How to Strengthen Lower Back Muscles

Strong lower back muscles can even help support the weight of a baby, if you get pregnant.

Strong lower back muscles can even help support the weight of a baby, if you get pregnant.

Sprinkle a few lower-back exercises into your regular routine to reduce your chances of injury. While you can incur a lower-back injury from simply getting your heel caught in a grate, lower-back weakness can also creep up slowly, so that one day you wake up achy or feel pain from reaching for the shampoo off the high ledge in the shower. Work your abs to balance your core, and include exercises for your chest, upper back and legs, too. You'll be able to bend, lift, cuddle and twist without worrying too much about a slipped disk or strained ligament.

Step 1

Perform side holds. Sit on the floor with your feet curled under you and lean over to your right side. Prop yourself up onto your right forearm. Use your core to lift your butt up to make a straight line with your torso. Evenly distribute your weight across your forearm and your shin and position your right elbow directly under your shoulder. Strongly engage your core. Hold for up to one minute, and then repeat on your left side.

Step 2

Do opposite arm leg raises. Lie on your belly with your arms straight above your head. Raise your shoulders a half-inch off the ground to engage your back muscles. Keep your elbows and knees straight and simultaneously raise your right arm and left leg. Keep the back of your neck long so your neck and spine remain in a straight line. Pause at the top of the movement and slowly lower to the start. Lift your left arm and right leg and lower. Complete a set of 10 on each side.

Step 3

Walk the -- ahem -- hold a plank position. Come to the top of a push up so your shoulders are above your wrists, your ankles are above your toes and your body is in a straight line. Intensely contract your ab, back and core muscles to support the position. Hold for up to one minute. For an advanced variation, lift one leg 2 inches and hold for two seconds. Repeat with the other leg and repeat as you hold the plank position.

Step 4

Use a cable machine. Position one arm of a cable machine at shoulder-height. Set the weight at 10 to 20 pounds. Grasp the handle and step about a foot away from the machine. With your elbows straight and your hands at shoulder height, position yourself so your arms are perpendicular to the cable. Contract your entire core for stability. Without moving your torso, slowly tap your right foot out to the right and feel the tension in your lower back and ab muscles. Bring your right foot back to center. Slowly tap your left foot out to the side and then back to the center. Continue for 10 repetitions on each side, and then switch sides.


  • Incorporate lower back exercises into your regular weight-training routine. Do the workout on three non-consecutive days each week.


  • Stop if you feel a deep achiness in your lower back. Feeling your muscles working is ok, but you don’t want to overstress your lower back.
  • Never push through pain or previous injuries.
  • Consult a doctor before starting any exercise program, especially if you've been inactive for a while.

About the Author

Suzanne Reilley is a fitness professional with a BS in exercise science and more than four years of experience as a full-time ACSM-certified personal trainer. She has been featured in DailyCandy and "The Washington Post," and has taught at Rancho La Puerta, rated Top Destination Spa by "Travel + Leisure."

Photo Credits

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