The lower back, also known as the lumbar region, is one of the most important regions of the body that needs to remain strong and healthy as we progress through life.
For some, lower back pain and issues can be nearly debilitating at times, and that’s why strengthening the lower back musculature, or the erector spinae is so important.
Disclaimer: This portion of the back can be a very sensitive area to train, so there must always be careful attention to form, exercise choice, and load when strength training the lower back.
The erector spinae supports our body’s upright posture, and assists with torso rotation. These muscles also play a major role in creating the strong set back we need in movements like the deadlift, clean and jerk, and any movement that requires a hip hinge. Without a strong and healthy lower back, then we could be leaving gains on the table in the gym and possibly leaving the body susceptible to increased injury. In a 2016 study published in the Journal of Rehabilitation Exercise, study authors suggested that the participants who strength trained their back consistently reported less back pain, and they were better equipped to handle pain in this area (1).
As mentioned above, the lower back should receive careful attention in every type of strength program. Below, we’ve highlighted our five favorite lower back exercises to help improve lower back strength, hypertrophy, and general health.
Lower Back Exercises
1. Reverse Hyperextension
The reverse hyperextension is a phenomenal exercise for targeting the lower back musculature. This exercise can be performed with one’s bodyweight, with a band, or on a reverse hyperextension machine with additional weight. The reason the reverse hyperextension makes our top pick in our favorite lower back exercises list is due to its ability to offer a wide range of intensities for every fitness level, while decreasing direct loading on the spine.
Beginners and those with lower back troubles can ease into reverse hyperextensions with partial range of motion reps and assisted reps with band. Conversely, intermediate and advanced athletes can load this exercise to provide the lower back with an adequate stimulus to facilitate strength, power, and hypertrophy.
Build a lower back that looks like metal pipes. Check out comprehensive reverse hyperextension guide!
2. Superman Exercise
The superman exercise sometimes gets a bad reputation, but when performed with care and correctly it can be a very useful bodyweight lower back strengthening exercise. Often times, the superman exercise is associated with hyperextension of the lower back, which it can do at times, and that is why it’s very important to be very attentive to form and signs of hyperextension/pain when performing them. Once superman form is dialed in, the superman exercise can be a great way to strengthen the lower back and glutes, and it can be performed anywhere so it’s a great all-the-time exercise.
Need help dialing in your superman form? Check out our ultimate guide to the superman exercise!
3. Back Extensions/Hyperextensions
Our third favorite lower back exercise is the back extension, also known as the hyperextension. This exercise is fantastic for improving the lower back hypertrophy, muscular endurance, and strength. In addition to targeting the musculature of the lower, the back extension also does an adequate job at loading the glutes and hamstrings, which can have direct carry over to competition lifts. Contrary to the somewhat similar reverse hyperextension, the back extension can be loaded slightly heavier, so it’s a great option for building rock hard erector spinae muscles.
Learn everything there is to know about this movement with our back extension guide!
4. Good Morning
The fourth movement making our lower back training list is the good morning. Out of all of these exercises, the good morning could be argued to be the most physically demanding. This exercise requires extra care for form and should only be performed once a lifter feels as though they’re equipped to move with the proper lifting postures throughout the whole lift. If you’re brand new to good mornings, then we suggest starting light and, or having a coach help you with their form to ensure your lower stays safe while growing strong.
Learn how and why world record holding powerlifter Ben Pollack uses the good morning in training.
The barbell deadlift is our final favorite exercise for the lower back. Not because it exclusively works the lower back, but because it offers a plethora of benefits in addition to strengthening the lower back. When deadlifting, the lower back should obviously not feel a lot of the weight being lifted, but it should feel some when working in unison with the hamstring, glutes, upper back, and so forth. For this reason, we love the deadlift for an all around useful back training exercise when working to build strength, hypertrophy, and power!
Improve in the deadlift, improve in life. Check out definitive deadlift guide for help with form!
Other Highest-Rated Lower Back Exercises
- Lee, J., & Kang, S. (2016). The effects of strength exercise and walking on lumbar function, pain level, and body composition in chronic back pain patients. Journal Of Exercise Rehabilitation, 12(5), 463-470. doi:10.12965/jer.1632650.325