:

Planks

There are a variety of ways to do a plank, but all types of planks focus on strengthening your core and back. A standard plank involves supporting your body on your toes and forearms so that your body is nearly parallel to the floor for 30 to 60 seconds. Holding your body at this angle engages all of your core muscles. Planks are a traditional exercise for your core.

Performing variations of planks can target specific muscles. These variations shouldn’t be attempted until the basic plank is mastered. Variations of plank include:

  • Alternating hip touches, also called rainbow planks, focus on the oblique muscles by rotating your hips and touching them to the floor while in a planking position.
  • Up-downs put extra work on your core by raising up onto one hand, lowering back down to the forearm, and then switching onto the other hand.
  • Hip raises target the abdominal muscles by raising your into a V shape and then lowering back down to the standard plank.
  • Knee-to-elbows are similar to mountain climbers. Hold a plank position while alternating bringing one knee to the opposite elbow. This variation targets the abs and the glutes.
  • Side planks force you to support yourself on a single forearm while keeping your side hip parallel to the floor. This intermediate exercise targets the obliques, abs, and back muscles.

Back extensions

Back extensions are another exercise with a few variations. They are easy to attempt but surprisingly challenging. The different forms of back extensions help target the lower back muscles and the glutes. This gives your back a strong foundation to support itself and gives your core a well-rounded support system. Variations of back extensions include:

  • Press ups require you to keep your abdomen and legs pressed flat against the ground. Then, using your forearms, you raise your chest off the ground. Maintain this position for a few seconds, keeping your back and neck elongated.
  • Prone cobra is similar to press ups except that you don’t use your forearms for support. This variation strongly engages your lower back and glutes.
  • For supermans, hold your arms parallel to the floor in front of you while lying on your stomach. In this position, you extend your legs and alternate raising them slightly behind you, keeping everything straight and engaged.

Bridge

Bridge is also referred to as the supine glute bridge, low back bridge, pelvic tilt, or pelvic thrust. This exercise specifically targets the glutes. Weak glutes put more work on the lower back so strengthening those muscles can help relieve pain.

Bridge is a simple exercise. Lay on your back, with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keeping your head and shoulders relaxed, engage your abs and glutes to raise your hips. Form a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Hold this position for a few seconds. Return to the starting position, and repeat.

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When to see the doctor for lower back pain

There are plenty of exercises to strengthen your body and alleviate lower back pain, but if your pain continues or becomes acute, the problem may not be weakened muscles. You should only do exercises that do not increase your symptoms. If your pain is acute or increasing, stop doing these exercises and consult a physician.

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Medically Reviewed on 2/24/2021
References
American Council on Exercise: "5 Lower Back Bodyweight Exercises to Ward Off Low Back Pain."

American Council on Exercise: "Plank Variations."

C.S. Mott Children's Hospital: "Lower Back Pain: Exercises to Reduce Pain."

Princeton University Athletic Medicine: "Lumbar/Core Strength and Stability Exercises."