Before we get started I want to emphasize that there’s no such thing as a ‘bad back’. In fact, most people have perfectly healthy spines that could just use a little love. The following are the best strength exercises for a bad back to relieve back pain, keep active, and maintain your lifestyle as you get older.
The Best Strength Exercises For A Bad Back
Improving movement and building strength is the best thing you can do for lower back pain. However, building strength to solve pain is different than building strength for fitness. We have to be much more careful in the exercises with choose for a bad back. The following exercises are all safe movements that allow you to build strength without stressing your lower back.
Your glutes (aka hip muscles) set the foundation for your pelvis and spine. Building strong glutes should be a priority for anyone with a bad lower back. The glute bridge is a great way to strengthen your glutes while limiting impact on your spine. It’s also an easy movement to progress to allow you to continue to progress as you build strength and confidence with the exercise.
Being able to control your pelvic and spinal alignment through dynamic movements is an important part of solving lower back pain. The deadbug is a safe way to train this stabilization in a way that’s easy to control and thus, easier on your bad back.
The Side Plank
The side plank is considered one of the ‘Big 3’ Exercises by Dr. Stuart McGill (world’s leadng spine expert) that everyone with a bad back should do. It’s also a great core strengthening exercise to engage spine stabilizers and limit impact on your joints. Like the glute bridge, there are many variations that allow you to progress this move to more challenging variations.
The Banded Hip Hinge
Learning how to hip hinge is the best way to limit impact on your spine. This is tru in your strength routine as well as through your day to day life. The hip hinge teaches you to limit impact on your spine while bending forward and lifting. It also allows you to practice maintaining a neutral spine through dynamic movements. The banded variation of the hip hinge shown here builds strength in your hamstrings and glutes for even more benefits.
The Box Squat
The squat is a full body movement that improves movement patterns, mobility, and strength for less lower back pain. The box squat is a safe variation that allows you to build strength without stressing your lower back. By limiting the depth of your squat you can avoid dropping too low (the butt wink) which can make your back pain worse. Once you’ve mastered the box squat you can move to more challenging variations.
The Farmer’s Carry
One of the best things you can do for your lower back is to life up heavy stuff and carry it arround. Really. The farmer’s carry is a functional core strengthening exercise that strengthens the muscles that protect your lower back.
Many doctors will tell you not to deadlift if you have a bad back. Those doctors don’t know what they’re talking about. Learning how to deadlift helps you protect your spine when lifting anything off the ground. It’s also a full body exercise to strengthen your core and glutes for less impact on your spine. The kettlebell deadlift is a safer variation that allows you to perfect the movement before moving on.
The best thing you can do for a bad back is to limit the impact that goes through your spine. This could be accomplished by laying on the couch doing nothing. OR…you could improve movement and strength in order to keep active and maintain your lifestyle as you get older. The best strength exercises for a bad back listed above allow you to build strength without stressing your joints.
For the last 10 years I’ve been helping adults build the strength and confidence to live active, healthy, and happy lives. My free program ‘Solving Pain With Strength’ gives you a step-by-step, approachable way to build strength without stressing your joints. Download it below and get started feeling better today.