Low back pain is one of the biggest causes of disability in North America, so it’s no surprise people are looking for the secret to help them avoid back pain and the disability that comes with it. As a physiotherapist, I see many patients that come into the clinic with low back pain and I’ve found that the best way to prevent it is by strengthening the low back muscles.
Think of it this way, the stronger you make the muscles that surround your spine, the less likely you are to pull your back out lifting something heavy off the floor. When you strengthen a muscle through specific exercises, you increase its ability to tolerate load (ex: lifting heavy boxes to help a friend move houses).
Below are my favourite exercises to give to people looking to strengthen their backs to avoid injury or to add a bit of muscle definition.
Deadlifts have gotten a bad reputation over the years, but I can assure you that when this exercise is done properly, you’ll reap all the benefits it has to offer which including strengthening your lower back, hamstring, and get core workout all in one. There are many different forms of deadlifts. You can use either a set of dumbbells, a kettlebell or a barbell to complete this exercise.
Make sure to seek out the advice from a personal trainer or physiotherapist to ensure you’re completing this exercise correctly to help strengthen your back and avoid injury.
This exercise is excellent for strengthening your buttocks muscles which will in return, increase the overall strength of your back. The stronger you can make the buttocks muscles, the less strain is placed on the lower back when doing physically demanding activities.
To complete this exercise, lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Squeeze your buttocks and then thrust your hips into the air. Slowly lower back to the ground and repeat.
This exercise helps to make the muscles in your lower back more resilient to the stresses you place on them during a normal day such as sitting in an office chair at work or labor-intensive jobs such as a builder.
To perform a superman, lie flat on your stomach with your arms and legs extended fully. Slowly lift your arms and chest off the ground and then lower back down and repeat.
One of the best ways to build strength in your back is by strengthening your core muscles. Your core muscles engage and can support your back when lifting heavy objects and playing sports (to name a few).
There are many versions of a plank. To start you off, we’ll begin with your classic elbow plank. Lying on your stomach, rise up onto your elbows and toes and hold for around 20 seconds to 1 minute depending on your fitness level.
Bent Over Rows
This exercise is great for building strength in the larger muscles in your back such as your latissimus dorsi (lats), spinal erectors and your core muscles. Building strength and resilience into these muscles are important for warding off any future back pain and disability.
To perform a bent over row, grab a pair of dumbbells or a barbell. Slightly bend your knees and then hinge your torso forwards making sure that your back stays as flat as possible by engaging your core, and then slowly row the weights into your waist and then lower back down.
Renegade Dumbbell Row
This is a fantastic exercise to strengthen both your core and your back muscles at the same time. Combining both a plank and a row will get the heart pumping and the muscles working.
Start with two dumbbells in a plank position, and then row one dumbbell up by your side, one at a time for the desired amount of repetitions.
Pull ups are one of the best body weight exercises you can do to help strengthen up your back. They are excellent for building strength and definition in the lats to give you back a nice and sculpted look. To complete a set of pull ups, grab a pull up bar with an overhand grip and raise your body up so that your chin is above the bar. Then lower back down and repeat.
Whether you’re interested in adding definition to your back muscles or looking to prevent injury, you can’t go wrong adding any of the above exercises into your routine. I would definitely recommend going to see a physiotherapist or personal trainer to make sure you’re completing these exercises properly and to create a personalised exercise program that is tailored to your goals.