A graphic image that shows the spine and signifies lower back pain.

10 Exercises for Lower Back Pain

Whether it’s acute or chronic, lower back pain is an extremely common problem among adults. Statistics show that back pain is considered severe, very severe, or even the worst pain possible by 36% of adults in the US. 

Research suggests that 80% of adults will experience some form of back pain.  With this, there’s a good chance that you’ll experience low back pain at some point in your lifetime. 

Whilst it can be a serious and debilitating condition, you can perform a variety of stretches and strengthening exercises. Each one is designed to improve mobility and provide some much-needed relief. 

Exercise is considered a highly effective method to relieve back pain, with a sedentary lifestyle and bed rest often a contributing factor. We’ve shared some science-backed stretches and lower back muscle pain exercises to improve your symptoms and get you moving again. Let’s look at them in detail below! 


The Best Exercises for Lower Back Pain


Regular exercise therapy is considered to be one of the most effective ways to improve lower back pain. Lumbar stabilization exercises help to improve trunk stability and coordination in the affected areas. 

The three exercises below are easy to perform and require minimal equipment. They should form part of your daily lower back rehabilitation exercise routine. 



A graphic image of a woman performing superman, one of the exercises for low back pain.

Image Source: Runner’s World

The Superman exercise is great for relieving lower back pain. It’s a strength and stability movement primarily designed to strengthen your lower back. Building a stronger lower back helps you maintain a good posture which can often be an underlying cause of pain.

  1. Lay on the ground with your head facing the floor. Your arms and legs should both be extended to form a ‘Superman-like’ pose.
  2. Take a deep breath in and lift your arms and legs off the floor. Keep a neutral head position. 
  3. Pause briefly then exhale as you bring them back down at the starting position. 

*To reduce the difficulty, Superman’s can be performed by alternating each leg.


Glute Bridges  

A graphic image of a man doing glute bridges, one of the exercises for low back pain.


Image Source: Hevy

Glute bridges are a great way to relieve spinal pressure and improve glute activation. These can help to keep your body upright when sitting, loosening tight hip flexors and improving lower back pain. 

  1. Assume a prone position with your back against the mat. Bend your knees until your feet are just in front of your glutes. 
  2. Push your feet into the ground and tense your glutes. Take a deep breath in and lift your hips off the floor until they are in line with your shoulders and knees. 
  3. Briefly hold and exhale as you lower back to the starting position.


Lying Lateral Raises 


An image of a woman doing Lying Lateral Raises, one of the exercises for lower back pain.

Image Source: Origin Bio

Your hip abductor muscles raise your legs sideways, away from your body. Alongside this, they help to support your pelvis when standing to one side.

Weak hip abductors can lead to poor balance and mobility, causing lower back pain. Lying lateral raises are a great way to train them. 

  1. Lay on one side with your lower leg slightly bent. 
  2. Take a deep breath in and engage your core. 
  3. Raise your top leg to the ceiling whilst keeping the rest of your body still.
  4. Pause briefly at the top position and exhale as you return to the start.
  5. Repeat for the required number of repetitions then switch sides. 

Rehabilitative Exercises for Lower Back Injuries


These three back injury exercises should form the backbone of your back rehabilitation plan alongside regular stretches and light cardiovascular work. 

More commonly known as the ‘McGill big 3’, these back injury rehab exercises can help to improve pain and function in those suffering from lower back pain. 


Side Bridges 



An image of a man doing side bridges, one of the exercises for lower back pain.


Image Source: My Rehab Connection

Side bridges work your transverse abdominals and multifidus. These muscles prevent shear movement which can place extra stress on your lower back. Training these through side bridges can prevent this from happening. 

  1. Lay on your side with your right elbow under your shoulder. Ensure your knees are slightly bent and stacked together. 
  2. Engage your core and take a deep breath.
  3. While supporting your torso, bring your hips off the ground. Your spine and pelvis should be in a neutral position.  
  4. Hold the position briefly. Breathe out and return to the starting position. Repeat the same movement with your other side.

Curl Ups 


An image of a woman doing curl ups, one of the exercises for lower back pain.

Image Source: Mobile Physiotherapy Clinic

Performing partial curl-ups instead of normal ones can help strengthen your core and lower back muscles whilst limiting the stress placed on your lumbar spine. 

  1. Lie on the ground with your knees bent at 90 degrees. Keep your back and feet against the floor.
  2. Cross your hands over your chest or put them behind your head.
  3. Engage your core and take a deep breath. Lift your shoulders off the ground.
  4. Briefly hold at the top and return to the starting position. Exhale as your shoulders return to the floor. 

Bird Dogs


An image of a man doing bird dogs, one of the exercises for lower back pain.


Image Source: Built Lean

Bird dogs are one of the best lower back pain rehabilitation exercises you can perform. They work your erector spinae, glutes, and rectus abdominals. They also help to control and stabilize your trunk. 

Performing bird dogs can help to develop strength in these muscles and improve posture. 

  1. Start on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders. Your knees should be directly under your hips. 
  2. Ensure your head is in line with your spine, with your chest facing the floor. 
  3. Take a deep breath and lift your left arm forward whilst bringing your right leg behind you. They should both be parallel to the floor. 
  4. Pause briefly before exhaling and returning to the starting position. Repeat with the opposite arm and leg. 

Stretches to Alleviate Lower Back Pain


Lower back pain can often be a result of poor posture and mobility, especially if you’re sitting at work for long periods.  The stretches below are some of the best stretching exercises for lower back pain.

They can help to loosen tight muscles and improve posture,  reducing symptoms and improving your quality of life.


