Back strengthening exercises
For best results, train your back and your core together.
These back strengthening exercises challenge your back muscles plus all 4 abdominal muscle layers, your hip muscles and deep shoulder stabilizing muscles. With this routine, you’ll begin to develop the strength you need for good posture and muscular balance.
7 Exercise videos are included. The videos are about 1 minute each, and they'll show you how to make the exercises more challenging.
Focus on the quality of the movement as you are learning the moves, and you'll get the most out of this routine of back strengthening exercises. Try to create long, straight lines with your body. The closer you can match the videos and illustrations below, the stronger you'll become. Gradually increase your effort level as your exercise technique improves.
Scroll down for instructions. For your convenience, thumbnails of the full routine are are the bottom of this page.
Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Raise one leg at a time in the air, keeping your knees bent 90 degrees, as if your legs formed a table top. Hold this position 10-15 seconds, then lower 1 leg at a time back to the starting position. Keep your abdominals firm so that your back is completely still throughout the exercise. The video shows the Table Top on a foam roller, a more challenging version of the exercise.
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Correct Posture For Your Back.
Knees bent and feet flat on the floor as above with your heels spaced comfortably from your bottom. Raise your bottom upward slowly lifting one vertebra at a time from your exercise mat. Continue lifting your bottom upward until there is a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Hold this position 10-15 seconds. Think of reaching your knees forward over your ankles as you hold the bridge. Repeat 3-4 times.
To increase the challenge for this exercise, straighten one leg at the top of the bridge. Hold 5-10 seconds. Lower back down and then straighten the other leg the the next time up. Repeat 6-8 times to start.
#3 Pilates Crunches
From the ‘Tabletop’ (#1) position, reach your fingertips to the ceiling, as high as you can. Then curl your upper body until your shoulders are off the floor. Reach your arms forward, past your thighs, as you curl up. Inhale and hold this position. Lift your head in a natural curve along with the body--don’t press your chin to your chest. Exhale, holding the ‘crunch’ and reach your arms further forward, past your thighs. Inhale, reaching for the ceiling again, then gradually return to the start position (1). Repeat 4-8 times
Do you suffer from lower back stiffness or soreness? See my guide to
lower back exercise.
#4 The Dart
Lie on your stomach with your arms at your sides. Reach the top of your head and feet in opposite directions until your upper body, knees and feet are off the floor. Reach your fingertips toward your heels, pulling your shoulder blades down away from your ears. Keep your arms as straight as possible and then squeeze your shoulder blades together. Don’t rest your arms on your body, though. Keep the back of your neck long so that the top of your head points forward.
Hold this position 10-15 seconds, relax, then repeat 2-3 times.
When performed correctly, the dart has the best spine muscle activity of the back strengthening exercises in this article.
#5 Forearm plank
Lying on your stomach, rest on your forearms with your elbows directly under your shoulders. Press through your shoulder blades until they are spaced wide on your back (instead of being pinched together). Lift your chest so your upper back doesn’t round. Tighten your abdominals to lift your waist off the floor and make a straight line from the top of your head to your knees. Hold this position 10-15 seconds, then lower your waist to the floor. Repeat 3-4 times.
To increase the challenge for this exercise, do this move on your toes instead of your knees. Be sure to maintain firm abdominals. Also, keep your body in a straight line during the exercise.
#6 The 100
Start on your back with legs in the air as above. Reach your arms for the ceiling and then forward past your thighs as you curl your upper body off the floor. Keeping your arms straight and long, begin pulsing your arms up toward the floor and back up 2 times per second, holding still in the crunch position. The distance for the arm pulse is about 4-6 inches. Repeat for 30-50 total pulses to start
Note: The video shows 2 additional levels of difficulty. For further info, see the article on
Pilates sample exercises.
From hands and knees position, extend your L leg behind you. Straighten your knee and hold your leg straight out from your hip. Hold your trunk steady as if there was a cup of coffee balancing on your back. Hold your L leg up as you reach your R arm forward, maintaining a steady trunk. Hold 3-4 seconds and reach as far as you are able with your L leg and your R foot. Lower your arm and leg and then switch to the opposite side. 5-6 reps each side, 3-4 second hold at the top
To increase the challenge for this exercise, touch your elbow to your opposite knee (without letting your leg touch the ground) each time before you stretch your arm and leg out.
Once you know the moves well, increase your effort--hold the exercises longer and do more repetitions. Make these back strengthening exercises part of your exercise routine, and you will retrain deep muscle layers to support your spine.
Back strengthening exercises: Thumbnails
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