12 core exercises to strengthen your lower back

Author: Joep Rooijmans, date: 09 sept. 2019              Updated: 15 jan. 2020

Do you experience pain in your lower back when you get out of bed in the morning? Does your back feel uncomfortable after sitting behind your desk all day? Or is it sore after you exercise?


You are not the only one with these complaints.


80% of all people will experience lower back pain in their lifetime. Lower back pain is the most common musculoskeletal ailment.


core exercises for lower back


The cause of lower back pain differs per person. But there are common causes that can distinguished, these are just a few:


Muscle spasm. A muscular pain that comes on suddenly in your lower back. Your muscles will feel as though they have locked up, and the pain can be severe and debilitating.


Discogenic pain. Pain in your lower back that is associated with shooting pains down the back of one or both legs indicates sciatica or discogenic pain. A pinched nerve causes this discomfort.


Arthritis. A chronic general feeling of achiness across the whole area of your lower back.


A strong lower back is important when you work out regularly. For many people it’s a weak spot and a lot of injuries occur in the lower back and the adjacent areas.


Performing specific lower back exercises and postural awareness are very important to manage and/or prevent lower back pain. This includes maintaining a proper sitting posture.




Lower back anatomy

The lower back, or lumbar area, serves a number of important functions for the human body. These functions include structural support, movement, and protection of certain body tissues. When we stand, the lower back is functioning to support the weight of the upper body.


The lower back region consist of muscles, blood vessels, tendons, nerves and the 5 lowest vertebrae of the spin (L1 to L5). 



Lower back muscles
Lower back muscles
Lower back vertebrae
Lower back vertebrae


But your core is more than just your lower back. It also includes your abdominals, gluten and hamstrings. Your core supports your spine.


core exercises lower back


12 core exercises: an effective lower back workout

These 12 core exercises to strengthen your lower back, abdominals, glutes and leg muscles are a selection of the most effective exercises. All of them can be performed at home. You don´t need any fitness equipment.


The aim of performing these exercises is threefold:

  1. To prevent lower back pain
  2. To help ease lower back pain
  3. To  develop over-all balance and stability

If you want substitute or include additional exercises then it’s best to avoid leg lifts, sit-ups and toe-touches. These exercises put pressure on your spine and discs and there is a risk of overstretching muscles.


Before you start with the exercises it’s important to make clear that:

  • When you are experiencing pain or any other form of discomfort stop and consult a physiotherapist or another expert.
  • If you have trouble performing one of the exercises then skip it.
  • If the pain doesn’t go away or gets worse consult a doctor immediately.



1. Press ups

core exercises press up

This exercise stretches your abdominals and the muscles in your lower back.

  • Lie on your stomach. Position your hands directly underneath your shoulders.
  • Push your upper body up from the floor. Your pelvis/hips keep touching the ground.
  • Hold this position.


2. Cat stretches

core exercises cat stretches

This exercise strengthens the muscles around the spine and it lengthens the back.

  • Position yourself on your hands and knees.
  • Pull your belly in.
  • Let your head drop.
  • Round your spine, lower back and shoulders.




3. Wall sits

core exercises wall sit

This exercise strengthens your quadriceps, the muscle at the front of your upper leg.

  • Stand with your back facing the wall
  • Lean into the wall until your upper body is placed against it.
  • Get into a seating position: slide down the wall slowly until your knees are bent slightly. Continue to press your lower back into the wall.
  • Hold this position.


4. Knee to chest

lower back exercises knee to chest stretch

This exercise elongates the lower back.

  • Lie on your back with your legs straight.
  • Use both hands to pull one knee in towards your chest.
  • Hold your knee against the chest for a couple of seconds.
  • Return to the starting position and perform the same movement with the other leg.


5. Bridges

core exercises bridges

This exercise stretches the gluteus maximum. This is your glutes muscle that runs through your buttocks.

  • Lie on the ground and bend your knees.
  • Place your feet on the ground.
  • Place the arms by your side.
  • Raise the buttocks off the ground until the body forms a straight line from the shoulders to the knees.
  • Squeeze the buttocks with the shoulders remaining on the floor.
  • Lower the buttocks to the ground and, hold and then repeat the movement


6. Supermans

back exercises superman

This exercise strengthens the muscles around the spine.

  • Lie down on your stomach.
  • Look straight forward and extend your arms.
  • Then lift your arms and legs up from the ground at the same time.
  • Hold that position and slowly lower your arms and legs back.


7. Knee bending (rotational stretches)

lower back exercises knee bending knee side

This exercise helps to relieve tension in the lower back and increases core stability.

  • Lie on your back.
  • Place your feet flat on the ground and bend your knees.
  • Let both legs drop to the same side and hold that position.
  • Then come back to starting position and slowly drop them to the other side.


8. Pelvic tilts

lower back exercises pelvic tilts

This exercise increases the flexibility of your lower back and also works the abdominals.

  • Lie on your back and bend your knees.
  • Arch the lower back and push the stomach out.
  • Hold that position.
  • Flatten the back and move back to starting position.


9. Lying lateral leg lifts

lying lateral leg raise

This exercise strengthens the muscles on the outside of your upper leg: the abductors.

  • Lie on one side, placing one leg on top of the other.
  • Tighten your abdominals.
  • Raise the top leg, keep it straight while you move it.
  • Hold this position for 3 seconds and lower your leg to starting position.
  • After performing 15 reps turn over and do the same with the other leg.


10. Forearm plank

core exercises forearm plank

This exercise strengthens your entire core including your abdominals, glutes and lower back.

  • Lie on your stomach, face down.
  • Press yourself up by resting on your fore arms and toes.
  • Your elbows are placed directly under your shoulders and your arms at shoulder with.
  • Keep your back, legs and head in a straight line.
  • Tighten your glutes, quads and abs.
  • Hold this position for 30 seconds.


11. Lower back extension

core exercises lower back extension

This exercise strengthens the muscles in your lower back.

  • Place your heels behind the support bar and place your pelvis on the cushion in front of you. You are facing forward.
  • Start moving from your lower back and move your upper body towards the ground.
  • Hinge from your pelvis/hips.
  • Your legs remain in the same position during the entire exercise. 


12. Partial crunch

core exercise crunch

This exercise strengthens the abdominal muscles.

  • Lie on your back and bend your knees by moving your feet towards your buttocks.
  • Look straight up, put the tips of your fingers against your temples and hinge forward from your stomach.
  • Your upper body comes off the floor, but just a little bit. It's a partial crunch!
  • Keep your back straight and squeeze your abs while performing the crunch.
  • Make sure your feet remain steady on the ground during the exercise.
  • If you want to increase the difficulty of this exercise you can use an additional weight (see photo).


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