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Published on April 25, 2019

12 Best Back Strengthening Exercises to Relieve Lower Back Pain

12 Best Back Strengthening Exercises to Relieve Lower Back Pain

Spending your Friday evening doing back strengthening exercises may not catch your attention with ease. Yet, working to develop and maintain the muscles in your lower back can help make your favorite weekend activities more enjoyable.

In fact, you may be able to add a few new activities that you have not been able to do due to your discomfort. You are in the right place if you are looking for attainable ways to improve your lower back pain with practicality.

You might read through these exercises for strengthening your back and think, “Hmm. How would that stance help to take my pain away.” Once you put a few into practice, you will easily feel and recognize the benefit of each motion.[1] Your body may need a few gentle reminders each week to help get your muscles and joints back into pain-free cooperation with one another.

We have a list of back strengthening exercises just for that purpose. Pick your favorites, and get started!

Benefits of Back Strengthening Exercises

Once you get into a routine and begin to draw from your own hard work, you may end up surprising yourself with how much better you feel. Your lower back needs your support to do its job well. Selecting and regularly completing yoga-style exercises can help you care for your lower back and its surrounding muscle partners.[2]

Even just a few days per week with these 12 exercises can help provide your muscles and joints with a sense of functionality that may have been lost or ‘misplaced’ along the way. It may not have happened all at once, and you may not have even realized for some time that a slow change was taking place in the core of your body.

Injuries can happen in an instant or slowly over time, but they almost always take time to heal. Perhaps, you experienced an injury and have yet to recover fully. Start small and work your way to a full recovery. Moderate activity that matches your current condition is far more beneficial than too much activity or none and all.[3]

It may be that you are not directly able to pinpoint or verbally specify where your back pain or discomfort originates. Take your time working through these 12 back strengthening exercises. Try to focus on one portion of your body at a time. Be mindful of how new your injury or pain discomfort seems to be. Acute pain may need a few days or more of rest and recovery before you begin working to build strength.

Do not feel as though you must do all of the exercises each session. As you work to get rid of your lower back pain, it is going to be more important for you to go slow and ensure that each movement benefits your body. Consciously working to recognize where pain starts and what might cause it can help you better focus your process of healing.

Regardless of how you acquired lower back pain, be patient with yourself as you work to recover. Be sure to push your body through uncomfortable moments, but work to avoid pushing yourself so hard that you cause further injury or create a new injury.

Working with your lower back muscles can help your body be better equipped to handle the unexpected.[4] Go slow, take your time, be consistent and work hard; and you will recover efficiently.

Start with a couple of exercises from each category and rotate through the different ones. Mixing up the exercises will help keep your brain interested as you work to develop a routine for healing.

12 Lower Back Focus Exercises

Directly focusing on lower back muscles and connections in the body is essential for proper recovery from pain, injury, or general discomfort.[5]

Take your time with each exercise. Start with a few repetitions, and work your way up to your desired goal over a period of weeks or maybe even a few months if needed.

1. Knee to Chest Raises

Rest with your back flat on the floor, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor. Place your hands palm down on the floor. Bring your right knee to your chest and hold for five to ten seconds.

Switch sides. Repeat ten times.

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    You may also choose to allow your opposing leg to rest in a straightened position.[6]

    2. Floor Swimming

    Rest prone (face down) on the floor. Bring both arms flat and stretch them straight out from your shoulders. Legs should be straight and flat on the floor with toes relaxed. Keep your head relaxed and face the floor. Raise your right arm and left leg. Count to five. Switch sides.

    Raise both arms and both legs while keeping your torso on the floor. Count to five. Repeat the series five to ten times slowly.

      Floor swimming can be done in reverse while in a supine (face up) position if abdominal work is desired, but be careful to keep your back flat and only raise one leg at a time.[7]

       

      3. Straight Leg Raises (from Table Top Position)

      Start in Table Top position with knees and hands on the floor. Straighten your right leg directly behind you so that it is parallel to the floor. Work to keep your right leg straight as you gently raise and lower it ten times. Switch sides. Repeat three to ten times as your ability increases.

        4. Bridge

        Rest flat on your back. Place your feet flat on the ground with your knees bent.[8]

        Gently raise your hips and torso to form a triangle shape between your head, knees, legs, and the floor. Your head and shoulders will remain on the floor. You may rest your hands palm down on the floor or reach to touch your fingers together under your back.

        Squeeze your buttocks, and push down into the floor with your feet as you hold your torso off of the ground. Hold for a count of ten. Repeat five to ten times.

          If you have experienced a severe neck injury, you may want to wait until your neck improves or inquire with a chiropractic doctor before starting with Bridge.

          Upper Back Focus Exercises

          Your pain may be centralized in your lower back, but your upper back may begin to feel the strain if recovery does not allow your body to function as a unit.

          Giving your upper back some love will help you reunite your lower back to the rest of your body. Incorporate these upper back exercises into your routine for better comfort in your lower back muscles.

