If you’re looking to make everyday activities like lifting a bag of groceries a little easier or reduce some lower back pains (source), strengthening your lower back muscles will help. And you don’t need to go to a gym because lower back exercises can be done using body weight while watching TV. Some options like the cobra pose or half-roll downs can be used to relax and burn extra energy to help you get to sleep easier.
Since your lower back is an essential part of your body's core, exercises that target this area can help to improve your overall fitness levels (source) and make daily tasks easier. Below you will find 9 of our favorite lower back exercises and how they work. Best of all you can do each of the 9 from the comfort of your own home, inside your office, or in a hotel room when you travel.
- Bird Dogs
- Half Roll Downs
- Good Mornings
- Bear Crawls
- Plank with Leg Lift
As you lift your arms, legs, and chest off the ground, the muscles in your lower back are engaged, helping you maintain control of the movement. By holding the position for a few seconds your muscles work against the resistance of gravity and your body weight to upgrade the muscular endurance of your lower back muscles.
- Lie face down on a mat with your arms and legs extended.
- Other starting points can be with your arms at your sides or out at 90 degree angles if the extended arms starting version is too difficult.
- Simultaneously lift your arms, legs, and chest off the mat like you're flying like Superman.
- Hold this position for 1-3 seconds, then release and return to the starting position.
Your lower back muscles are used to control the movement of bird dogs as you extend your arms and legs. Because bird dogs work your lower back with your arms and legs, you’ll find you have more endurance for physical tasks including walking through grocery stores to theme parks.
- Start on your hands and knees with your hands under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips.
- Keeping your back straight and your core engaged, extend your right arm and left leg simultaneously, so they are parallel to the floor.
- Hold this position for 1-3 seconds, then return to the starting position.
- Repeat with your left arm and right leg.
The cobra exercise loosens the muscles in your lower back to relieve tension and help you relax. It is a popular isometric exercise used in Yoga for reducing stress and tension, making it perfect to do before bed, during the workday at lunch, or to start your day off with “good vibes”.
- Lie face down on the floor with your palms flat under your shoulders and your elbows close to your body.
- Inhale and gently lift your chest and head off the floor keeping your elbows close to your body.
- Keep lifting until your arms are fully extended and hold for 1-3 seconds.
- Exhale and lower your chest and head back down to the floor.
Standing Half Roll Downs
While rolling down and back up again you stretch and loosen your lower back muscles. These muscles are used to stabilize your spine and keep your back from rounding the wrong way while you move upwards and downwards. It is very similar to the seated version you’ll find in Pilates, but much less intensive making it a perfect lower back exercise for beginners.
Standing half roll downs are perfect for removing the tightness and stiffness in your lower back from sitting too long. If you’re at a desk all day, set a reminder on your calendar to take a “half roll down” minute giving yourself, and your back, a stretch!
- Stand up straight with your feet hip width apart and your arms reaching up towards the ceiling.
- Inhale and slowly lower your head and upper body towards the floor while keeping your legs straight and your arms reaching towards your toes.
- Stop when your upper body is parallel to the floor and hold the position for 1-3 seconds.
- Exhale and use your abdominal muscles to roll back up to the starting position slowly.
While bending forward your lower back keeps your torso stable, boosting the muscular might of your lower back, hips, and legs. These muscle groups help with everyday activities that require lower body strength including lifting things around your home like a laundry basket, and then carrying it to the laundry room.
- Stand with your feet hip distance apart and hands behind your head.
- Keeping your back straight, bend forward at the hips, lowering your torso towards the ground.
- Slowly lower down until your upper body is parallel to the floor.
- Pause and then return to the starting position.
Squats engage your lower back muscles as you lower your body down helping to strengthen and tone your lower back. Because squats can work your entire core, and many types of squats allow you to add free weights, you can get a calorie burning full body exercise and work your lower back at once.
- Stand with your feet hip width apart.
- Bend at your hips and knees, keeping your back straight and your knees aligned over your feet.
- Lower your hips and torso until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
- Push back up to the starting position straightening your hips and knees.
Swimmers aren’t only fun, you’re going to feel the movement in your lower back from start to finish! This lower back and core exercise works your coordination and balance skills to help with everything from flexibility to agility, and to burn stubborn areas of underarm and leg fat.
- Lie face down on a mat with your arms extended overhead and your legs extended behind you.
- Simultaneously lift your right arm and left leg, keeping your neck relaxed and your lower back stable.
- Lower your right arm and left leg back to the starting position.
- Repeat the movement, alternating sides with each repetition.
When you move forward on all fours with bear crawls, the muscles in your lower back tighten and relax repeatedly. This movement helps to improve your lower back's strength. If a friend calls needing you to help them move, you’ll leave them “crawling” behind as your muscles will be fine-tuned and “moving” all day long.
- Start on all fours with your hands and knees on the ground, shoulders directly over your hands, and your hips directly over your knees.
- Keeping your back straight, lift your knees off the ground, so your weight is on your hands and feet.
- Crawl forward by simultaneously moving your right hand and left foot, followed by your left hand and right foot.
- Move slowly and deliberately for a set distance.
Plank with Leg Lift
When planking with a leg lift, the muscles in your lower back and core tighten to keep you balanced. The leg lift adds an additional challenge by requiring your lower back muscles to work even harder to maintain your stability and flexibility.
As your legs and lower back become more flexible, you may finally be able to stretch and reach that dish from the top shelf more easily. Not to mention you’ll be toning problem areas on the back of your leg for a double win. If you find these getting too easy, add in resistance bands to increase the intensity.
- Start in a plank position with your hands and forearms on the ground, shoulders aligned directly over your elbows, and your feet together.
- Lift one foot off the ground, keeping your leg straight and your foot flexed. Hold for a few seconds.
- Lower your foot back to the ground, then lift the other foot off the ground. Hold for a few seconds.
- Repeat alternating legs.
You don’t have to pay for an expensive gym membership or buy free weights to get a good lower back workout in. By using bodyweight and knowing what your goals are, you can do plenty of lower back exercises at home and by yourself. If you’d like more workout and exercise tips like these, subscribe to our blog below.