The lower back is often a concerning injury prone area for many people, and a lot of the problems are due to a weakness of the core, particularly the lower back muscles. In men particularly, fat has a tendency to gather as ‘love handles’ around the lower abdomen, and lower back areas. This is a very good indication that there is not much muscle in that area, since if there was a lot of muscle, fat would be a lot less likely to build up in that area, due to the muscles requirement for calories for energy.
Don’t misunderstand – you cannot just build up your core by itself, and do no other exercises and expect the fat in the midriff to disappear – it won’t, simply because there needs to be a demand for calories from the whole body, so that it then takes that energy from the localized area around the core. Let me illustrate – how many people have you seen with massively muscular limbs that are also very fat? It doesn’t happen – the fact simply collects in places where the demand is lower.
Our sedentary lives do not require us to use our core and lower body generally, and due to this fact, we build up fat in these areas, as well as creating problems such as back aches, pinched nerves, slipped disks and other debilitating injuries that may be avoided with a muscular core from using lower back exercises and core exercises.
In conjunction with an effective lean muscle-building program, using whole body workouts, plenty of compound exercises, a good diet and high intensity, performing lower back exercises and core exercises will really burn away the fat in that area. Strengthening this area of your body will also mean that you will find day-to-day tasks much easier, and you may also feel as though you have a lot more energy, because these muscles do not fatigue quite as easily.
You can focus in this area if it is particularly weak, but once it becomes stronger, you must target it as part of full body workouts, rather than trying to isolate the area. In this way, all the supporting muscles get a chance to become equally as strong, and any functional movement can then become easier.
Before we get into some suggestions for lower back exercises – you should go and see a chiropractor if you have problems in this area, as your spine may also be out of alignment due to the weakness, and you would not want to cause any damage, and seeing such a professional is likely to make you feel much better and lead to long-term solutions. We will assume here that you do not have chronic pain, because if you do, it is better than you see a chiropractor or medical professional to ask advice.
So what sorts of lower back exercises can you do that will strengthen your back and core?
- Bridge where you lie on your back with your feet on the floor, and push your hips up in the air until your hamstrings and abdomen form a straight line. Hold this position if you can do
- Plank – Toes and hands in contact with the floor, in a push up position, hold for as long as you can, with your back straight, and your abdominal muscles tight and pulled in. Your back should not sag as you do this. If this is too hard try dropping to your elbows – the exercise should be performed in exactly the same way
- Side Plant – Lie on your side, with your elbow and forearm on the floor, your feet together, and the side of one foot on the floor. Straighten your body so that it forms a straight line from foot to shoulder, and hold. Perform a few holds, and repeat for the other side of the body, on the opposite elbow and foot
- Knee to elbow plank – This is a more advanced version of the above. Hold the plank in a push up position, then move your right knee to your left elbow, touch and back to the start position. Swap to the left knee, and right elbow. Do this exercise as fast as you are able, and make sure that your back stays strong – you can slightly stick your butt up for this one, as that will also engage the abdominal muscles a little more
- Prone Cobras – Laying on your stomach, with your arms above your head, slowly lift your head and bend back, as your simultaneously move your hands back, keeping your arms straight, so that you end up in something like a crucifix position on your front, but with your arms as far back as you are able and your back arched and shoulders up and back
- Bicycle crunches – make bicycle movements with your legs, as your upper body turns first left, elbow touching right leg, then right elbow touching left leg. This is a great exercise that will increase your strength in your oblique muscles as well as your abdominal muscles too
- Resistance band rotation – Using a resistance band held on the left on your body, rotate your trunk to the right with your arms straight holding the resistance band handle. Perform sets for both sides of the body
- Straight legged deadlift – with your legs straight, hold onto a barbell or dumbbells, with the weight at your shins, keeping the weights in contact with the shins, slide upward, keeping the back stretched, and the abdominal muscles tight. This is likely to be uncomfortable if you are arching your back – aim to stick your butt out as this will help you to keep your back straight and avoid the discomfort
- Deadlifts – This is a generally great exercise to be able to do once you have strength in your lower back. Do not attempt to do this exercise if your feel discomfort in your lower back. It means that you are probably arching your back – instead strengthen your back with the other lower back exercises, particularly the stiff-legged deadlift, until this becomes comfortable, as your back is able to stay straight.
Having a strong lower back through lower back exercises is going to benefit in a large number of ways, including reducing injury, preventing back aches, reducing the risk of spinal injury, as well as giving you more energy and potentially a lower body fat percentage. The additional stability gained in the core is really going to benefit you if you wish to continue training, and build lean muscle, and get six-pack abdominal muscles.