Is your lower back as strong as you would like it to be?
No one wants a weak lower back. Despite this fact, few muscle building workouts talk about lower back training primarily because it is about the furthest thing from a “beach muscle” there is.
You’re probably familiar with barbell deadlifts. When performed correctly, deadlifts are arguably the best possible lower back strengthening exercise you could do. On the other hand, if you don’t have a grasp of good deadlift form, you may actually end up straining your lower back.
This article won’t be focusing on deadlifts. If you are interested in building muscle and strengthening your lower back, then it is in your best interest to use barbell deadlifts, and to work on improving your deadlift form.
3 Exercises To Help Strengthen Your Lower Back
The following lower back exercises are listed in no particular order. Start slow, using a moderately light weight to test each of these movements.
If you feel like one of these exercises is a keeper, then take your time and gradually add weight. There is no need to rush and risk overloading your lower back. Build strength gradually over time.
#1 – Hyperextensions
Hyperextensions are probably the fastest and easiest way to bring up a very weak back that is incapable of handling much resistance.
If you do not have a hyperextension machine at your local gym, you may be able to perform this movement in a squat rack. Place a barbell at an appropriate height and load it up with at least 225 pounds, or a weight that will not lift as you begin to perform hyperextensions.
Place a bench near the squat rack, parallel to the bar. To get into position, rest your hips on the bench and brace your feet under the barbell. You way want to wrap the bar with a towel to prevent unwanted discomfort.
Lock your hands behind your head, and lower yourself as far as comfortable. Repeat for as many reps as you can.
Once you are able to perform an easy 12-15 reps per set, you may want to incorporate addition resistance. This can be accomplished by holding a 2.5, 5, 10, 25 or 45 pound plate to your chest.
#2 – Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlift
Grab a set of light dumbbells and stand with your feet in a natural and comfortable position.
Keeping your legs in a locked position and lower back tight, but not hyperextended, slowly lower the dumbbells. It may help to envision driving your butt backwards as you lower the weight.
Keep lowering the dumbbells until you feel like your lower back wants to round. At this point stand back up.
It should be noted that there are several variations of this movement:
- Straight leg Deadlift – Legs are straight and knees locked.
- Stiff Leg Deadlift – Knees can be bent slightly, but legs remain locked.
- Romanian Deadlift – Butt is driven back while the weight is lowered against the leg.
#3 – Good Mornings
Perform these using a natural stance and foot width. Make sure to use a very light weight when first testing this exercise out. It can get very hairy, very quickly if too much weight is used.
Place a barbell on top of your traps, but not on your neck. You want the bar resting on a meaty area of the back.
Keeping your lower back tight, slowly move your hips backwards while leaning forwards. Continue to lower the bar until you feel your lower back wanting to round, then return to the standing position.
You may also perform good mornings from a seated position, while sitting on a bench, or using a wider style foot position. Do not try the wider stance variation until you have spent some time with conventional stance good mornings.
Final Thoughts on Lower Back Strength and Health
A well-rounded lower back strengthening program should include work for your obliques and abdominals. The following exercises are great additions:
- Ab Wheel Roll Outs or Barbell Roll Outs
- Side Planks
- Dumbbell Side Bends
- The “Superman”