The Best Exercises for Lower Back Strength
The Best Exercises for Lower Back Strength
Getting faster and more explosive begins with the training the muscles you can't see in the mirror. Here are the best lower back exercises on the planet.
The lower back is an integral part of your posterior chain and is involved in every athletic movement you do. A weak lower back is part of a weak core which means less speed, less explosiveness, and less power. So what’s the solution? Well, these lower back exercises of course!
First off though, it should be noted that when training the posterior chain, and muscle groups such as the lower back, weight’s not as important as technique. Why? Well, because using a weight that’s too heavy could greatly increase your risk for injury. Therefore, the load should be light enough to allow for a full, pain-free range of motion.
Our posterior chain exercises usually start with 2-3 sets of 5-8 reps that are short in duration. Once you’re comfortable with the movements though, feel free to increase the number of reps per set or add an external load (medicine ball, dumbbell, weighted plate, unstable surface, etc).
The four lower back exercises that I use when training my athletes are the back extension, Physioball back extension, reverse back extension and barbell good morning.
So let’s start from the top, shall we?
When performing the back extension, make sure the setting on the machine allows for full extension and flexion without any pain to your knees, hamstrings, or lower back. Also make sure and that your thighs rest comfortably on the padding. Start by using only your body weight for 2-3 sets and 8-10 reps. After a few weeks, increase your reps per set and once you can do 3 sets of 15 reps, drop your reps to 8-10 and begin to add weight by either holding a dumbbell or a weight plate. 15-25 lbs is a good range to start. Now here are some key points to remember when performing this exercise:
- Make sure that the leg pad is mid-thigh.
- Maintain straight legs throughout the entire exercise.
- Initiate the exercise by hanging down with your head perpendicular to the floor, flex your butt and bring your upper body up until you are parallel to the floor.
- At full extension, pause for 1 second and slowly return to your starting point.
Physioball Back Extension
The Physioball Back Extension is very similar to the back extension so don’t expect anything ground breaking here. The difference is you’re lying on an unstable surface, which helps recruit more of your core stabilizing muscles. That’s why the Physioball Back Extension is such a great core exercise and a solid alternative option when you don’t have a roman chair or back extension machine. Your thighs should rest on the middle of the ball, with your feet secured against a wall/barrier.
Start with your body weight for 2-3 sets and 8-10 reps and after a few weeks, increase your reps per set. Once you can do 3 sets of 15 reps, drop your reps to 8-10 and begin to add weight by either holding a dumbbell or a weight plate. Sound familiar? 15-25 lbs is a good range to start. Now here are some key points to remember when performing this exercise:
- Start with your feet against a wall or stable surface and the ball resting in the upper thigh/abdominal area.
- Maintain bent knees throughout the entire exercise.
- Initiate the exercise by hanging down and “drapping” your upper body over the ball. From this position, flex your butt and bring your upper body up until you’re parallel to the floor.
- At full extension, pause for 1 second and slowly return to your starting point
Reverse Back Extension
The Reverse Back Extension is similar to the back extension as well, but believe it or not this exercise will also help develop your upper back. Start with 2 sets of 5-6 reps and after a few weeks progress to 3 sets of 5-8 reps and continue to add reps each week until you have reached 12 reps per set. If you’re looking to increase the level of difficulty, place a light medicine ball between your ankles or thighs. Interested in some key points? Good…
- Start by holding onto the foot pad and resting your abs on the leg pad.
- Your legs should hang down, perpendicular to the ground.
- Flex your butt and upper back. Then raise your legs until they are parallel to the floor.
- Pause at full extension and slowly lower your legs to the start position.
Barbell Good Morning
Last but certainly not least let’s discuss the Barbell Good Morning. This beast is a very technical exercise that requires great posture and concentration of movement. It develops and strengthens the lower back, but also strengthens your butt and hamstrings. Talk about a dynamic duo! Start with 2 sets of 5-6 reps and progress slowly until you can do 3 sets of 10-12 reps. Once you can do this with great control and technique, restart the progression, but start adding weight to the barbell. And here are some key points to remember when you’re getting your Good Morning on:
- Start with an unloaded bar on your back and a parallel stance, with your feet about 12-15 inches apart.
- Slightly bend your knees to release any pressure or stress on the low back.
- Initiate bar movement by moving your hips back as you transfer weight to the back 2/3rds of your feet.
- Lower your upper body toward the ground, maintaining great posture and slightly bent but fixed knees.
- Once your upper body reaches parallel, begin to stand upright until you have reached the starting position.
And there you have it. There four lower back exercises will help you run faster, gain strength, and keep you off the sidelines. Add them to your strength and conditioning program and know that these core exercises will do wonders for your posterior chain... even if you can't see it in the mirror.
To maximize your gains when performing these exercises 1R would recommend the following supplements:
- Optimum Nutrition 2:1:1 Recovery - The carbs and protein will help you recover and build lean muscle faster after tough workouts
- Cytosport Creatine - By increasing your body's ATP production creatine will help you become more explosive, more powerful, and more athletic when taken before or after workouts
- Optimum Nutrition Fish Oil – These tasteless fish oil pills will help you burn fat, improve joint health, and reduce inflammation associated with hard training
About the Author
Hans Straub is currently an assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Stanford University football team. Prior to that Hans was an assistant strength & conditioning coach at the University of Washington where he oversaw the training protocols for Softball, Baseball & Women’s Volleyball. A 2002 graduate in Kinesiology from Towson University (MD), Hans is currently a certified CSCS from the NSCA and Club Coach certified with USA-Weightlifting. He is also pursuing his Master’s Degree in Exercise Science from the University of Texas at El Paso via their online program.
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