Certain exercises can help strengthen the muscles that support the lower back to reduce pain and prevent injury. These movements may also promote proper hip alignment and increase core stability to improve physical function.

Start strong

Our bodies function at their best when muscles work in sync with one another.

Weak muscles, especially those in your core and pelvis, can sometimes lead to back pain or injury.

Low back pain can interfere with your daily activities. Research has shown that strengthening exercises can be beneficial in treating low back pain.

Living a healthy lifestyle is the best way to prevent low back pain. Minimizing weight gain, building strength, and avoiding risky activities will help minimize low back pain as you age.

In the United States, low back pain is the fifth most common reason people visit the doctor.

More than 85 percent of these visits are for nonspecific low back pain, or pain that’s not caused by a disease or spinal abnormality.

Nonspecific back pain can be caused by:

Some specific and more serious causes of back pain include:

Try these simple, equipment-free exercises to strengthen the muscles that support your spine.

Gaining strength can lead to less pain and dysfunction. Check with your doctor or therapist before starting these exercises to be sure they’re right for your situation.

The gluteus maximus is the large muscle of the buttocks. It’s one of the strongest muscles in the body. It’s responsible for movement at the hip, including hip extension activities like squats.

Weakness in the gluteus muscles can contribute to back pain. This is because they’re important stabilizers of the hip joints and lower back during movements like walking.

Muscles worked: gluteus maximus

  1. Lie on the ground with your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.
  2. With your hands by your sides, press your feet into the floor as you slowly lift your buttocks off the ground until your body is in one straight line. Keep your shoulders on the floor. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds.
  3. Lower down.
  4. Repeat 15 times.
  5. Perform 3 sets. Rest for one minute between each set.

The transverse abdominis is the muscle that wraps around the midline. It helps support the spine and abdomen.

It’s important for stabilizing the spinal joints and preventing injury during movement.

Muscles worked: transverse abdominis

  1. Lie on the ground with your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.
  2. Relax your hands by your sides.
  3. Take a deep inhale. Breathe out and pull your belly button in toward your spine, engaging your abdominal muscles without tilting your hips.
  4. Hold for 5 seconds.
  5. Repeat 5 times.

The hip abductor muscles help to raise your leg to the side, away from your body. They also help support your pelvis when you’re standing on one leg.

When these muscles are weak, it can affect your balance and mobility. It can also cause low back pain due to instability.

Muscles worked: gluteus medius

  1. Lie on one side, keeping your lower leg slightly bent on the ground.
  2. Engage your core by drawing your belly button in toward your spine.
  3. Raise your top leg without moving the rest of your body.
  4. Hold for 2 seconds at the top. Repeat 10 times.
  5. Repeat on other side. Perform 3 sets on each side.

Your back extensors run along your spine. They help you maintain an upright position, support your spine and pelvic bones, and allow you to arch your back.

If this exercise makes your back pain worse, stop doing it until you receive further evaluation. Your doctor may need to rule out more serious causes of your back pain.

Muscles worked: back, buttocks and hips, shoulders

  1. Lie on your stomach with your arms extended out in front of you and your legs long.
  2. Lift your hands and feet off the ground approximately 6 inches, or until you feel a contraction in your lower back.
  3. Engage your core muscles by slightly lifting your belly button off the floor. Reach away with your hands and feet. Be sure to look at the floor during this exercise to avoid neck strain.
  4. Hold for 2 seconds.
  5. Return to starting position. Repeat 10 times.

The abdominal muscles play a significant role in supporting the spine. Strong abdominal muscles can help maintain proper hip alignment. This can contribute to overall core strength and stability.

Muscles worked: rectus abdominus, transverse abdominis

  1. Lie on the ground with your feet flat on the floor, keeping your knees bent.
  2. Cross your hands over your chest.
  3. Take a deep breath. While you exhale, brace your abdominals by pulling your belly button in toward your spine.
  4. Slowly lift your shoulders off the ground a few inches. Try to keep your neck in line with your spine instead of rounding, to avoid pulling up with your neck.
  5. Return to starting position.
  6. Repeat 10 times. Perform 3 sets.

Always consult a doctor before beginning a new exercise program.

If you experienced a traumatic injury such as a fall or accident, always seek medical help and further evaluation to rule out serious conditions.

If these exercises cause your back pain to increase, stop and seek medical help. Only work within your physical limits. Doing too much too fast can increase back pain and slow the healing process.

Low-back strengthening exercises are an excellent way to prevent recurring low back pain.

Stronger core muscles help increase stability, decrease your chances of getting injured, and improve function.

Modifying daily activities like squatting down to pick up items can also help prevent low back pain or muscle spasms.

Start incorporating these simple, equipment-free exercises into your daily routine and reap the benefits for years to come.