Exercises to Strengthen a Bad Back

Millions of people experience back pain. Whether your pain comes from injury, or a disease such as osteoporosis, you can condition your body while decreasing pain in your back by doing a few exercises that work for your individual pain. Exercise helps increase flexibility and improve posture while aiding in blood circulation, which helps with the recovery process. Any exercise should be done with caution, however, and you should not continue anything that worsens pain.


Low-intensity cardio exercises help condition and strengthen your back over time. Be careful if you have serious back pain and do not do any exercise that makes your pain worse or that strains joints or is jarring to your back. Walking, swimming and cycling are recommended by Perfect Body Toning, as they are gentle on your back and joints while still building strength and muscle.

Wall Slides

Wall slides strengthen your back, hips and leg muscles. This exercise isn't strenuous for your back and will eventually help to alleviate pain. Wall slides are done with your back against a wall and your feet shoulder-width apart. You slide down the wall into a crouch position and hold for a count of five seconds before sliding back up to a standing position. Continue for five repetitions.

Leg Raises

Leg raises will strengthen your back and hip muscles. The muscles tighten as the leg is raised and held before returning to the floor. To do leg raises, lay on your stomach and lift your leg slowly. Lower it back to the floor and repeat with your other leg. Do five lifts for each leg.

Back Leg Swing

Back leg swings are not demanding and will help relieve pain while strengthening your hips and back muscles. While standing behind a chair with your hands on the back, lift your leg back, hold for a count of five and lower it to the floor. Repeat with the other leg doing five lifts per leg. The gentle lifting stretches your muscles without causing pain.


Curls can help alleviate pain and will strengthen core muscles when done correctly by lying on your back and gently pulling bent knees to your chest. Placing your hands under your knees helps pull them as close to your chest as you can without pain. Remember not to raise your head or straighten your legs while lowering them. Open Ergonomics recommends that curls be done in short sets several times a day to slowly restore strength while avoiding overexerting yourself and your muscles.

Back Bend

Back bends will increase flexibility in your back muscles but should be done with caution, as it's easy to overextend your muscles. If you stand with your feet slightly apart, you can do back bends comfortably by placing your hands on the small of your back and bending back at the waist slowly and holding the bend for a few seconds before straightening. If you experience any pain, you should stop because the pain is a sign you've extended too far.

Prone Press-ups

Prone press-ups increase back strength by improving flexibility, but should be done with caution if you have serious back injury or pain. Although similar to a push-up, prone press-ups are slightly different with your pelvis remaining in contact with the floor and your back and buttocks muscles relaxed. Your lower back should sag slightly but your elbows should lock when in the up position.

Cat Stretch

Pilates Back Joint Exercise recommends cat stretches to alleviate back pain. The curling motion as you place yourself on the floor on your hands and knees helps relieve pain without overstretching the muscles of your back. The curl resembles a "hunched" position, as you arch your back up, bringing your pelvis in slightly.

Lumbar Rotation

A gentle exercise for severe back pain, lumbar rotation works the muscles of your lower back. Your lower spine remains stationary as you lie on the floor with your legs bent and gently rock your knees from side to side, working and stretching muscles without straining them.

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About the Author

Renee Miller began writing professionally in 2008, contributing to websites and the "Community Press" newspaper. She is co-founder of On Fiction Writing, a website for writers. Miller holds a diploma in social services from Clarke College in Belleville, Ontario.