LOWER BACK PAIN WORKOUT PLAN
Let’s face it. The only time you really think about your low back is when there’s pain! Not anymore.
The lower back is at the center of practically every big lift you do. If it’s not strong, you are in big trouble!
So today I want to give you four strengthening exercises for the lower back that you can do at home with no equipment to help fortify the back against all future injuries.
You see, your low back needs to be strong for lifting weights, but it will never be strong enough unless it gets help from your glutes. If the glutes and low back aren’t working together, you’re going to find that lower back pain will set in at some point down the line when you go to do your big lifts.
However, if the lower back gets an assist from the glutes, it will help you get strong and remain strong in your pursuit of building bigger muscles safely.
Below I’m giving you a complete workout to strengthen the muscles of the lower back with help from the glutes. You can do this entire bodyweight back routine in just a few minutes with no equipment at all.
The best part about this is that it will work if you are already prone to low back pain. And even if you’ve never had any back problems (YET!) it will help you keep it that way. The best workout for lower back pain is the one that helps you prevent it in the first place!
LOWER BACK WORKOUT AT HOME
The lumbar spine is meant to be a stable area that is less susceptible to injury and able to hold up to the rigors of heavier lifting and training.
However, prolonged sitting and bad posture cause the lower back muscles to become dormant and underactive. Then, when you ask your lower back to do too much work in your training sessions, it can easily break down and leave you on the sideline unable to get to the gym.
Good lower back workouts include assistance from the glutes to help with extension of the posterior chain from the bottom up. It’s important to regularly train these muscles to help improve their endurance.
It’s a lot more likely you’re going to fit in exercises to build the lower back if you can do them anywhere, anytime. Do this short lower back workout regularly to help with building strength and lower back injury prevention.
1.) FROG GLUTE BRIDGE – 10 REPS (HOLD EACH FOR 5 SECONDS)
The first of the lower back and glute exercises is the Frog Glute Bridge. Starting position for this exercise is lying with spine flat on the floor, knees bent, with your feet turned out on their outside edges. Then bridge up as high as you can, squeezing your glutes and low back and keeping the entire core tight.
Make sure to contract your lower back and glutes at the same time and then lift off the floor. Slowly lower to return to the starting position. The turning out of the feet allows you to activate the gluteus medius, a hip external rotator and muscle that feeds into the pelvis as well. Hold the position, pausing at the top for 5 seconds and repeat for 10 reps. This is an excellent exercise to activate the glutes and lower back together.
2.) LAT BRIDGE HOLDS – 10 REPS (HOLD EACH FOR 5 SECONDS ON EACH LEG)
For these single leg Lat Bridge Holds, we want to engage the lat muscles that feed down into the lower back and pelvis. Starting position for this movement is lying on your back on the floor with your elbows close to your sides, bending your knees with feet flat on the floor, shoulderwidth apart. As you drive your elbows into the floor, pull your shoulder blades off the ground and squeeze up into the bridge. You can think of this as trying to do a row into the floor.
Contract the low back and the glutes, as well as your abdominal muscles and then to put that nail in the coffin you extend one leg out in a straight line parallel to the floor for 5 seconds, and then switch to the opposite leg for 5 seconds. Focus on proper form, not allowing your hips to drop or your pelvis to tip as you switch from one leg to the other. Repeat for 10 reps. This is a challenging and intense exercise for strengthening your lower back and glutes.
3.) ANGEL OF DEATH – 10 REPS (5 SECONDS UP, 5 SECONDS DOWN)
The Angel of Death is one of my favorite advanced exercises for lower back because it’s so effective. It gets its name from the nice, little snow angels you’re going to be making with your arms. You’re going to wish you’d died about five or six reps in!
For this exercise you start out flat on your stomach with a neutral spine. Most lower back workouts for men include some sort of prone exercise in which you raise your upper body off the floor. However, moving only the top part of your body isn’t enough, because we need to get the glutes involved, too.
Lift the toes, knees and thighs off the ground with legs straight along with the upper body, as high as you can to get extension through the hips and glutes. Keep knees slightly bent to keep them off the ground. Squeeze your shoulder blades to pull your chest off the floor while maintaining tight core muscles.
Take a five second cadence to move your hands from an overhead position in an arc all the way down to your sides. Rotate your hands to palms facing together as you come up and then rotate your hands to palms facing up as you go down. Take five seconds to go from the top to the bottom, and then five seconds to back up to the top. Don’t lower your torso or your legs until your 10 reps are complete.
As you can see, literally every muscle in my back is working in this movement and we’ve got this really strong, lengthened contraction in our low back and glutes, forcing them to work over the duration of the exercise.
4.) PULSED I – 10 REPS (5 SECONDS OF PULSING / 5 SECONDS HOLD)
For the Pulsed I exercise, your arms are held close to your body. You’ll be bending at the hips and knees slightly to be able to keep them off the ground. Both your upper and lower body are lifted off the floor, activating from both the top and the bottom. Challenge yourself by doing arm pulses as fast as you can handle for five seconds. Keep your abdominal muscles tight throughout.
The more pulses you try to get in the five seconds, the more work your body is going to have to do to prevent your body from falling to the ground. Pulse for 5 seconds and then rest in a contracted position and begin again.
If you want to know how to work out your lower back, incorporating the glutes to work in concert with it is the key. How often should you train your lower back? You can do exercises like these as part of your regular back workouts and incorporate them on non-back days as well, because we want to attend to the weaknesses that have built up over a long period of time.
The low back workout I’ve given you takes only five to six minutes. You can do this every single day, or build up the tolerance to be able to do it. The key is this: stop avoiding and ignoring your lower back. I know it doesn’t get as much attention as all the beautiful muscles around it, but it is very important to developing all those muscles in the first place!
If you want to be sure you’re not overlooking any important element of your training, I can help you make sure you get it right! There are no un-important muscle groups. Train them all in a systematic athletic way and you will look and feel better than you ever have in your life. For a complete training program that does this, check out our ATHLEAN-X programs.
- The lower back is one of the most frequently overlooked areas when it comes to training, despite being important to almost every big lift you do.
- The low back is meant to be a strong stable support for your entire body, but prolonged sitting and bad posture create weakness in this area, which can make pain worse.
- In order to build strength in the lower back, it has to work in concert with the glutes. These two muscle groups prefer to work together.
- I’ve given you a complete workout with 4 moves that you can do at home with no equipment that train low back and glutes together to help you build lower back strength that will translate over to your big lifts.
- You can do these lower back exercises every day because we want to correct the weaknesses that have developed over time.
Jeff Cavaliere M.S.P.T, CSCS
Jeff Cavaliere is a Physical Therapist, Strength Coach and creator of the ATHLEAN-X Training Programs and ATHLEAN-Rx Supplements. He has a Masters in Physical Therapy (MSPT) and has worked as Head Physical Therapist for the New York Mets, as well as training many elite professional athletes in Major League Baseball, NFL, MMA and professional wrestling. His programs produce “next level” achievements in muscle size, strength and performance for professional athletes and anyone looking to build a muscular athletic physique.