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Basic Lower Back Strength and Stretch Exercises

While we often try to come up with new and interesting exercises for the lower back and core, there's nothing better than the basic tried and true exercises we've used for decades to strengthen and stretch the lower back. A strong lower back is essential for all we do each day, something we need to maintain on a regular basis. The simple, straightforward workout below will help you do just that, hopefully avoiding one of the most common issues today: Lower Back Pain. Do this workout 3 non-consecutive days each week to maintain your strength and flexibility.

Precautions

See your doctor if you have any injuries, illnesses or medical conditions. If you have lower back problems, get clearance from your doc before you do these exercises.

How to

  • Perform the exercises as shown for 1 set of 12-16 reps, if you're a beginner, 2-3 sets of 12-16 reps if you're more advanced
  • Rest a few seconds between sets or do the exercises in a circuit format, one after the other with no rest between exercises, repeating for 1-3 circuits
  • The key to many of these lower back exercises is to engage the abs and keep the abs contracted the entire time, rather than letting them stay relaxed

Strengthening Exercises

Back Extensions
back extensions
Lie face down on a mat and place the hands behind the head or keep them out to the side for a modification.  Contract the abs and keep them contracted throughout the exercise.  Squeeze the back to lift the chest a few inches off the floor.  Lower and repeat for 12 reps. To make it harder, lift both the upper and lower body at the same time.

Alternating Arm and Leg Lifts

Lie face down on the mat, arms straight out in front of you. Contract the abs and keep them contracted as you lift the left arm and the right leg at the same time, feeling your back doing the work. Lower and repeat on the opposite side, lifting the right arm and left leg. Lower and repeat for 12 reps. 1 rep includes both sides.
Bird Dog
bird dog
On hands and knees, raise right arm and left leg straight out and up until level with the body, holding your balance and keeping torso tight. Lower and repeat, alternating sides for 12 reps. 1 rep includes both sides.
Modified Cobra

Face down on the mat, take the forearms onto the mat, hands under the shoulders. Pull the shoulder blades together and down your back as you lift the chest off the floor. Try not to push too much on the floor, but use it as a support. Lower and repeat for 12 reps. You can also try a full upward dog if you're more advanced.
Bridge
bridge.jpg (19160 bytes)
Lie face up with knees bent and hands at your sides. Lift the hips up until you're in a bridge position, body in a straight line from knees to head. Lift as high as you can, squeezing the back. Lower and repeat for 12 reps.
Stretching Exercises
Knees to Chest
kneestochest.jpg (21419 bytes) 
Bring the knees in towards the chest, resting the hands on the shins or under the knees. Gently pull and focus on stretching through the glutes and lower back. Hold for 30 seconds.
Knee to Chest

Lie on the floor and bring the knee into the chest.  Straighten one leg and pull the other knee into your chest until you feel a stretch in your hip.  Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat for 1-3 sets on each side.
Spine Twist
spinetwist.jpg (15860 bytes) 
While lying face up on the mat, bend the right leg and place the right foot on the left knee.  Slowly twist to the left while taking the right hand straight out on the floor, the left hand gently pressing on the right knee.  Relax into the stretch and feel it in your lower back and hips.  Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat on the other side. 
Knee Drops
 
Bring the knees up and bend them to 90 degrees, shins parallel to the floor and arms out to the sides. Contract the abs and rotate the torso to lower the legs to the right, bringing them down to the floor. Bring the knees back to center and lower to the left side. Repeat for 12 reps to each side.
Cat and Cow
 
Kneel on all fours, knees under hips and hands under shoulders. Spread the fingers out on the floor with palms flat and contract the abs to bring the head, neck and back in alignment. Inhale and tip the hips towards the ceiling while drawing the shoulders back and down away from your ears; look up. Exhale and tuck the chin while pulling your belly towards your spine. Round the back and feel a stretch down your spine. Repeat for 4 to 6 breaths, moving smoothly between each move.
Child's Pose
gentlechildspose.jpg (10980 bytes)
From the Cat Stretch, sit back on your heels and bring your arms down along your body, palms facing up.  Relax and breath for as long as you like. 
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