If you have ever had an episode of low back pain, you know it is no joke. Unfortunately, most people will experience some form of low back pain at some point in their lives.¹ Luckily exercise is one of the best ways to help decrease low back pain and get you back to doing what you love.
Exercise and low back pain
Honestly, most forms of exercise can help decrease low back pain. There is so much research on the benefits of both aerobic and resistance training as tools to help combat back pain.¹ ² ³
You might be wondering, how can exercise help my low back pain when my pain is worse when I move around? This is a valid concern! However, pain is not a sign of actual damage, rather a sign of how sensitive the muscles and other soft tissues are around your low back. It is safe and actually normal to feel some pain when you start to move and exercise. And as you start to warm up with your exercises, your pain will actually start to decrease.¹
Let’s look at 3 of the best bodyweight exercises to help decrease low back pain.
Learning the hip hinge to help decrease low back pain
The hip hinge is a basic movement pattern that everyone should be able to do properly. Being able to utilize the hip hinge movement pattern will not only help improve low back pain but it will also help you avoid recurrences of your pain.
This hip hinge movement is a requirement of any deadlift variation, bent over row exercise, or any type of lifting movement. While practicing the hip hinge you will:
Improve your body mechanics
Work on your core and posterior chain activation
Mobilize your hamstrings
Performing the hip hinge:
You will need a dowel, broomstick, mop, or anything that is lightweight and straight. Start with your feet shoulder width apart and place the dowel against your back. It should be in contact with your head, mid-back, and tailbone.
Engage your core and begin the movement by bending forward at your hips. The dowel should stay in contact with all three points on your back as you bend.
As you continue to bend at your hips, you will feel tension build up in your hamstrings causing your knees to bend, this is normal. Stop when you have reached 90 degrees of bend in your hips or when you have reached your maximum hamstring length.
Make sure not to bend your knees too far or let your back slump. If you lose your core activation you will feel the dowel lose contact with some of those 3 points of contact.
Stand back up and squeeze your glutes at the top. Repeat for 10 repetitions.
How to perform a bridge to help decrease low back pain
The bridge is another great low back rehabilitation exercise that does not require any equipment. This exercise also engages your posterior chain and helps to open up your hips.
Performing the bridge:
Begin by laying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat. Engage your core to help keep a neutral, strong spine. Squeeze your hips to help power your hips up and off of the floor. Hold for a brief pause at the top of the exercise. Then slowly lower all the way back down to the floor. Complete 3 sets of 10.
The key with this exercise is to really feel it work your glutes. To get your hips off of the ground you have 2 options. You can either use your glutes, which is correct, or you can hyperextend through your low back, which is incorrect and can actually increase your symptoms. Give this one a try and really focus on using your glutes.
Planking to decrease low back pain
Planks are a great exercise to help build isometric core strength while at the same time decreasing low back pain. Another benefit of the plank is that there are so many ways to modify it based on your skill level.
Performing the plank:
Start on your hands and knees on the floor. Your palms should be flat on the ground and placed underneath your shoulders. Straighten your elbows and walk your feet back so that your body is in a straight line, from your head to your feet.
Tighten your core, squeeze your glutes, and keep your knees extended. You should really feel your whole body working to stay strong and stable.
Hold for 15 seconds and assess how your low back feels. You can increase or decrease your hold time based on how you feel. Complete 3 sets of however many seconds feels comfortable for you.
You can drop to your knees or elbows if this full body variation is too challenging for you.
Even if you are not currently experiencing any low back pain, you should still give these exercises a try. Staying on top of your body mechanics, core strength, and mobility will help to decrease your risk of developing low back pain in the future.