Five Simple Exercises for a Strong Back

By Dr. Jessica Tranchina, PT, DPT - Owner of Generator Athlete Lab – May 1, 2020

Easy ways to increase strength to decrease low back pain.

Did you know that statistics show 8 out of every 10 people will experience an episode of low back pain (LBP) in their lifetime? 80 percent. LBP costs Americans $50 billion in healthcare costs each year and is the leading cause of disability worldwide. The good news? There are simple and effective ways of keeping your back healthy and strong from the comfort of your own home.

These exercises will primarily focus on increasing strength in your core muscles (abdominals, low back and hip muscles). These muscles collectively make up the center of our bodies and the foundation upon which all other movements are generated. Whether your activity goals are completing a triathlon or simply being able to play with your kids/grandkids, having a strong, healthy core will not only improve performance and make things easier, but also help you avoid injury as well.

Pelvic Tilt

Bend your knees and keep your feet hip-width apart and placed on the floor. Keep your upper body relaxed and your chin gently tucked-in. Gently flatten your lower back into the floor and contract your stomach muscles. Hold for 5 seconds, then relax. Place one hand on your stomach to feel the correct muscles working. Repeat 8-12 times, tilting your pelvis back and forth in a slow rocking motion. Need a challenge? Hold your pelvic tilt while you march your legs in place.

Forearm Plank

Lie on your stomach and rest on your forearms with your elbows directly under your shoulders. Press through your shoulder blades until they are spaced wide on your back (instead of being pinched together). Next, tighten your abdominals to lift your waist off the floor.  Form a straight line through your neck and upper body to your knees.  Hold this position 10-15 seconds, then lower your waist to the floor.  Repeat 3-4 times. Need a challenge? Try this exercise on your toes instead of your knees.

Forearm Side Plank

Lay on your side with your forearm flat on the floor, bottom elbow lined up directly under your shoulder and both legs extended out in a long line. Feet can either be staggered for more stability, or stacked for more of a challenge. Engage your core and lift your hips off the floor, forming a straight line from your head to your feet. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Do 5 reps. Need a challenge? Reach your top arm up to the ceiling and raise your top leg.


Lie face down on the ground and stretch both arms out in front of your body, keeping your legs stretched out and flat on the ground. Raise both of your hands and feet, aiming to create a gap of about 6 inches between them and the floor. Try to pull in your belly button, lifting it off the floor to engage your core muscles. Keep your head straight and look at the floor to avoid neck injury. Stretch your hands and feet outward as far as possible. Hold the position for 2 seconds. Return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times. Need a challenge? Alternate lifting your left leg with your right arm and then your right leg with your left arm.

Bird Dog

From hands and knees position, extend your left leg behind you. Straighten your knee and hold your leg straight out from your hip. Hold your trunk steady as if there were a cup of coffee balancing on your back. Next, hold your left leg up and reach your right arm forward, maintaining a steady trunk. Hold 3-4 seconds and reach as far as you are able with your left leg and your right arm. Lower your arm and leg and then switch to the opposite side. Repeat 5-6 times each side with a 3-4 second hold at the top. Need a challenge?  Touch your elbow to your opposite knee (without letting your leg touch the ground) each time before you stretch your arm and leg out

Make these back strengthening exercises part of your overall workout routine, and you will retrain deep muscle layers to support your spine and help prevent injury. If you experience severe low back pain, please seek out the guidance of your local Physical Therapist or other medical practitioner for a proper diagnosis and specific plan of care and protocol.


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