Child's Pose



Image Source: Yoga Journal

The child’s pose is a traditional yoga exercise designed to loosen your glutes, lats, and spinal extensors. It helps to relieve tension along the spine, providing pain relief when performed regularly. 

  1. Kneel on the ground and place your hands in front of you. Your head should be directly above your hands with your back in a neutral position. 
  2. With your hips resting on your heels, hinge at your hips and fold forward. Walk your hands out in front of you so your stomach is resting on your thighs.
  3. Extend your arms out with your palms facing the floor. 
  4. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds before returning to the starting position. 

Piriformis Stretch

An image of a woman doing piriformis stretch, one of the exercises for lower back pain.

Image Source: Summit Orthopedics

The piriformis stretch helps to loosen your piriformis muscle, located deep in your glutes. Performing this stretch can help to relieve lower back pain by loosening tightness in your glutes and lower back. 

  1. Lie on the ground with your back against the pad. Ensure both your knees are bent at 90-degree angles with your flat to the ground.
  2. Place your left ankle on the base of your left thigh just above your left knee. 
  3. Place both hands behind your left thigh and pull your knee towards your chest. 
  4. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds then switch to the opposite leg. 

Seated Spinal Twist  

An image of a man doing seated spinal twist, one of the exercises for lower back pain.

Image source: iStock

The seated spinal twist is great for loosening your glutes, hips, and back. It also helps to increase mobility in your spine and stretch your core musculature. 

  1. Sit on the floor. Extend both legs out in front of you. 
  2. Bend your right knee towards your chest. Place your right foot on the outside of your left thigh. 
  3. Bring your left arm to the outside of your right thigh. 
  4. Place your right arm behind you and twist your spine to the right. 
  5. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with the opposite side. 


An image of a woman doing cat cow exercise, one of the exercises for lower back pain.

Image source: Workout Trends

The cat-cow exercise is a great way to loosen your spine while stretching your neck, shoulders, and chest. It helps to release tension in your spine and improve symptoms of lower back pain.

  1. Start on all fours. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders. You should be kneeling on the ground with your knees under your hips. 
  2. Bring your chin toward your chest and round your back toward the ceiling. 
  3. Pause briefly at the cow position. 
  4. Bring your shoulders away from your ears and relax your back. Arch it slightly while bringing your head in front of you.
  5. Return to the starting position and repeat. 


Exercises to Avoid if You’re Suffering From Back Discomfort


Whilst physical therapy is a great way to relieve lower back pain, not all exercises are biomechanically suitable. The ones below can place your lower back under unnecessary stress and aggravate existing injuries.

Avoid these movements in favor of the ones we’ve listed above when planning your lower back rehab workouts: 

  • Sit-ups work your hip flexors whilst pushing your curved spine against the floor. If your hip flexors are tight or you deviate from the correct form, this can place unnecessary stress on your lower back. 
  • Leg lifts are suggested as an exercise to strengthen your core. However, lifting both legs can be quite demanding and hard to keep the correct form. If you’re suffering from lower back pain, avoid leg lifts.
  • Toe touches tend to put too much stress on the ligaments and discs in your spine. The dynamic flexion movement involving your lower back and hips can overstretch your hamstrings and lower back muscles. Not a good idea if you’re suffering from back discomfort. 

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    Tips to Help Your Back Exercise Routine


    After finishing my MSc in Human Nutrition and qualifying as a personal trainer, I’ve spent several years working with clients with varying degrees of back issues. 

    In my experience, I’ve found a simple approach to be the best option. Consistently perform the basics well and use the tips below to help your back exercise routine. 

  • Use the correct exercise form. Throughout each session, look to maintain good form for each of your exercises. During the strength-based movements and rehabilitation exercises mentioned above, use the technique cues provided alongside the help of a mirror or partner.
  • Train your core. Most traditional core exercises don’t work your lower back directly. However, research suggests that strengthening your deep abdominal muscles may help to relieve back pain. Work on stabilizing your core to support your back during daily activity and exercise. 
  • Use a varied exercise routine. A well-programmed back exercise routine shouldn’t consist of just exercises to ease lower back pain. Work with a healthcare professional to integrate cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and rehabilitation work. 


    Your Questions on Lower Back Pain, Exercise, and Stretches


    Should you exercise with lower back pain?

    If a particular exercise is exacerbating the pain, this may be a sign that it isn't suitable. It may also be a sign that you're performing the exercise incorrectly.

    In situations where no pain is felt, staying active and performing suitable lower back recovery exercises can help relax your muscles and promote blood flow to the affected area.


    Should stretching your lower back hurt?

    In normal cases, stretching your lower back should not hurt when done correctly. However, the possible inflammation may cause slight discomfort when your hip flexors are tight upon waking.

    Pain when stretching your lower back may be a sign of an underlying nerve condition in your spine. Overstretching your lower back may also lead to tiny tears in the muscle, more commonly known as strains.


    Is yoga good for back pain?

    Yoga is an excellent way to strengthen and stretch tight lower back muscles that may be the main cause of lower back pain. Regular yoga practice also helps to improve mobility and movement patterns, both of which can help alleviate symptoms of lower back pain.

    For more articles on lower back/hip pain, read:



    1. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1447574/severe-chronic-low-back-pain-among-adults-by-age-us/
    2. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00296-019-04273-0
    3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7823996/
    4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23867731/
    5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5908986/
    6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10468171/
    7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31261549/ 
    8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27807526/
    9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK284944/#:~:text=One%20of%20the%20most%20important,pilates%2C%20tai%20chi%20and%20yoga.

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