Weight-Free Workouts: 5 Moves That Can Relieve Lower Back Pain

Most people tend to favor certain body parts over others when working on strength, like making core work a priority. It’s a smart strategy for anyone who’s trying to stay physically fit. As the name suggests, these muscles are the central part of your body. Keep your core strong, and everything else will follow from there. The only problem is too many make the mistake of focusing only on their abs and obliques, completely forgetting about the lower back.

It’s an easy body part to overlook, especially since we don’t ever catch a glimpse of it in the mirror. But if you let your strength here slide, you’ll find yourself aching more days than not. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, 60% to 80% of American adults suffer from lower back pain. Practicing good posture can help to a certain extent, but a little bit of strength training can make a huge difference. Try these five moves to start building a better back. Best of all, you don’t need access to a weight room to get started.

1. Superman

superman exercise

Your back will thank you for this exercise. | iStock.com

This one is an old standby that’s becoming popular again thanks to its simple but effective method. It’s a great move for beginners, but even folks who are used to a solid dose of exercise can reap the rewards. FitDay said competitive athletes develop training programs that include working on the lower back as a means of preventing injuries. It’ll also help boost your ability to balance.

To perform this move, lie face-down on the ground with your arms extended straight in front of your body. Keeping your core as stable as possible, simultaneously lift your arms and legs off the ground as high as possible without straining your neck. Hold the position for about 30 seconds, then slowly lower yourself back to the starting position. Make sure to keep your breathing steady and even throughout. Check out SparkPeople for a great demonstration.

2. Crossover reverse lunge

lunge stretch

Lunges are good for your back, too. | iStock.com

Without good flexibility, no amount of strength training is going to be all that beneficial. You need both in order to stay mobile, which is important for any type of athletic performance as well as everyday activities. Crossover reverse lunges are a particularly great choice as they stretch out your back, glutes, hamstrings, and abs all at the same time. Since it’s easy to find yourself feeling stiff after sitting at a desk all day, this move is perfect to perform right in the office.

Begin standing with your feet spaced shoulder-width apart. Step backwards into a lunge so that both knees are bent at 90-degree angles, then rotate your torso across the front leg. Hold the position for several seconds, then return to the starting position. Repeat the move with the other leg in front. For a more detailed guide, head to Bodybuilding.com.

3. Contralateral limb raise

Man stretching on a gym mat

Contralateral limb raises strengthen a few areas at once. | iStock.com

For time-crunched guys, moves that strengthen several muscle groups at the same time are a great way to speed through the exercise process. Contralateral limb raises are great for this very reason. They’re one of the best ways to target your back, particularly the muscles that help to stabilize your spine. Limb raises also work your traps, delts, glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Since these muscles all need to work in unison, this move can help boost your coordination for just about any sport.

For this move, you’ll start in the same face-down position as with supermans. Keeping your core stable, simultaneously raise your left leg and right arm a few inches off the ground. Avoid rotating your shoulders or hips. The goal is to stay as stable as possible. Hold the position for a few seconds, return to the starting position, then repeat with the opposite arm and leg.

If you find this move too challenging to begin, ACE Fitness recommended starting with just one leg or one arm at a time. As you get better, you can work to hold the position longer. Eventually, you’ll be able to move into raising two limbs at once.

4. Stability ball back extensions

Fitness class using stability balls

Use a stability ball to your advantage. | iStock.com

Though you certainly don’t need a whole rack of weights to get a good workout at home, it’s wise to invest in a few basic pieces of fitness equipment. We particularly like stability balls because they’re inexpensive, effective, and versatile. They’re often used for abdominal exercises, but you can also use a stability ball as a way to replace a hyperextension bench when you’re working out at home. Since the surface is unstable, you’ll be challenging all of your core stabilizing muscles while boosting your lower back strength.

Set yourself up so the ball is positioned just below your navel with your legs and arms fully extended, toes and fingers touching the ground. Keeping your feet anchored to the ground, carefully raise your arms off the ground until your back forms a straight line with your legs, being careful not to let it arch. Pause at the top of the move, then return to the starting position. Washington State University shared a great video if you need a bit more guidance.

5. Three-point plank

Woman timing man doing planks

Planks work your whole core and back. | iStock.com

We all know how great planks are for building core strength, and it’s an added benefit they’re so easy to perform. If you’ve gotten to the point where you can hold the move for what seems like hours, it’s time for more of a challenge. Men’s Fitness recommended performing the three-point plank as a great core exercise that can prevent back pain in the future. It’s a simple move, but will significantly increase the effort you feel in all of your core muscles.

To perform this move, get into a push-up position on the ground. Lower yourself onto your forearms, keeping your elbows under your shoulders and your legs fully extended. Lift one foot several inches off the ground, keeping your core tight and resisting the urge to rotate. Check out Exercise.com for a great tutorial and video. Don’t be surprised if you can’t hold it nearly as long as with standard planks. Quality always counts more than quantity, so only hold the move for as long as you can with good form.