Exercise for Bad Weak Backs

Laura Williams, M.S.Ed.
Woman working out with exercise ball.
Strengthening your abs with gentle exercises is the best way to improve your weak back.

When determining the best exercise for bad, weak backs, the most important initial step is to pinpoint the exact spot of the weakness or injury. The good news is that troubled backs can always be improved, provided you select the right regimen for healing and stick to a routine. If you've been suffering from chronic back pain, make sure you talk to your doctor before starting a new program in order to make sure there isn't a more serious, underlying problem causing your pain.

Exercises for a Weak Back

Strengthening Exercises

Virtually whatever kind of back trouble you have will be helped to some degree by strengthening your core muscles. Your core consists of your abs, hips and back muscles, and these muscles work together to support the back. If you've seriously injured your back, your doctor can refer you to a physical therapist who can help you devise a workable exercise routine. A physical therapist will show you a range of exercises you can do that will help you increase your strength without causing further injury.

For simple exercises to do at home, try the following:

  • Abdominal contractions: Lie on the floor on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Contract your abdominal muscles, drawing your abs in toward your back, making sure your lower back stays affixed to the floor. Hold for five to 10 seconds before relaxing. Repeat five to 10 times.
  • Plank: The plank exercise will strengthen your entire core. Balance your body weight on your forearms and your toes, with your body in a fully straight position. Keep your back, hips and abdomen tight and hold the position as long as you can without compromisnig form. Aim to hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds. If this is too difficult, you can perform a modified plank by lowering your knees to the floor to perform the exercise.
  • Extensions: Kneel on your hands and knees on the floor. Raise your left arm and your right leg off the floor, extending your arm straight in front of your body and your leg straight behind you. Hold the position for five seconds, then return your arm and leg to the floor. Repeat on the opposite side and continue alternating sides five to 10 times.

Stretching Exercises

Back pain can sometimes be caused by tight muscles in need of a good stretch. In fact, sometimes the cause of the pain results from tight, inflexible hamstrings. When performing a stretching routine for your back, incorporate hamstring, back and abdominal stretches in the routine for maximum results. Common stretches include:

  • Hamstring stretch: Sit on the ground with your legs stretched out in front of you. Pull the sole of your left foot in toward your body and place it against the inner thigh of your right leg. Bend forward over your right leg and reach as far as you can toward your toes. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds before switching legs.
  • Cobra: Lie flat on your stomach and place your palms on the ground next to your chest. Gently push yourself up with your arms as far as you comfortably can without straining. Hold for a count of ten, let yourself back down, and then repeat.
  • Back stretch: Lie on your back with your feet on the floor and your knees bent. Stretch your arms out to the sides. Lift your feet off the floor and twist your hips to the left, lowering your legs to the floor on your left side. Hold the position for 20 seconds, the return your legs to the raised position, repeating the twisting motion to the right side.

Yoga and Back Pain

The yoga craze has a lot of people with troubled lumbar regions heading to the ashram to exercise their bad, weak backs. While yoga is an excellent exercise, some yoga poses may not be suitable for individuals suffering from back pain. If you plan on incorporating yoga into your exercise routine, make sure you inform the yoga instructor about your back so that she can provide modified exercises for you that are more suitable for your condition.

Work With a Professional

The best way to overcome an injury and maintain good back health is by working with a physical therapist. Even if you only see them once or twice, you can be sure you're engaging in the right exercises for your bad back and en route to back health!

Exercise for Bad Weak Backs