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Best Exercises for Lower Back Pain

Target annoying lower back pain with these four exercises.

Mercey Livingston CNET Contributor
Mercey Livingston is a health and wellness writer and certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. She's written about fitness and wellness for Well+Good, Women's Health, Business Insider, and Prevention.com among others. When not writing, she enjoys reading and trying out workout classes all over New York City.
Mercey Livingston
3 min read
person clutches their lower back

Certain exercises -- especially those focused on the core -- can help prevent lower back pain.

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Low back pain is one of those ailments that can feel like a mystery. One day you can feel fine and the next you're totally sidelined from your normal life due to the pain. Besides seeing a doctor to get everything checked out, managing your weight and quitting smoking -- another thing that can really help ease back pain is exercise. And it turns out there is a key muscle group you should be focusing on for the best results: your core.

According to Mayo Clinic, strengthening your core and back muscles can help with pain since "they work together like a natural corset for your back," says Jeni DelPozo, a Glo Pilates teacher. "Training for a stronger core has many great benefits. It helps support the spine, particularly the low back. If you have any low back issues, a lot of the time strengthening the core will help tremendously. It's also great for posture."

So how exactly can back pain happen as a result of weak core muscles? In short, the core is integral for supporting your back, so when it is weak, you can easily "dump" into the low back. That means that your body is compensating since "the core helps keep your spine in proper alignment," DelPozo says. 

Since one of the keys to a pain-free and healthy back is a strong core, keep reading for some of the best core exercises you can do at home from DelPozo.

How to do ab exercises with good form

Before you try these exercises, keep in mind that your form is crucial for protecting your back and body from any potential discomfort and to ensure that you are targeting the correct muscles. 

First, avoid pulling your neck -- if you feel it straining it's a sign that something in your form is off. "A common mistake I notice with ab exercises is pulling on the neck and not letting the abs do the work. Instead, place palm over palm behind the nape of the neck. Let your head rest into the hands. Have just a bit of space between the chin and chest and make sure to look at the abs while doing the work. Try not to look straight up. Our heads are heavy and that puts a lot of extra strain on the neck," DelPozo says. 

It's also important to keep the abs "pulled in" while you do these exercises. "That will also help support your back throughout your core work," DelPozo says.

Core exercises to try for lower back pain

The Hundred

A Pilates exercise that gets your blood flowing, circulation going, and warms up the core big time.

  • Start lying on your back and lengthen the legs out to your challenging angle (when you feel tension in your core), heels together, toes apart.
  • Curl the head and chest up and pump the arms vigorously. Inhale for five counts, exhale for five counts.
  • Do ten rounds, for a total of 100 pumps of the arms. 

Lower, Lift

Another Pilates exercise that focuses on the low abs. 

  • Lying on your back, raise your legs straight up to the sky, heels together, toes apart.
  • Curl the head and chest up, with the hands behind the head.
  • Lower the legs down for three counts, lift the legs up in one count.
  • Make sure to only lower the legs as far as you can keep the abs pulling in and up and not arch in the low back. 


When in doubt, plank it out. A great exercise where you don't have to think too much in this pose.

  • Start in a plank position with the forearms down in the shape of 11.
  • Keep your feet hip width apart, reach the heart forward as the heels reach back and hold for as long as you can
  • Keep a slight little tuck of the tailbone if you have a tendency to dump into the low back.

Criss Cross 

Another Pilates exercise very similar to "Bicycle." I love any ab exercise that triggers the obliques.

  • Lying on your back, pull the knees into the chest, and curl the head and chest up.
  • Keep one knee in as the other extends to a 45 degree angle. 
  • Then curl the upper body up and over towards the leg bent in. Think about touching the opposite shoulder to the knee vs. just touching the elbow to the knee.
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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.