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          5. Modified Plank

          Back pain sufferers will do well to begin with a Modified Plank. For this, allow your knees and hands to rest on the floor as you work to hold your torso off of the floor.[9]

          Keep your arms directly under your shoulders, and your knees and lower legs on the floor behind you. Do not let your hips dip toward the floor. Hold for a count of five to ten. Remember to breathe. Repeat three to ten times increasing the number as your pain diminishes and your strength builds.

          Be sure not to hold your position for longer than your body can handle, especially in the beginning.

            6. Front Plank

            If you have begun to recover from lower back pain and are looking to minimize pain in the future, Front Plank is a great choice.[10]

            Begin with your hands and feet on the floor: Your hands should be directly under your shoulders with your fingers and thumbs open and comfortable. Legs straight. Toes curled. Try to imagine a straight line from the top of your head to your heels.

            The work comes in trying to keep your torso from bowing down without raising your hips too high.

              For added variety, try planking with your elbows and forearms on the floor instead of just your hands.[11]

              For the elbow and forearm style, imagine that your body is parallel to the floor. Hold your chosen position for a count of five to ten. Rest. Repeat three to ten times increasing the amount of time as you gain strength.

                7. Side Plank

                Be prepared to engage your sense of humor if you have not tried this one yet. Side plank is excellent for helping to build supporting back muscles (obliques especially), but it does take some practice getting started.

                Sit on the floor. Begin with your right side resting on your right elbow. (This should look similar to how you might relax and watch a movie on the floor. Your head may even rest in your right hand as you begin.)[12]

                As you are able, gently push your hips upward to form an elongated triangle shape between you and the floor. It may take a few days of practice, but once you can to get into position, try counting to three, then to five, and then to ten.

                  Practice on both your right and left side each time. Getting to ten may take you a few weeks, but you can get there if you start small!

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                  You may desire to try leaning against a wall as you learn how to balance for the Side Plank. Modification: Keep your knees on the floor and raise only your upper body.[13]

                    8. Standing (or Bent Knee) Push-ups

                    Standing Push-ups are better for low back pain sufferers because less pressure is placed on lower back muscles. Your upper back is engaged, but your hips and abdomen are not drawing your body down during the exercise.

                    Standard Push-ups are sometimes best left for when your lower back muscles have healed and can help you keep your body off of the ground.

                    Place your hands on a wall at arm’s length and your feet flat on the floor. Bend your elbows until your forehead gently touches the wall or comes close. Repeat slowly ten to twenty times.[14]

                      For Bent Knee Push-ups, complete the same repetitions but with your hands and knees on the floor instead of in a standing position.[15]

                        Overall Core Exercises

                        The core of your body has been designed to help keep you upright when sitting and walking. Injuries on one side of your body often affect the other side in some way, even if we do not consciously realize it. Your spine is supported by many muscles that will do their best work in cooperation with one another.[16]

                        Bring these core exercises into your day to help your lower back begin to function more efficiently and with less pain.

                        9. Knee to Elbow Lifts

                        Start in a Front or Modified Plank Position (see exercises 5 and 6) with your hands and feet on the floor. Bring your right knee close to your right elbow. Hold for a count of five (if you can).[17]

                          Once you practice this a few times, you may be able to touch your elbow with your knee. Focus on trying to keep your body as parallel to the ground as you can without straining. Switch sides. Repeat three to five times.

                          10. Knee to Opposite Elbow Lifts

                          Complete the same steps as Knee to Elbow, but bring each knee to the opposite elbow instead of reaching to the same side.

                          In the beginning, you may only be able to bring your knee halfway across your body. That is a wonderful start!

                          Focus on keeping your body parallel to the ground. Working on decent form is far more important than how far your knee comes toward the center of your body or your chest.

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                          11. Three Legged Dog

                          Begin in a Front Plank or Modified Plank Position (see exercises 5 and 6). Raise your right leg straight up and behind you as high as you are able. Ideally, your leg may end up much higher than the rest of your body, or it may stay close to the same height.

                          Try to keep your hips squared. You may choose to keep your foot and ankle at a 90-degree angle or point your toes. Ideally, you want to create a line from your hands to the heel of your raised foot.[18]

                          Hold for a count of three to ten. Switch sides for your raised leg. Repeat three to five times as you can without causing strain.

                            12. Stargazer (Kneeling Side Plank)

                            Sit on the floor with both legs straight in front of you. Bend your right knee and rest your right foot to your left inner thigh. Place your right hand behind you. Raise your left hand high above you as you push your body up from the floor.

                            Straighten your left leg as you go up. Your weight will rest on your right hand and bent right knee.

                              Stargazer may sound like a balancing act, but you can place your feet comfortably so you do not feel as though you will topple. Hold for a count of three to ten. Switch sides. Repeat three to ten times.

                              Remember to lift your face and enjoy the view, especially if you choose to enjoy this exercise outside under the night sky!

