If you’re starting a fitness routine, the odds are that your lower back isn’t the first item on your agenda. It’s much more likely that you want to tone your thighs, strengthen your upper arms or lose a few pounds off your belly -- but don’t ignore your lower back. A strong lower back can help you serve a tennis ball, hit a golf ball or perform other athletic moves. A stronger lower back can also help prevent injuries, or the chronic back pain from which many suffer, so be sure to add some lower-back exercises to your regular workout.
Barbell Bent Knee Good-Morning
Stand in front of a barbell with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees to grasp the barbell with your palms facing your body and your hands wider than shoulder-width.
Lift the barbell as you stand up straight, and then move the barbell over your head and rest it on your shoulders to establish the starting position. Your back should be straight with your head up and your knees slightly flexed.
Inhale as you bend forward from your waist while moving your hips backward until your upper body is horizontal. Hold the barbell steady and don’t arch your back. Flex your knees a bit, as necessary; if you don’t bend your knees you can injure your hamstrings. Maintain your position for a second or two.
Exhale as you rise slowly to the starting position. Perform eight to 12 repetitions and try to work up to three sets.
Dumbbell Side Bend
Stand erect with your feet shoulder-width apart. Grasp a dumbbell in one hand with your palm facing your body and your arms extended. Alternatively, place your free hand on your hip.
Inhale as you bend as far as possible from the waist toward the side in which you’re holding the dumbbell. Keep your back straight, your head up and avoid bending anything other than your waist. Stop when you feel a stretch in the oblique muscles on your sides. Pause for about one second at the lowest point of your stretch.
Exhale as you lift the weight by repeating the movement to the opposite side, which completes one repetition. Perform eight to 12 reps and try to work up to three sets.
Set your feet shoulder-width apart or a bit wider. Keep your head up as you lower yourself by bending from the knees and thrusting your hips back. Grasp two dumbbells with your palms facing your body. Alternatively, set a barbell just in front of your feet and grasp with barbell with either an overhand or alternating grip.
Exhale as you stand erect and lift the weight. Keep your arms extended, whether you’re lifting dumbbells or a barbell. Your feet should remain flat on the floor, your head facing forward and your back straight.
Inhale as your lower yourself slowly into the starting position. Move your hips and knees together throughout the exercise and don’t arch your back. Perform eight to 12 repetitions of the barbell deadlift, or 15 reps if you’re using dumbbells.
- Use light weights, particularly if you’re new to lower-back exercises. A heavy weight might do more harm to your back than good.
- Exercises that target the oblique muscles, such as the dumbbell side bend, also work the quadratus lumborum muscles in your lower back. Exercises such as deadlifts and the barbell bent knee good-morning work your lower back’s erector spinae muscles.
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.