A painful lower back can keep you from working out. Strengthening your lower back can alleviate pain and give you more flexibility, making it possible to hit the gym again. Bonus: If your bad lower back stems from a weight issue, regular workouts will also help you lose excess weight that is causing the problem. You'll have to start out slow, but you'll be glad you did once your lower back is no longer a pain in the neck -- or, more appropriately, the lumbar.
Obtain Your Doctor's OK
When clients come to Idaho-based fitness trainer Matt Siaperas for personal training for their lower backs, he requires that they get a release from a doctor first. If the lower back problems are from an injury, he needs to know what those injuries were and that the doctor who treated his client is aware of the planned exercise and approves. Siaperas says that most doctors do approve and are typically the ones who referred the clients to begin an exercise regimen in the first place. Still, it's vital for avoiding further injury that you keep your doctor in the loop regarding the routine you plan on undertaking.
Get the Blood Flowing
Before you start your workout, you should get the blood flowing throughout your entire body, specifically to your lower back. Apply a circulation-enhancing sports rub that produces a warm sensation to your lower back before you even start your routine. Warm up your entire body with five minutes on the stationary bike, then perform a series of stretches to loosen up your back muscles. These can include knee-to-chest stretches, hurdler stretches, lower back twists, hand-knee rocking, back extensions and side and backward bends.
Once you're ready to begin your exercises, you should start out with very low weight or use only your body weight for resistance. This will give your back a chance to get used to working out with as little chance as possible for injury. Start out working your back twice a week and allowing at least 48 hours between lower back workouts so that your muscles have a chance to recover. Do three sets of 10 to 12 reps of exercises like squats, lying leg curls, and low rows during the first four weeks of your regimen. Listen to your body and don't push yourself too much, too quickly. Allow your lower back time to start strengthening before you move on to increase weight or add other lower back exercises like leg presses, deadlifts, bent-over rows and leg curls.
Cardio exercise will help you control your weight; an excess can contribute to lower back problems. Additionally, depending on what type of exercise it is, it can even help ease the discomfort your lower back is causing you. Stationary bikes, including recumbent bikes, are easy on your back and are useful ways to get your cardio in when combating lower back problems. Swimming is another beneficial alternative to aerobics, running or other higher-impact cardio activities, as the buoyancy of the water takes stress off your lower back. You can do cardio every day, if you want, but your personal trainer will likely advise doing 30 to 60 minutes of cardio exercise at least three times a week.
- Matt Siaperas; Personal Trainer, Hardbodies Gym, Blackfoot, Idaho
- Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma: Lower Back Exercise Program
- ExRx.net: Lower Back Exercises, Recuperation & Program Design
- Mayo Clinic: Core Exercises: Why You Should Strengthen Your Core Muscles
- Escape Your Shape: How to Work Out Smarter, Not Harder; Edward Jackowski
- Fibromyalgia: Seven Steps to Freedom A Personal Journey to Recovery; Kay Walker
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.