Exercise Routines for Bad Backs


1. Medicine Ball Chop High-To-Low

This moves strengthens the core and allows for controlled rotation of the back. You will be able to avoid injury by practicing controlled rotation with some weight. A dumbbell is a better option than a medicine ball.

1) Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold the ball in two fingers over your right shoulder.

2) Bend your knees and lower body to squat as you pull down the ball towards the left ankle.

3) Stand back up and reach the ball over your right shoulder.

2. Superman

Few exercises have such subtle results. If done correctly, this exercise will strengthen the muscles surrounding your lumbar spine. This is where most back injuries and pain occur. Modify the move by lifting your left arm and leg first, and then your right arm and leg second.

1) Lay on your stomach, arms and legs extended. Pull your shoulders away from the ears and draw your abdominals upward.

2) Use your abs, glutes, and back muscles to lift your arms and legs off of the mat. Control your movements to get back into the starting position.

3. Medicine Ball Plank

This is an upgrade to a traditional plank. Your body will be unstable if you place your hands on the ball. Instead of being stable on the ground, your obliques (and surrounding core muscles) must work to prevent you from wobbling. Start this move with your knees on the ground if you have low back problems. You can either start the full plank with your feet on the ground or use the ball to practice a traditional plank.

1) Start by laying on your back, hands resting on your medicine ball.

2) Pull your abdominals and glutes tight and extend your legs behind to form a straight line. Straighten your arms, but don’t let your shoulders touch your ears.

2) Breathe deeply and keep your body straight. Do not let your low back sag.

4. Overhead Pull

We often neglect our upper back and overtrain our front. You will see the “hunchback”, or rounded shoulders, in many people. It is important to increase the space between your shoulder blades and around them. This moves not only does that, but also increases core strength.

1) Lay on your back, knees bent, feet on the ground. To start, extend your arms above your chest. Engage your abdominals.

2) Lower dumbbells below your head. Keep arms straight and elbows bent. Keep your abdominals tight and raise dumbbells to the top. Your low back should remain firm against the ground throughout.

5. Mid-Back Extension

This exercise is similar to the Superman, but it focuses on the mid-back. This exercise teaches you how to relax your lower back and to isolate the muscles of the mid-back to do the work. Our low back often kicks in when it isn’t needed.

1) Place your face on the mat. To engage the abs, lift your head off the mat and slide your shoulders down the back. In a low hover, the head is raised. Your entire body is one line.

2) Lift your chest towards the mat using your core and back muscles. Inhale. Imagine your head growing from the crown.

3) Inhale, then return to the mat. Your spine will slowly lengthen as you return.

6. Bird Dog Crunch

This exercise will strengthen the midsection and backside. The balance challenge involves extending the arm and leg, with the transverse abdominus strengthening to prevent you from tipping over to the other side.

1) Lie on your back on the mat. Reach your arm out and draw in your abs. Then, extend the opposite leg behind you.

2) Keep your elbow and knee in line with your center. Keep your back straight as you turn your back. Remember to draw in your abs.

7. Medicine Ball Overhead Slam

This moves strengthens the abdominals, core, and upper back. Good posture can be achieved by strengthening the upper back muscles.

1) Stand with your feet slightly bent at the knees, with your feet together, and place the medicine ball directly overhead.

2) Place the ball on the ground as hard as possible, engaging your glutes, upper back, and abs.

3) Grab the ball and lift it up overhead after one bounce.

8. Renegade Row

Begin with a plank. You can also add a mid-back strengthening agent. This will give you a move that strengthens your entire body, but focuses on your backside. To modify this move, you can place your knees on to the ground.

1) Start in a full plank, with dumbbells in your hands. Keep your arms extended and reach for your toes. Engage your abdominals, drawing your belly towards your spine.

2) Keep the right dumbbell straight up towards your right hip bone, keeping it close to your side. Slowly return the dumbbell to the ground and then repeat the process with the left dumbbell.

9. Full Body Roll-Up

This classic Pilates move strengthens the midsection while stretching the back and hamstrings. For a flexible and less susceptible back to injury or pain, it is important to slow down the movement of just one vertebrae at time (or “articulation”) You can do this every day!

1) Lay on your back, arms raised, legs extended, feet flexed.

2) Take a deep inhale and lift your arms up. Then, curl your chest and chin forward. Inhale and roll your entire body up and over the legs, keeping your abs engaged while reaching for your toes.

  1. Inhale and roll your spine down one vertebrae at time. Then exhale until the upper back is lower and the arms are above the head. Continue moving slowly, using your abdominals to lift and lower, and not momentum.

10. Dog that is downward facing

The downward dog will open your back after any exercise or just getting up in the morning. It will stretch you from your heels up to your head. Your body is a kinetic network so your back pain is not limited to the area you feel. Most likely, tightness or pain is affecting other parts. The range of this stretch is vast.

1) Start by laying down on your back, kneeling on your mat. Your hands should be under your shoulders.

2) Place your toes underneath your feet and engage your abdominals while pushing your body off the mat.

  1. Press your hands together, moving your chest towards your thighs. Your heels are gently pointed toward the ground.