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The Best Core Strengthening Exercises for Lower Back Pain

by Patty Weasler, RN August 13, 2019 0 Comments

Performingcore strengthening exercises for lower back pain is vital to maintaining the health of your lower back. Except for the bones in your spine, you have no additional support between your rib cage and pelvis--your core muscles support that entire area. That is why it is essential to have a strong core and perform strengthening exercises as a part of your daily workout.

Core Exercises for Lower Back Pain Relief

The best core exercises will work your abdominal muscles, glutes, and lower back without causing pain. Pain should be your signal to stop. If a move is too advanced, you run the risk of performing it incorrectly and using the wrong muscle group. Start slowly and work your way up to more repetitions as your core becomes stronger.

If you haven’t suffered from an injury the primary cause of your low back pain is likely a weak core. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist to determine if these exercises are right for your situation.


  1. Lay with your back on the ground, arms at your side, knees bent, and feet hip width apart.
  2. Push off your heels and lift your hips off the ground until your torso is in a straight line.
  3. Lower your hips back onto the ground.
  4. Repeat this movement 10 to 12 times for 3 sets.

Plank Hold

  1. Start in the push-up position.
  2. Elbows should be in line with your shoulders forming a 90-degree angle.
  3. Keep your back straight in line with your shoulders and toes.
  4. Hold the plank for 10 seconds slowly working up to one minute.

Side Plank

  1. Lie on your side with your legs stacked on each other.
  2. Prop your body off the ground pushing with your elbow.
  3. Push your hips high to the sky.
  4. Repeat 10 times.

Balance Disc Crunch

  1. Sit on top of a wobble cushion.
  2. Place your hands on the ground at your sides and slightly back.
  3. Straighten your legs as you lean backward.
  4. Bring your legs back into your chest as you sit up.

Dead Bug

  1. Lay with your back on the ground.
  2. Bring your arms straight up and legs up so the lower leg is parallel to the ground.
  3. Lower the left arm over your head and extend your right leg, do not touch the ground.
  4. Return to starting position and repeat the movement with the other side.
  5. Repeat these movements 10 to 12 times for 3 sets.

Pallof Press

  1. Wrap a resistance band around a sturdy object at chest level.
  2. Stand with your feet hip width apart.
  3. Hold the end of the band with both hands.
  4. Press your hands out straight in front of you and come back in.

Lying Windshield Wiper

  1. Lay with your back on the ground.
  2. Place your arms on the ground perpendicular to your body.
  3. Bring your knees up and position your lower legs parallel to the ground.
  4. Lower your knees down to one side.
  5. Bring them back to the center and then lower to the other side.
  6. Repeat these movements 10 to 12 times for 3 sets.

Transversus Abdominis Exercise

  1. Position yourself on a mat on your hands and knees. Move your hands back toward your knees, leaving approximately a four-inch gap.
  2. Draw in your belly button as much as you can, while rounding your back and arching it upward. You should not be able to talk while doing this exercise, because it presses on the diaphragm.
  3. Hold this for 30 to 60 seconds.
  4. Repeat several times.

Partial Crunches

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands under your lower back.
  2. Pull in your stomach muscles to engage your core.
  3. Lift your shoulders off the floor, making sure you maintain a neutral lower back posture. This means your pelvis remains relaxed and your back does not press into your hands.
  4. Pause briefly when you lift your shoulders, before returning them to the mat.
  5. Repeat 20 to 30 times.

How Does a Strong Core Help Relieve Lower Back Pain?

  • Reduces the likelihood of back pain episodes
  • Reduces the severity of back pain
  • Protect against injury by responding efficiently to stresses
  • Help avoid back surgery in some cases
  • Facilitate healing from a back problem or after spine surgery
  • Improve posture.

Signs of a Weak Core

A weak core will cause pain in various locations as your body compensates. Here is a list of the signs of a weak core:

  • Lower back pain

    Your core is crucial to the stability and balance of your body. If you haven’t suffered from an injury and have low back pain it is likely due to a weak core.

  • You tire easily when standing

    Your core stabilizes your body, if you get tired from standing you are likely leaning or distributing stress onto other spots that are having difficulty managing the stress.

  • It’s difficult to stand up

    When sitting, it is your core and legs that help you move into the standing position. If you need to put your hands on your thighs or grab onto the arm of a chair, that is a sign that your core is weak.

  • Poor posture and balance

    Do you slouch or have poor balance? It’s likely due to weakened abdominal muscles. Try doing some core muscles exercises to gain strength and better posture and balance.

Other Ways to Build Core Strength

Include aerobic exercise in your core strengthening routine to give you a well-rounded workout plan that gets the blood pumping. Here are some aerobic exercise ideas for lower back pain:

  • Yoga

    Yoga is an excellent core exercise that uses your own body to slowly build core strength and increase body awareness. Many yoga poses work on the abdominal, low back, and side muscles while teaching you to release tension throughout your body. Look for beginner yoga classes and resources that move slowly through each pose.

  • Pilates

    Pilates works on the core and improves flexibility that can be done with an exercise mat or using pilates machines. Through a series of movements, the instructor will teach you to engage your core, provide good spinal alignment, and stretch your low back and core muscles.

  • Walking

    Walking is an excellent low impact exercise that increases your heart rate without too physical much stress. Find a friend to walk with to keep you engaged and accountable.

  • Elliptical Machine

    Exercising on an elliptical machine is a good alternative to using a treadmill. It gets the heart rate up without additional pressure on your joints. Most gyms have elliptical machines for you to use.

  • Cycling

    Cycling engages your core while working the leg muscles. If leaning forward in the cycling position is uncomfortable for you try a recumbent bike that allows you to sit up in a neutral position.

  • Swimming

    The buoyancy and resistance of working out in a pool helps to relieve lower back pain while giving you a great exercise. If swimming laps is too strenuous try a water aerobics class.

  • Home Workouts

    If you have a hard time getting out of the house developing a home workout routine is another way to build core strength. Incorporate portable devices that will engage, improve stability, and strengthen your core. A balance pad is perfect for beginners because of its simple design. It is a slightly unstable surface pad that can improve stability, core strength, and mobility. 

Precautions When Strengthening Your Core

Weak core muscles can cause lower back pain. Engaging your abdominal, side, and back muscles with the exercises we covered will help decrease low back pain. Add in some aerobic exercises, yoga, or pilates and you will have covered all your bases in developing a well-rounded core strengthening exercise plan. If your pain increases, stop immediately and speak with a medical professional. As with any new exercise routine, you should always consult with your doctor or physical therapist to help build a safe regimen that fits your needs.

Patty Weasler, RN
Patty Weasler, RN

Patty Weasler is a freelance health writer and nurse. She is certified in critical care nursing and has been practicing for over 10 years. Patty lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending her time with family and educating people about their health.

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