                              Exercises to Avoid

                              Back pain does not need a new excuse to cause you discomfort as you work to heal. Remember to avoid these exercises as you recover from your lower back pain:

                              • Toe Touches
                              • Full Sit-ups
                              • Double Leg Lifts (Single Leg Lifts are beneficial if you are comfortable with doing them. Be sure to keep your back flat and level on the floor.)

                              Exercises that cause frequent or intense twisting motions are also best left for another time.

                              My Favorite Stretches for Relaxing the Back

                              Stretching is essential for building muscle strength efficiently. The combination of strengthening and stretching can help you create a wall of resistance against low back pain.[19]

                              For added interest, alternate your chosen back strengthening exercises with a few of these yoga-style stretches:

                              Moving Forward without Lower Back Pain

                              Getting started may be the hardest part of using lower back strengthening exercises to help you get rid of your discomfort. Once you have tried a couple and fallen over a time or two, you may begin to realize that these 12 exercises are not as daunting as you expected.

                              Start with 3 a day and rotate as you try the different exercises. You do not need to learn to do all of them to develop the strength that you need to minimize or eradicate your back pain. You only need to find a few that you enjoy and are willing to do regularly enough to retain the benefits of your hard work.

                              Choose two exercises per commercial during your favorite show. Pick one to do while you wait for your coffee to brew in the morning. Have one in mind to try when it is your turn to wait for the bathroom.

                              Create a challenge chart and put it next to the kids’ chore chart to keep you motivated. Have your friends help you decide on a reward for a goal that you set for yourself. What will your goal be? Perhaps, a pain-free weekend adventure with the kids!

                              Featured photo credit: Form via unsplash.com

                              Reference

                              [1] Medical News Today: Home remedies for fast back pain relief
                              [2] Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab: 11 Secrets for Getting Rid of Back Pain
                              [3] Medline Plus: Taking care of your back at home
                              [4] National Institutes of Health: Yoga or Stretching Eases Low Back Pain
                              [5] SPINE-health: Exercise and Back Pain
                              [6] verywellhealth: Knees to Chest Raises
                              [7] PopSugar: No Need to Stand! Work Your Butt With These Floor Exercises
                              [8] Shape Magazine: 2 Glute Bridge Exercise Variations to Target Specific Results
                              [9] Hemmett Health: The Power of a Proper Plank
                              [10] PopSugar: Doing This Exercise For Just 3 Minutes a Day Will Put You on the Road to Tighter Abs
                              [11] India Times: 7 Surprising Benefits Of Doing the Plank Exercise Every Day
                              [12] Women’s Health Mag: How To Do A Side Plank Flawlessly
                              [13] My Health Alberta: Side Plank, Beginner
                              [14] Trainer: The Top 5 Upper Body Exercises For Women
                              [15] Fitnesslane: How to: Knee push ups
                              [16] American Association of Neurological Surgeons: Low Back Strain and Sprain
                              [17] Sassy Fit Girl: Plank Exercises
                              [18] Fitness 1440: Three Legged Dog
                              [19] Harvard Health Publishing: Daily moves to prevent low back pain

                              More by this author

                              Dr. Brent Wells, D.C.

                              Chiropractic doctor currently leading over 10,000 Alaskans to more active, pain-free lifestyles โ€“ without addictive drugs or invasive surgeries.

                              7 Best Lower Back Stretches for Relieving Pain 12 Causes of Lower Right Back Pain (And How to Relieve It) 12 Best Back Strengthening Exercises to Relieve Lower Back Pain How to Sleep with Lower Back Pain Using These 13 Tips How to Prevent Neck Pain from Sleeping (And Quick Fixes to Help You)

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                              Last Updated on January 21, 2020

                              The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

                              The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

                              Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

                              your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

                                Why You Need a Vision

                                Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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                                How to Create Your Life Vision

                                Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

                                What Do You Want?

                                The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

                                It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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                                Some tips to guide you:

                                • Remember to ask why you want certain things
                                • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
                                • Give yourself permission to dream.
                                • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
                                • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

                                Some questions to start your exploration:

                                • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
                                • What would you like to have more of in your life?
                                • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
                                • What are your secret passions and dreams?
                                • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
                                • What do you want your relationships to be like?
                                • What qualities would you like to develop?
                                • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
                                • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
                                • What would you most like to accomplish?
                                • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

                                It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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                                What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

                                Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

                                A few prompts to get you started:

                                • What will you have accomplished already?
                                • How will you feel about yourself?
                                • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
                                • What does your ideal day look like?
                                • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
                                • What would you be doing?
                                • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
                                • How are you dressed?
                                • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
                                • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
                                • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

                                It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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                                Plan Backwards

                                It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

                                • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
                                • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
                                • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
                                • What important actions would you have had to take?
                                • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
                                • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
                                • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
                                • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
                                • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

                                Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

                                It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

                                Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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