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This Lower Back Workout to Strengthen Your Entire Core

A Lower Back Workout to Strengthen Your Entire Core

To build your strength and protect against injury, a strong core is very important. But strengthening your back muscles is an important component of your core strengthening, as it involves those muscles as well.

A part of the back known as the erector spinae muscles helps distribute your body weight. ACE-certified personal trainer Sivan Fagan, owner of Strong With Sivan in Baltimore, discusses the erector spinae muscles as one of SELF's highlights. When you stand up or take a step, you use the lower back muscles in your day-to-day life. Your erector spinae contracts isometrically to keep your body from flexing forward.

Several exercises Fagan created will help increase your lower back strength even if you did not see it coming. In some instances, you ll be dynamically working your lower back muscles, while in other cases you ll be using their isometric strength through a contraction. So not all the exercises will look and feel (or be called) like traditional back exercises, for example, like those found in a dumbbell back exercise. Instead, some of the exercises (i.e., squats and deadlifts) will probably appear like a lower body movement.

According to Dr. Fagan, the reason behind this big compound is that the squat and deadlift frequently require the modification of your core muscles. This is due to your body having to allocate the majority of its strength to stabilize your spine without falling. You also why it's important when lifting weights that the cue engage your core.

The fundamental lower body muscles, like your quads, hamstrings, and glutes, will be the core players during these exercises; therefore, you'll be experiencing the most infiltration in that area. However, you won't sense the particular exercises you favor to perform in your lower back unless you do them correctly. Whenever you're carrying an excessive amount of weight on your back, your back muscles may not be able to do enough to hold the rest of your body up. In this instance, George Fagan asks you to lighten the load you're carrying on your spine.

Are lower back exercises safe if you have back pain?

The reason for this is that each individual person is unique and has different causes of their back pain. Some lower back exercises may increase your pain, as Personal Trainer Fagan mentions. Because of this, it's sometimes the case that one person's pain may be alleviated by flexing individual muscles, but another individual may feel more pain when they are stretched. Individuals typically exchange exercises in this region this way, so one method that might be intolerable for one person destroys discomfort in another individual.

If you develop back pain, you should first meet with your doctor or physical therapist before resuming regular physical activity. They can make sure you avoid performing movements that extend beyond your present pain or exacerbate it. They can create custom exercises to suit your specific needs and goals.

Many of those who complain about lower back stiffness may not have muscles in their lower back that are tight, explains Dr. Fagan. Their lower back muscles could even be weak rather than tight. Instead of specializing in lower back stretches or poses, it may be worth your while to work on regenerating the strength in your lower back to alleviate chronic lower back pain.

And that's where a workout like this one may come in handy. The Fagan four-move strength routine was designed for SELF by targeting the muscles that your erector spinae builds to build your strength and improve your stability. All you have to practice is your kettlebell!

The Workout

You need a moderately weighted kettlebell for comfort and safety. If you do not have one, you can perform the weighted exercises with a little pair of dumbbells instead. (Looking to buy a kettlebell for your home gym? Here are a few of our favorite kettlebells.)

The Exercises
  • Superman
  • Romanian deadlift
  • Goblet squat
  • Bear crawl


Complete 8 reps of each category, moving from one to the next without interruption, for 1 minute. Rest for 1 2 minutes after completing all four exercises. Complete the circuit two times in total.

Below the gifs are Amanda Wheeler (GIF 1), a certified strength and conditioning specialist and cofounder of Formation Strength; Angie Coleman (GIFs 2 and 3), a holistic health coach in Berkeley; and Shauna Harrison (GIF 4), a Bay Area trainer, yogi, public health scholar, advocate, and columnist for SELF.


  • Lie in a supine position on your stomach with your legs fully extended and your arms fully extended, resting on the (floor). This is the starting position.
  • Keep your abs and butt tight as you lift your upper body and lower body off the ground at the same time. Keep your neck in line with your spine by keeping your gaze on your fingertips as they move them.
  • Hold for 1 to 2 seconds and then sit back down.
  • Complete 8–12 reps.
The Superman exercises the lower back muscles dynamically by stretching and contracting them. Feel this movement in your lower back.

Romanian Deadlift

  • Take your feet hip-width apart, bend your knees, and hold a kettlebell in front of your thighs with both hands, palms facing in. If you don't possess a kettlebell, you can do this exercise using two dumbbells.
  • Hinge your hips and allow your back to swing forward as you lower your body and the weight toward the ground. Keep your back flat and shoulders back. Your torso should be close to parallel to the floor at the end of the lowering motion.
  • To ensure that your core is tight, maintain your feet stuck on the floor and press through your heels to stand up straight, holding on to your forearms.
  • Pause at the top and squeeze your butt.
  • Complete 8–12 reps.
If you feel this exercise in your lower back, select a lighter purse, says Fagan. You should be feeling this move primarily in your glutes and hamstrings, though your lower back muscles are still firing to stabilize your core.

Goblet Squat

  • Stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart, toes slightly turned out, holding a kettlebell in both hands at your chest. You can choose to hold it from the handles or by the, whichever is more comfortable for you. If you don't possess a kettlebell, you can do this move with a single dumbbell held vertically.
  • Engage your core to keep your chest lifted and back flat as you shift your weight into your heels, push your hips back, and bend your knees to squat.
  • Sit on the edge of a seat to pedal your legs for 1 crunching.
  • Complete 8–12 reps.
If you feel this squat (or other kind of squat) in your lower back, pick a lighter weight, says Fagan. Your quads and glutes should be the primary muscles you feel here, even if your lower back muscles are still firing to keep your body from folding forward.

Bear Crawl

  1. Start with all fours and raise your knees so they hover an inch off the ground. Keep your back flat, your legs hip-width apart, and your arms shoulder-width apart.
  2. Raise your right hand and left foot to an equal height while staying low to the ground.
  3. Switch sides, moving your left hand and right foot. Then repeat moving backward. This is 1 rep. (If the backward movement is too difficult, you can go in one direction only.)
  4. Complete 8–12 reps.
Every portion of this exercise works your core for strength and stability, according to James Fagan. By means of the bear crawl along with the squat and deadlift, your core will be trained to properly brace to move.

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