If you’ve ever had low back pain, you know how much it can impact your life. It can limit your activity, make you avoid playing with your kids, skip out on trips with your friends and generally make you feel old and broken!
… you may even feel like you’ve just “got a bad back”!
Well, I’m here to tell you, you probably don’t have a “bad back” (whatever that may mean). As a matter of fact, I work with people who have had some pretty nasty MRI reports on their low back with big words like spondylolisthesis, degenerative joint disease, lumbar disc bulges, arthritis to name a few.
And guess what? Many of them get better with rehab programs that include things they can easily do at home.
Best of all, often they’re prescribed rehab program doesn’t necessarily include some super expensive state-of-the-art fancy rehab machine… Nope!
It likely includes some basic, tried and true movements to build up strength and endurance in the low back and create some low back resiliency so you can stop thinking your “have a bad back”!
And today… I’m going to go through some staples in any low back pain exercise program.
What Low Back Pain Exercises To Start With?
It can be difficult to find a starting point. If you’ve searched the internet you’ve likely come across many different exercises that claim to be “low back” or “core” exercises.
This can be confusing!
Well, the exercises I’m selecting are used nearly every day in my office with real people who are experiencing back pain.
These exercises can be progressed or regressed. Meaning, if you start at one level and it’s easy, make it harder. If something provokes pain (which no exercise should) or is too difficult, make it easier!
When picking exercises to strengthen your low back it’s also very important that they challenge your body in different directions.
It wouldn’t make sense to do 5 different exercises that all basically hit the same muscle groups. Training your back isn’t any different.
You want exercises that resemble what life is going to throw at you and that help you build a resilient low back in all different movements.
So, these exercises challenge your back in a front-to back, rotation, and side-to-side directions.
Why I Think These Work So Well
I think a big reason these exercises work so well for many of my patients is because they’re simple and easy to perform anywhere… without equipment!
The best rehab plan is uncomplicated and easy to perform.
In the past I’ve attended seminars and seen a variety of exercises that could be very beneficial. But, they have bands wrapped around multiple limbs or tied in complicated ways.
... and if I have a hard time remembering how to set something up, I’ll never recommend it (and I do this for a living!)!
The Plank Progression
This simple and ol’ tried and true core exercise can actually be progressed and regressed into a wide spectrum that can make it worthy of anyone’s fitness level. And, when you have low back pain, even at a high fitness level you have to regress exercises for a period of time.
Most difficult: Body Saw with sliders under your feet
Difficult: Body saw
Less difficult: Elevated Plank
Here is a video going over a 4 part progression of the plank
Side Bridge Progression
This exercise hits what’s referred to as your frontal plane… all those muscles that help you bend or stabilize in the side-to-side motion. Think about if you stood up, arms at your side and held a 100 lb weight in your hand without tipping over… it’s those muscles!
Most difficult: Knees Straight, Hip Lift
Difficult: Side Bridge with tempo
Baseline: Side Bridge
Less difficult: Side-lying leg lift
The Bird Dog Progression
I personally used to hate this exercise from my own personal experience. I have had it given to me by a physical therapist when I had back pain prior to doing what I do for aliving now. And it’s routinely given out without these progressions. So, I constantly have people coming into my office performing this one wrong and generally not getting the most out of it.
Once I studied it a bit more and added it to my own personal routine. I found out why it’s a great exercise… just do it right… and progress it!
Most difficult: Bird dog Drawing Shapes… or kettlebell swing?
Difficult: Opposite arm/leg, no rest on the ground between reps
Baseline: Opposite arm/leg
Less difficult: Just 1 leg at a time
So here are some of the basics to start building a bullet-proof low back that can have you stop worrying every time you start to push your activity levels!\
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